Cross-shaped church proposed to replace former Vaaler Church lost in 2009 fire
Danish architects CEBRA’s proposal for a new church in Våler, Norway creates a symbolic landmark in the shape of a tilting cross using light and wood as key design elements for the interior. The village of Våler, in the south eastern part of Norway, is in need of a new church in order to replace the village’s old wooden church, which burned down to the ground in 2009. The church is of great importance for the local community - both as a social gathering point and as characterising landscape element. Therefore, the design of the new church has to combine a particular sensitivity and attention to the site’s culture-historical context with a modern architectural expression so as to succeed in creating flexible and contemporary church facilities.
CEBRA’s proposal is based on the most widespread symbol for the Christian church: the cross. It is a strong visual symbol which combines the horizontal with the vertical in its simplicity and in its meaning the worldly with the heavenly. When the cross shape is tilted and the church's roof forms a sloping plane the motif becomes visible at eye level as well as from the air, creating the same image from both points of view. The building volume appears as a stairwell or a stairway to heaven - a pictorial metaphor that can be found in several passages in the Bible and stands as a synonym for spiritual cognition.
The placement of the new church on the eastern part of site creates a coherent spatial relationship between the existing chapel and the burned-down church. At the same time, this location permits making optimal use of the church yard’s landscape by employing the existing pathways for the staging of the arrival to the new church. The footprint of the burned-down church is preserved as a mirror pool, thereby establishing a tangible link between the past and the present. In this way, the scene of the fire’s high symbolic value to the local community is incorporated in the planning and the pool’s strong visual presence will keep a lasting remembrance in the collective memory.
Light is a fundamental element in the proposal, both in the plan layout and the orientation of the church and as a spatial and atmospheric medium for artistic expression. The church is orientated in such a way that it uses light - internally as well as externally - for the staging of cultural and church events. The project incorporates a series of techniques such as prisms, camera obscura and peg mirror in the design process in order to capture and utilise the light for supporting the liturgical and ceremonial proceedings, thus creating an additional dimension of experience.