An Almost Secular Approach to Worship & Design in Finland

A solemn structure makes the case for a post-secular kind of design, and worship.

Several months back, The New York Times reported on a man named Tony Carnes who has taken on the Herculean task of mapping out all of New York City’s houses of worship. “Mr. Carnes is in search of every church, cathedral, synagogue, shtiebel, mosque, temple, zendo and ashram,” the story states. He posts his findings to his “public square,”, where folks can find out about “the sizzle of religion in New York — the kosher sizzle! The halal sizzle!”

By the end of this year, Carnes and his group of volunteers will have driven down every last street in each and every borough of what he calls a “postsecular” city, meaning not quite a Jerusalem or a Mecca, but somewhere between secular and sacred.

A project in Finland, meanwhile, is making a solid (and solemn) case for a new breed of urban postsecular. A modern contrast to the stone and mortar rigidity of traditional houses of worship, the Chapel of Silence is a meant as a meditative refuge in the heart of Helsinki. A place to reflect and a space to be. Ostensibly, it’s a dogma free zone that, arguably, every city should have.

With its curved wood facade, the Chapel of Silence flows into the cityscape while its gently sloped interior beehives visitors from the bustle of city life outside.

Warmth and calm define the space, while wood provides the structure.

If not for the discrete crucifix on the façade, which might very well be a doorknocker shaped in the letter “t”, and another in the interior, architecturally-speaking the space is almost secularist. There is no apparent doctrine in the design, and minimalist simplicity trumps superstition. 

 Images: K2S Architects via ArchDaily; The New York Times

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.