Aarno Ruusuvuori was commissioned to design the Huutoniemi church on the basis of an invited competition held in 1961. It is one of the most refined examples of Ruusuvuori’s concrete architecture of the 1960s and a building in which the influence of Le Corbusier is clearly evident.
In the 1960s the church authorities took active steps to respond to society’s increased secularism by investing in new, architecturally high-quality church buildings in suburban areas. At the same time, a new building type was developed, the so-called “work centre”, which offered more diversified services linked to the daily life of the parishioners, the room programme of which included, in addition to a church hall, club rooms. Huutoniemi church, located east of Vaasa city centre, is a typical example of the combination of church and work centre.
Due to the small size of the plot, the building complex is arranged as a wall-like mass, which wraps around the rectangular parish centre courtyard. The fair-faced and untreated concrete stresses the enclosed nature of the building towards the street space. The severely rectangular overall shape is broken only by the wedge-like outward and upward protruding mass of the main church space.
In contrast to the lack of views out to the street, the inner courtyard is open due to the large windows. The monumental staircase leads from the courtyard up to the first-floor foyer, from where there is access to the parish hall and the main church space. The spatial totality takes on the appearance of, in Ruusuvuori’s own words, “an ascending spiral which culminates in the tip of the church space that rises like the bow of a ship.” (Ruusuvuori, 1964)
In the asymmetric interior the pews are placed lengthways and the altar along the long side of the space. The overall impression in the church interior is closed and very simplified. This impression is emphasised by the greyish-brown Leca concrete blocks of the walls, the deep-red floor tiles and the dark-stained pews. The main source of natural light in the space is a window placed in the highest corner of the space, which provides side light for the altar wall and the church space itself.
The main church space has seating for 350 people and can when necessary be combined with the adjacent parish hall. The club rooms are located in the two-storey part that encircles the courtyard. The complex also includes separate terraced housing.
The church silverware was designed by Bertel Gardberg, and artist Juhana Blomstedt served as a consultant in the design of the overall colour scheme. The renovation of the church was completed in 2001. Huutoniemi Church is listed on the DOCOMOMO Finland registered selection of important architectural and environmental modernist sites.
Text: Petteri Kummala / DOCOMOMO Finland