Temppeliaukio Church

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Photo: MFA
  • PlaceHelsinki
  • Completion 1969
  • Decade1960s
  • PeriodThe rise of the welfare state
  • Year of selection2017


The Temppeliaukio Church is located amidst the residential blocks of the city district of Töölö, built during the 1920s. Two competitions were held for the design of the church, in 1931 and 1936. Construction work began based on the latter competition, but was interrupted by the Second World War. The church was eventually realised on the basis of the winning proposal “Kivikirkko” [Stone Church] by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen in a third architectural competition held in 1961.

The church is embedded in the middle of a rock outcrop. From the main approach direction, forming the end point of the long street vista, one sees only a low dome, the wall below built from quarried stone blocks and the concrete walls framing the entrance. The parish premises, with their sturdy concrete walls, flank the edge of the bedrock. The large part of the rock has been preserved intact.

In contrast to the low and dimly lit vestibule, the main church space opens up as a spacious and light-filled interior. It is dominated by walls carved into the bedrock and a flat dome, the underside of which is clad in copper thread. The dome is supported by a series of radial concrete beams resting on the quarried stone wall, which in turn rests on the bedrock. The wide glazed zone connects the free form of the rock wall and quarried stone wall with the precise geometrical form of the dome itself. The congruence of the forms creates in the space a special dynamic – and a feeling of lightness. The back of the church interior is demarcated by a folded public gallery with a copper-clad balustrade. The interior colour scheme repeats the tones of the granite.

The design of the main interior space arises from the unique use of natural elements. It is dominated by the powerful presence of the granite walls, and the light that during the course of the day creates various tones and moods both in the space and on the rock face. Also the water seeping through the cracks of the bedrock, which is lead away through channels in the floor, is part of the nature theme. At the same time, with its minimalist expression and use of exposed concrete, the church is powerful modern sacral architecture. The church, which also received criticism during the 1960s – a time when there was opposition to monumental churches – has over the years become an evocative destination for visitors from around the world. The Temppeliaukio Church, also known as the “Church in the Rock”, is in a unique way both modern and timeless.


Sirkkaliisa Jetsonen

Mehtälä, Maila (2003). Temppeliaukio – kirkko Suursaaresta länteen. Helsinki: WSOY.
Suomalainen, Timo & Tuomo (1970). ”Taivallahden kirkko”. Arkkitehti 4/1970.