This Finnish church by Anssi Lassila was one of the reasons for starting this blog, and maybe that’s why, paradoxically, it got forgetten – it already seemed to be here. Not being a fan of religion, I’m not sure why I, an absolute non-believer, like the architecture of small churches so much, but I think it may be the fact that they have a sort of communal quality, as if everyone is sheltering together under an enormous overturned ship. When empty, churches seem sort of contradictorily mute and expressive at the same time. They also seem to suggest both openness and a feeling of being enclosed or harboured, and while this is true of many little churches, it’s more pronounced in small wooden churches. This little wooden church is in the town of Kärsämäki, Oulu province, Finland. It was designed by Anssi Lassila as his master’s thesis, where he proposed it be built according to 18th C methods by which “trees are felled, building timbers cut, roofing shingles made and nails forged” entirely by hand.
The main room is enclosed by a sleeve created by a log structure; between it and the exterior sheathing are utility rooms – kitchen, bathrooms, vestry. The exterior is clad in shingles weatherproofed with tar, and that’s why it’s sometimes called the “shingle church.” It was built by a team of international students. Anssi Lassila’s idea was to build something modern yet with traditional local methods and a structure not that dissimilar from the traditional wooden churches of the region, specifically the 18th C church in Kärsämäki lost at the end of the 19th C. There have been a number of such wooden churches built over the last decade; this one seems in many ways to be the best – use of materials, proportions, useability, and the particular aesthetics that result from its building techniques.
Perhaps it was growing up amidst the abundant wood of Canada’s west coast, but I love the wooden churches of Russia and Finland. I am always suprised to find out that people don’t like bare wood, especially in interiors. In zones where wood is abundant and the climate is often grey, the warmth of the wood can be a relief.