Compiled by Team IAnD
Photography: Couresy Ar. Espen Surnevik
Ar. Espen Surnevik’s design for the new Våler church is contextual and has an environmental focus with an “A” for energy classification. It was also voted as the Building of the Year 2015 by the Norwegian building industry!
When the old 19th Century church in Våler - a small village along the Glomma River,in Hedmark, Norway, burned down in 2009, its loss was felt very deeply. The all but impossible task of the new church was to recreate the lost space as a frame for significant events in local people’s lives. A task that was opened via an international competition that Ar. Espen Surnevik won from 239 proposals coming from 23 countries!
The churchyard is one of the few planned areas of the town centre, and the expression of the new church is generated as a direct response to the place, organized around a quadrant with four oriels pointing north, south, east and west, as an analogy to the old crosschurch.
The main story of the liturgy has become the narrative of the church: from fire to resurrection. Placed on the existing processional axis, and clad in straight board of heartwood pine, the new church building reflects the local forest landscape.
The natural facades have a long local tradition. They tend to gradually darken in colour due to climate and ultimately go back to nature! Every fifty years the façade-wood will be renewed and the church will resurrect as new for every new-born generation.
Covered in birch plywood, the artistic elaboration in the interior seeks to “eradicate” the reality of the load-bearing structure and achieve an expression of lightness. The towers mark the main liturgical spaces, the church hall and the baptistery, rising from a common cast concrete plinth, the “bedrock” of the church.
The footprint of the old crosschurch has been made into a memorial as a big grave in the middle of the old graveyard. Behind the memorial, the new church rises up, built as a cultural arena and an open minded gathering-place for the whole community of Våler.