The Vantaa Parish Union held an open architectural competition in the spring of 2003 for the design of a new chapel in the vicinity of the historic Church of St. Lawrence. The area has been classified as a nationally important cultural environment. The winning entry, out of 194 proposals, was “Polku” (“Path”) by Avanto Architects.
The old stone church with its bell tower remain the dominant features in the landscape. The new chapel ties together different aspects of the area without emphasizing itself. The chapel connects with the graveyard, leaving the old buildings with their own boundaries and territories untouched. It delineates the northern boundary of the graveyard and hides the service yard behind its back. The chapel has been divided in smaller parts to adapt with the scale of the surroundings. The stacked stone walls of the cemetery are echoed in the design – a series of three chapels of different sizes are nested within orthogonal masonry walls. A new bell tower in a corner of the chapel completes the composition and leads the eye skyward.
The building uses similar materials as the old structures in the area. The massiveness of the load bearing solid masonry walls balances changes in temperature and moisture. The lightly plastered and whitewashed walls are a bright, tranquil background for the events taking place in the chapel spaces. Apart from the walls, the building has a steel structure. The partition walls are in-situ cast white concrete and the roof is of patinated copper, like the roof of the church. The patina in all copper surfaces in the chapel has been added by hand. The ceilings and the glazed walls toward the graveyard in the chapels are covered with a patinated copper mesh; it functions as a screen between the outside and the spaces of the chapel. The mesh also decreases heat loads from sunshine. The low stone walls flanking the small gardens and courtyards use stone extracted from the site. The floors of public spaces are of slate.
The lifespan target for the chapel is two hundred years. The main structure will certifiably last that long and the natural materials used will age with dignity. A lifespan simulation was used as an aide for the design. An important factor in choosing the materials was locality in addition to longevity; and on-site building and an emphasis on craft were distinct features of the whole project. These ways of working ground the building in its surroundings and display the traces of handcraft.