Friday, 29 October 2010

Orestad Church Competition

Thesis Inception Project - Orestad Church Competition

This was a short project (2 and a half weeks), in which the Emergent Studio, working as individuals or teams were asked to submit an anonymous competition entry for a church in the Orestad Syd region of southern Copenhagen.

The competition submission was limited to three A1 boards, however we were encouraged to challenge and reinterpret the original brief of a "community church", to arrive at a response based on our Nordic transgressions around Finland and Denmark.

Competition Entry - "The Chapel of the Tree of Life"


Project statement:

The site is located at the strong edge condition between the Faelled and the proposed urban development of Orestad Syd, in South Copenhagen. The existing presence of Vestamager Metro Station already provides easy transport links from Copenhagen city centre.

The proposal provides ecclesiastical facilities for a new community in an increasingly secular condition. The size of the proposed chapel reflects this, and in that sense is the antithesis of grand church architecture, offering a place of worship to those who wish to find spiritual well being.

The Chapel of the Tree of Life sits within the flat Danish Faelled landscape
. The chapel broadcasts it’s presence with the primary communicative tool at it’s disposal, the bell tower, but never imposes itself on either the new urban streetscape or the natural scrubland of the Faelled.

Instead it lays as a timeless relic, possibly discovered during the upheaval of massive urban development, or alternatively created by the gradual transformation of nature into culture.

Project Description

The entrance courtyard becomes atrium and preparatory space, the Yew Tree, importantly, centralised within and additionally on a sacred axis with the Altar, Baptistery and Campanile.
The descent into the courtyard frames the sky above, the Yew Tree providing the link between sky and earth.

"By a primal oneness the four - earth and sky, divinities and mortals, belong together in one."
Martin Heidegger

The Sanctuary is recessed into the floor of the chapel and becomes a reflecting pool to offer views of the sky canopy to those kneeling at the Altar. This also means that although the Pulpit is raised above the Sanctuary, it remains level with the congregation in the Nave, reinforcing the parity of clergy and laity.

Abstracted Baldachin - The idea of a canopy over the Altar is challenged, with the focus shifted to the sky as canopy. From the Nave, the Altar and Pulpit are bathed in light. The public realm above offers views down into the sacred space, further dissolving the concept of a hierarchy in which the clergy hold an elevated position over the congregation.

The Campanile serves as a visual point of reference from the Secular City, as well as a lightwell for the Baptistery beneath. Symbolically, the Campanile and Baptistery are the only two elements which breach the urban edge condition, reflecting their roles as communicative device between sacred and secular, and manifestation of entry into the faith respectively.

The long tapering approach to the Baptistery focuses the eye towards the light at the end, arriving at an intimate but high space with shafts of light flooding down and the Campanile bells and sky above. This is the sacred journey and ultimately, symbolic of transformation and rebirth, a metaphysical mirror image of the latent symbolism of the Yew Tree. The reflecting pool Sanctuary lies directly between the two, the mirror incarnate.

The competition was submitted anonymously, and judged in-camera. Afterwards there was a feedback critique of the submissions displayed on the third floor in the Portland Building atrium. I was pleased to be announced as the winning competition entrant, although all of the entries received deserved praise and were of exceptionally high quality.

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