AOR Architects

A contemporary wooden addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petäjävesi Old Church



In progress

Competition 1st prize 2013
Petäjävesi, Finland
60 m²



Petäjävesi Old Church was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1994 as an emblematic example of a Finnish medieval church. The church is specially known for its masterful use of wood as a building material. The Church, however, currently lacks any service spaces for tourists and visitors. A new visitor centre was envisioned to provide necessary services under one roof and in close proximity to the historic church. The design of the building was realised to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the old church.

The new Visitor Centre embodies the essential architectural qualities of the Old Church through its extensive use of wood, complex relationship between structure and volume, and spatial sequence. In medieval Finland, a row of gable-roofed stables were typically located along the road leading to medieval churches. These church stables provided shelter for the horses, boats and arms of parishioners for the duration of church service. By serving and providing shelter for visitors to the medieval church, the new visitor centre can be seen as a contemporary interpretation of this traditional service building typology.

The new visitor centre is a distinctly contemporary addition to the historical surroundings of the Old Church. The old church stands as a representation of the most advanced knowledge and techniques of wood construction from the time it was built. In the same way, the new visitor centre aims to be a progressive wooden building in its own time by making use of the latest advances in wood construction. The design makes particular use of the possibilities of prefabrication and computer-driven machining of cross-laminated timber elements.

Finnish Association of Architects Wuorio award 2016
RIBA President's Medals 2016 Commendation award, Silver Medal category











AOR Architects | Liisankatu 27 F 26, 00170 Helsinki, Finland | office@aor.fi | +358 40 6595415 | Instagram