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Spheron Architects unwraps £364k timber church

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Spheron Architects has completed London’s first wooden church since the Great Fire of 1666

ARCHITECT’S VIEWPROJECT DATA • SKETCHES • MODELS

The £364,000 timber Belarusian Memorial Chapel was consecrated just before Christmas and has been built for the UK’s Belarusian diaspora community.

The 69m2 chapel sits within the grounds of Marian House, a community and cultural centre for the UK Belarusian community in north London, and is dedicated to the memory of victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The church’s domed spire and shingle roof have been inspired by the traditional wooden churches of Belarus.

Natural light enters the building through low-level and concealed clerestory windows running the length of the chapel, and through tall frosted windows on the front elevation. At night these allow the church to glow.

Mikalaj Packajeu, chairman of the Association of Belarusians in Great Britain, commented: ‘This project is saturated in Belarusian historical and cultural symbolism, while also firmly embedded in UK architectural innovation.

‘Belarusians in the UK should rejoice in this project: to people of Belarusian descent in whatever generation, this chapel shall stand as a visible spiritual token of their presence among the British population.

‘I hope it will also be viewed with welcoming curiosity by everyone, and encourage interest in that country from which its artistic inspiration was drawn.’

Sketches 

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Models

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Architect’s view

The chapel was designed following painstaking research into Belarus’s wooden church tradition. We spent time in Belarus, recording and sketching traditional churches, including buildings in villages that had lain abandoned since the Chernobyl disaster thirty years ago.

The after-effects of the nuclear reactor explosion were felt particularly severely in Belarus, where 70% of the fallout fell, forcing many thousands of people to leave their homes and resettle around the world, including in the UK. The domed spire and timber shingle roof are common features of hundreds of traditional churches in Belarus and will offer familiarity, comfort and memories to London’s Belarusian community, many of whom moved to the UK following the Chernobyl disaster, while others have displaced by subsequent political and economic upheaval in their homeland.

We have introduced a series of contemporary twists to the basic traditional form, however, such as the undulating timber frill of the flank walls which enlivens the exterior. Natural light enters through low-level and concealed clerestory windows running the length of the chapel, and through tall frosted windows on the front elevation. At night, soft light from within allows the chapel to gently glow. Inside the chapel will be decorated with a series of historic icons set into a timber screen separating the nave from the altar area in the apse.

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Belarusian Memorial Chapel by Spheron Architects

Source: Joakim Boren

Project data

Location North London
Type of project religious
Architect Spheron Architects
Client The Congregation for the Oriental Churches of the Roman Curia of the Holy See
Structural engineer Timberwright
Main contractor Timberwright
M&E engineer Arup
Quantity surveyor Change Project Consulting
Planning consultant Alpha Planning
CDM co-ordinator BBS Site Services
Project manager Diocese of Westminster
Landscape architect Spheron Architects
Area 69m2
Start on site November 2015
Completion December 2016
Form of contract JCT Design and Build 2011 (amended 2015)
Construction cost £364,000

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