There is something so powerful about essential, elemental space. Not one part more than needed, not one gesture less than necessary. The result presents as a single deft stroke, which conjures visceral and various reactions from the people who experience it.

In the deep quiet of a forest outside Turku in southern Finland, stand two buildings that do just this. Each is tiny, each is simple, and each is in its own way perfect. They are a pair of chapels built two decades apart, to serve the Turku Cemetery. The first is the Ylösnousemuskappeli () by . Anyone who has had the luck to go there will know that architecture is serious business in Finland – good buildings matter. This little building was the only public construction project during the turbulent years of World War II. It mattered. It’s special. There’s something tragic about a funerary chapel constructed during a time of war. But the result is complex, uplifting, and beautiful.



I can’t think of this place and not pair it with Faure’s ‘Requiem’… each was created for death, but with such a lightness of touch, an airiness, that through grief is sown beauty, comfort, and hope.



The enormous weight of the vault overhead spills down onto a long slot of light. A crushing load is undercut by that which weighs nothing at all… It’s the tendrils of greenery creeping in and gripping this stark white space that undo me. Amidst the solemnity, atop the formality, something natural and uncontrolled reminds us that life goes on.



In a very 1930s way this building does just enough to get its message across, so powerfully.  oh for a portion of your talent.

Let’s move on to a real treat for lovers of concrete.



Down the way lies the smaller Helga Korsets (The Holy Cross) chapel, designed by Pekka Pitkänen in the 1960s. Gone is the traditional church plan, gone are the references to past forms, in fact gone is everything save concrete and light. There’s not a lot I can say about this place so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. It’s impossible not to wonder how much of this place Tadao Ando saw before embarking on his own suite of extraordinary concrete chapels.



And that’s that. These buildings are for a part of life that is perhaps the most fraught and mysterious of all. They provide a space for ritual and response that is able to contain so much – whether to make the supernatural become real, or the inevitable a little easier. In each there is a ‘just enough’ approach, an avoidance of superfluity, which puts them among my favourite buildings.

In any event if you’re a fan of beautiful, moving architecture and find yourself in south western Finland, I suggest you make a little time for these.



[Images of the The Resurrection Chapel via . Images of The Holy Cross Chapel via , , , ,  and .]

About The Author

Luke Moloney

Luke is an architect from Sydney who has travelled extensively throughout Australia, Western Europe and Southern Africa. He has a deep appreciation of Scandinavian architecture and design, and a love of architectural history in general. He believes that the best design is beautiful and accessible, uncomplicated, and a pleasure. Luke buys far too many books, and in his spare time wonders if he has what it takes to be ‘Detail’ magazine’s first cover model.

3 Responses

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    Thanks for showing these buildings, in the context of architecture and humans and their culture. Whilst not a church/religious person, I’m intrigued how a ‘feeling’ is presented within architecture so that the purpose of that building emits through its structure.

    Also, who are the two photographers (and their work) at the end of the blog? Their photography is interesting and I would like to know what are the opportunities of presenting some of my own?

  2. Avatar

    The story in Finland goes that a certain young japanese man spent quite a while in here drawing before he began a career in architecture.


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