Space Group Architects designs new church in Norway's Hedmark County
The new church is an opportunity to rebuild, restructure, and modernise the community, whilst memorialising the past. The new church becomes a memorial of the old church (which has burned down), with the charred wooden structure growing up out of the landscape. The symbol of fire has a long tradition in Christianity and dates all the way back to the Book of Exodus. The powerful image of the old burning church provides the catalyst for the concept. It unites two obvious elements: fire – the cause and creator of the project – and wood – a homage to the forest districts and the traditional local construction methods that are still in use throughout Norway.
The church sits set back in the landscape, away from the main road, amongst a picturesque green belt of birch trees which form an integral element to this scheme. The procession-like approach towards the church forms an integral part of the spiritual journey. Whether by public transport, car or foot one is lead through the ruins of the old church – a memorial to the past. From there a path leads past the graves, down the steps, ramps or lift that descend down to the new church. The approach is a means of transition from everyday hectic life to the spirituality, peace and sanctuary of the new church.
The vision for the church stems from a pile of charred logs, rising from the ground towards heaven - The new church appears not to exist; it merges with the existing landscape, only revealing a glass cross high above the canopy of the trees.
The external envelope of the church de-materialises itself down to the bare charred wooden structure – like a burned church frozen in time. The reflective stainless steel cladding in-between the structure mirrors the surrounding landscape. This de-materialising effect emphasises the erratic, black structural system and reflects the surrounding trees and the sky, which integrates the volume into the landscape.
When standing in front of the church one can chose between two directions: Alpha and Omega – ‘the beginning and the end’. Alpha, The northern half, represents the beginning. It is here where one is welcomed, baptism takes place and all communal functions are happening. The rooms are bright and filled with light; they are fully glazed towards the ring road around the church.
Omega, The southern half, is the opposite: it is here where the community can mourn their dead. Store rooms and WCs are also allocated here. The rooms are enclosed by opaque stone walls towards the ring road. The stones used are the same local ones that currently provide boundary walls around the site. The casket showroom is positioned away from the lively areas and has a quiet courtyard carved into the landscape. This intimate external space enables natural light into the room and is connected to a calming water bed.