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A House of Reflection, Transparency and Absorption

LOCATION

TRONDHEIM, NORWAY

PROGRAM

CHURCH

YEAR

2023

STATUS

HONORABLE MENTION IN OPEN COMPETITION 

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Competition entry for a new church in Charlottenlund, Norway. Our proposal, A House of Reflection, Transparency, and Absorption, rests on two principles that harness solar energy. One involves a semi-transparent glass facade utilizing the future technology within solar cells: organic solar cells, which is in the transition from an experimental product to a commercial one. These solar cells open up a range of architectural potentials with transparency and relying less on the angle of the sun's path. The second principle involves the sun heating the air within a space between a glass facade and the interior room. This harnesses the heated air during winters and uses the chimney effect for cooling in summers. Our proposal aims to inspire the use of sustainable materials and technologies, including previously less architecturally attractive materials like solar cells.

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Our proposal is architecturally and landscape-oriented towards transitions. Circumambulating the complex, one senses something special behind the wall with glass volumes and trees protruding, and stepping inside the walled complex, one feels part of the unity. From the arrival, there's an overview of the garden, plaza, and the sacred entrance in the main axis of the church space. Depending on the event and connection to the church, one can choose which entrance to take. At the plaza, one experiences some of the openness typical of traditional churches. It's a place without disturbances before entering the low church square, functioning as a modern narthex and a secular room with a low threshold. Between the church square and the church space lies a transition zone with several large double doors that can be opened as needed. Passing through this zone, one compresses, intensifying the effect of the large sacred space and feeling like entering the holy shrine. Entering through the sacred entrance in the main axis of the church space also involves spatial compression before entering the grand church space. However, this entrance is more particular and sacred in its entirety, resembling a traditional entrance to a church.


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The building and garden are connected by an encircling wall, offering a sense of intimacy, protection, and sanctuary within a larger whole. The wall may partly incorporate carved facade elements from the old church, blended with the rest of the masonry, creating a new unity with historical fragments. Almost the entire program is situated on the ground level, aiming to create close connections between indoors and outdoors and foster synergies between users and employees. The organization around the plaza fosters visual contact and a sense of belonging, reminiscent of qualities found in traditional cloister gardens. We believe that the experiential quality of spreading the program across a single level is more valuable than the logistical advantage of a more compact volume as proposed in the competition program. One can enter the church space through two entrances: through the church square or through the grand church door opening directly towards the garden, continuing into the 'axis of infinity.' This creates two axes, representing the sacred and the secular, respectively.

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Glass volumes emerge from the wall, creating an ever-changing facade of reflections and transparency, becoming part of the sky's landscape, blurring the line between the secular and the divine. Depending on the angle and distance from the building and the light from the sky, the building will be perceived differently. Through the glass volume, glimpses of the interior church space are visible, creating a contrast between external and internal forms, reminiscent of historical churches but in a more dissolved relationship. The church plays on this duality, simultaneously open to the outside world and closed for reflection and spirituality.

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