The parish church in the Finnish town of Jyväskylä stands in the main square alongside its singular bell tower, a tall prism-shaped landmark with sharp-edged sides. The architects Anssi Lassila and Teemu Hirvilammi had already won acclaim for their church at Kärsämäki where they used wood for both structural and decorative elements
(see The Plan n° 013, 2006).
The compact mass and uncompromising lines of the Jyväskylä church with its steeply pitched roof are accentuated by blanket cladding with overlapping slate tiles. At the same time though, the slate’s luminous grey reflections dispel any hint of stolidity.
The building has three storeys. Offices and community activity rooms are on the ground floor, their long glazed lights overlooking the square. The church proper takes up the whole of the second level. Although laid down longitudinally in nave-like fashion, the volume is entered from the side, halfway up the hall, from an outside granite stairway lying against the side façade. The interior is divided into two main areas: one for church services proper, the other for large-attendance community activities. Spatial distribution is flexible enabling spatial enlargement or reduction as required. An upper gallery set across the nave forms a third level to house the organ and cantor’s office. This is reached either by a wide gently sloping wooden spiral staircase or, on the opposite side, by a linear ramp. Placed practically half way along the nave, the gallery is a key visual feature naturally lit by skylights and long glazed inserts in the walls.
Multi-point luminosity enhances the formal and geometric features of the nave. Everything contributes to giving the impression of height and slender proportions. Most striking is the soaring ceiling, reminiscent of ancient churches. A gridshell of widely spaced wooden slats follows the steep curve of the ceiling. This wooden mesh filters the natural light giving an ethereal quality to the space within and visually integrating the separate volumes beneath. All structural elements as well as the horizontal and vertical components are in spruce, a wood that reflects the light. Ashwood furnishings and limewood altar furniture complete the all-pervading sense of natural materiality.