tervajärvi forest chapel in finland demonstrates the beauty of timber detailing

tervajärvi forest chapel in finland demonstrates the beauty of timber detailing

nestled between the trees of a forest in southern finland is a small wooden chapel designed by architecturestudio NOAN and built by a team of volunteers. called ‘tervajärvi forest chapel’, the sacred space is articulated by black tarred timber on the outside and elegantly curved glulam beams on the inside.

tervajärvi forest chapel architecturestudio NOAN finland designboom

images by essi nisonen | @essi.jpg (unless otherwise stated)



the chapel was commissioned by lempäälä parish as a new addition to the tervajärvi campground. the church building measures a modest 50 sqm (538 sqft) and serves as the camp church for confirmation camps and as a venue for small weddings or christenings.

tervajärvi forest chapel architecturestudio NOAN finland designboom



when approaching the design, the architect sought to create a timely space that reflects the changing role of religious buildings. ‘instead of institutional built symbols and their associated traditions, I see future church buildings as being smaller sacral spaces that emphasize joy and communality, yet also afford consolation,’  says lassi viitanen, principal designer at architecturestudio NOAN. ‘​the form and proportions of the sacral building should convey the message of a place that provides space for tranquillity.’

tervajärvi forest chapel architecturestudio NOAN finland designboom



the floor plan is defined by a simple rectangle with double entrance doors on one side and a large window on the other, which offers a framed view out onto a nearby lake. the main visual and structural element of the chapel is the glulam timber roof trusses that take inspiration from nature, the lake, and ecclesiastical rituals. made from finnish spruce, the prefabricated beams curve along the length of the roof, acting as their own diagonal stiffening structure and eliminating the need for any transverse elements.

tervajärvi forest chapel architecturestudio NOAN finland designboom



to achieve cost-effectiveness, structural integrity, and an aesthetically pleasing finish, NOAN spent a lot of time exploring various design solutions and testing them out on site with the volunteer builders and the wood component supplier. the team made scale 1:1 models of the corner joint to ensure it was moment-resistant and took four different attempts to find the correct shape for the arc of the glulam beam. 

tervajärvi forest chapel architecturestudio NOAN finland designboom



with no visible fasteners and the natural grain of the timber left untouched, the final architecture immerses churchgoers in a warm, welcoming environment that feels perfectly in keeping with the forest surroundings. to complete the chapel, NOAN even custom designed movable larch furniture, including brass components, which was made to order by local carpenter puusepänliike hannes oy. the joints and other details of the furniture were developed in collaboration with the carpenter.

tervajärvi forest chapel architecturestudio NOAN finland designboom

tervajärvi forest chapel in finland demonstrates the beauty of timber detailing


tervajärvi forest chapel in finland demonstrates the beauty of timber detailing


image courtesy of tapio koivula





project info:


name: tervajärvi forest chapel

program: chapel, tervajärvi campground church – used for confirmation camps and small weddings and christenings

location: lempäälä, tervajärvi, southern finland

developer/client: lempäälä parish

architect: architecturestudio NOAN | @architecturestudio_noan

team: lassi viitanen (principal designer), janne ekman, teemu paasiaho, ville reima, caspar åkerblom, essi nisonen, jaakko heikkilä

structural design: timo haavisto, insinööritoimisto asko keronen (wooden beams)

contractor: construction work done by volunteers

gross area: 50 sqm (538 sqft)

year: 2020


wood supplier: late-rakenteet oy

ombré coloured cement floor screed: keravanranta oy

glass: lasitalo oy

roof material: siberian larch

internal surface: finnish spruce

exterior surface treatment: puijo tar, tar paint, tinting with carbon black

custom furniture: puusepänliike hannes oy

custom furniture design: architecturestudio NOAN


photography: essi nisonen | @essi.jpg

copyright: all material is courtesy of architecturestudio NOAN

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