Espen Surnevik : Våler Kirke Church

Revive a church from its ashes? This is the bet that was launched the architecture agency Espen Surnevik responsible for replacing the historic bell tower of Våler (Norway), destroyed in a fire there is 10 years. A building full of meaning that restores faith to the inhabitants of the small Scandinavian village.

The chapel designed by Espen Surnevik succeeds, of course, to the old church that was consumed in 2009 but does not neglect the history of its site. Thus, its pyramidal shape, its location and its materiality symbolize both Våler's heritage and the hope of spiritual renewal.

"The original history of the liturgy has become the narrative of this church: from fire to resurrection. " Espen Survenik, architect.

The church traces the steps of the one it replaces: it is positioned according to the axis of procession of its elder, dating from 1860, and the main entrance is aligned.
The architect uses the classic building codes of a religious building and refers to his cruciform organization: his plan is organized in four quadrants, with multiple programs oriented towards the various cardinal points.


The main hall and baptistery rest on a common molded concrete substrate and are topped by pyramidal roofs of 12 and 24 meters with zenithal openings, wells of lights connecting the devotees to the sky. The other vertical faults that make up the church are the joint work of the architect with the artist Espen Dietrichson, and allow the building to constantly benefit from diffuse natural lighting. A large part of them are placed in the northeast corner of the main hall. These orifices, according to the master builder, form a symbolic reminder to the practitioners, supposed to give the idea that hope and light always emerge in different forms.

The facades are designed so that their pine heart panels darken over time. They are designed to last about fifty years, with the intention of replacing them at maturity to mark the renewal of generations of believers and the church. As for the interior, the light birch plywood that covers the walls and mirrors that adorn the corners of the openings are the last details that enhance the clarity of the place of worship.

The architecture of the Chapel Våler Kirke uses formal and informal metaphorical elements as witnesses to the survival and renewal of the church.

To learn more, visit the site of Espen Surnevik

Photographs: Rasmus Norlander

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