Artist Transforms Chapel Design With Hand Painted GKD Metal Mesh
The Chapel of St. Lawrence in Vantaa, Finland is a beautiful example of architecture’s ability to showcase a journey independently of the project’s articulated message.
Two young architects who immediately gained international recognition for their intelligible designs started the responsible firm in 2004. Avanto Architects’ design for the chapel focused on the Christian concept of ‘the Path,’ in which the journey to eternity is experienced.
The neighboring classical church is considered a national historic structure in Finland and with that knowledge, and knowing the proximity to the new chapel, the architects devised a method of preserving the integrity of the 15th century design. In addition to the compatible classical building materials, the architects utilized modernized materials and architectural techniques.
The longevity of the building materials played an essential role in their specification. The architects had a definitive plan in which the materials would last centuries and utilized specialized “lifecycle simulator” software for the design.
Purposefully the architects used patinated copper on the roof, reminiscent of the old church’s roof next door. But, when choosing a material for the interior, and portions of the façade, the architects opted for GKD metal fabric Baltic. Yet what makes this particular application so intriguing is the treatment of the mesh itself.
Contrasting the plain, white masonry walls, the architects chose the bronze mesh by GKD to finish the ceilings, walls and the glazed façade. In an elaborate process, artist Pertti Kukkonen hand patinated the mesh in order to achieve the green color. The resemblance to a historic copper façade takes up one of the major design elements of the neighboring medieval church.
Semi-transparent mesh panels on both sides of the glazed façade function as sun protectors and therefore create a pleasant indoor climate. Each of these panels is over six feet wide and nearly 20 feet long. Due to the hardly visible substructure of the mesh and its textile structure, the purist character of the building is emphasized.
Religious architecture is often heavily focused on the end user, particularly when providing a space for grieving. The architects created a unique design that, from a distance, looks as if the chapel is entirely composed on copper; only upon further inspection is it discovered that the material is metal fabric painted with the natural luminosity of patinated metal, providing the benefits of a copper aesthetic with the added benefits of sunshading and an acoustical ceiling.
The architects explain, “We follow the skylight to the chapel. The chapel opens up, a high space terminating in the brightly lit junction of the masonry wall, where the mourners will meet the deceased. The wall towards the graveyard is semitransparent, glazed with a patinated copper mesh on either side, a screen between this life and the hereafter.”