10.8.2020

The Shingle Church at Kärsämäki

The church consists of a log ”heart” and a shingle ”cloak” that has been tarred black. This solution is both structural and functional and it strives for optimal weather resistance. The figure of the church blends in with the local building stock and the economical architecture continues the wooden church tradition of folk builders.

The church was built according to Architect Panu Kaila’s concept using handicraft methods from the 18th century. The lumber for the log frame was felled and hewn by hand. The corner joints were made with an axe, a saw and a chisel. Once the foundation was ready, the log frames were assembled using a home-made winch and the surface was finished with a wide-bladed hatchet.

The roof structures were built from 5 x 5” hewn wood. The joints were notched and secured with wood dowels. In the middle of the church hall, the ends of the rods extending from the outer walls were locked into the skylight’s rods using notched joints and fixed with wood wedges. The aspen shingles of the roof and outer walls have been cleft. The surface of the shingles is living and durable since the wood’s cell tissue is not broken by the cleaving. The shingles were finished by being pared, dipped into hot tar and nailed into place. The wrought-iron parts have been wrought from scrap metal and then tempered by submerging the hot metal into tar for a little while. This treatment formed a black surface that protects it from rust.

Both the shingles and the foundations were done as volunteer work together. The log frame and structures were made under the supervision of professionals. The use of traditional methods was learned in conjunction with the construction of the church, and teaching material was produced.

The design is my Master’s Thesis that was written on the basis of the proposal that won the design competition held by the Wood Studio at the University of Oulu. This work required thorough familiarisation with old construction methods, and the skills and expertise of the old craftsmen made this project unique. The end result is a bit diverse, although decent on the whole. The workmen have left their mark on the church.

Project in brief

The Shingle Church at Kärsämäki

  • Location | Kärsämäki
  • Purpose | Church
  • Constructor/Client | Kärsämäen Seurakunta
  • Architectural Design | Anssi Lassila
  • Structural design | Jussi Tervaoja
  • Wood component supplier | Kärsämäen seurakunta, UPM
  • Year completed | 2004
  • Photographs | Pekka Agarth and Jussi Tiainen
  • Text | Anssi Lassila