Light up the sky

Monday 11 Feb 2013

'Northern lights' cathedral opened in Norway

A 47m-high cathedral from which the northern lights can be viewed has been officially opened by Mette-Marit, the Crown Princess of Norway. Designed by international architectural firm schmidt hammer lassen in cooperation with Link Arkitektur, the Cathedral of Northern Lights is situated 500km north of the Arctic Circle in Alta, Norway.

The architects started work on the cathedral after a competition in 2001 for a new church from which the northern lights could be observed was organised by the city council of Alta. Costing €16.2m and covering an area of 1,917 sq m, the city council wanted the building to be perceived as an architectural landmark in the region.

Not only can the northern lights be seen from the cathedral, but the facade of the cathedral has been clad in titanium, allowing the lights to be reflected off the surface. Speaking about the building, John F Lassen, founding partner at schmidt hammer lassen, said: “The cathedral reflects, both literally and metaphorically, the northern lights: ethereal, transient, poetic and beautiful. It appears as a solitary sculpture in interaction with the spectacular nature.”

The significance of the northern lights is also reflected in the architecture of the church with the contours of the cathedral rising as a spiralling shape to the top of the belfry tower. Inside the cathedral, the raw concrete for the walls and wood for the floors, panels and ceilings used help to emphasise the Nordic context of the building and provide a striking contrast to the exterior.

The lighting of the interior is also a key component of the design with tall, irregularly-placed windows together with a skylight which illuminates the wall behind the altar, creating a 'distinctive atmosphere in the room'. With the capacity to hold up to 350 people, the cathedral also features classrooms, exhibition areas, administration offices and a parochial area.

Naomi Wilcock

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