Carved into the bedrock of Helsinki, the Temppeliaukio Church is more likely to be worshipped by a congregation of architects and musicians, than God-fearing locals.
Located in the umlaut-soaked neighbourhood of Tööiö, the “rock church” has grown to become one of the country’s most visited buildings, with tourists travelling from everywhere to swoon over its mix of space-age design and prehistoric materials. But it wasn’t always so popular.
Designed by a couple of architect brothers, Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, the siblings won an open competition to design the building in 1960. Initially, the local press hailed them as creative visionaries, but by the time the building was being finished, nine years later, the peaceful days of the early ’60s had vanished, and were quickly being replaced by a New Leftist radicalism and some pretty strong anti-church vibes.
There was some controversy surrounding the design, with a few well-known architects whispering that the Suomalainen bros had copied an earlier work.
Eventually, when the bespoke front doors were ready to be opened, protesters were regularly camped out front, fighting for causes as varied as local education to the famine in Africa.
Added to this, there was some controversy surrounding the design, with a few well-known architects whispering that the Suomalainen bros had copied an earlier work.
It’s a spicy claim, but not completely unfounded. There had been two previous design competitions held for the same project, back in the 1930s, with one of the entries, by a bloke called P.E Blomstedt, said to be almost identical to the Suomalainen drawings.
Accusations of skulduggery aside, the church has come to transcend religion across the decades, and is regularly used as a concert hall nowadays, due to its killer sound qualities.
With the interior built directly out of solid rock, and lots of the walls left raw and unworked, the Temppeliaukio Church mimics the interior of some of the greatest, tightly-engineered, music halls in the world.
Ironically, a building with so many architectural bells and whistles, there’s no actual bell anywhere inside the temple, so they play a recording of one through speakers on the wall outside.