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25/10/2022 Merirasti chapel

Helsinki, Finland

The Merirasti chapel was designed by architect Kaarlo Leppänen, known for the design of shopping center Forum in Helsinki city center. The chapel opened its doors in 1993, and the years following its construction were far from uneventful. In the 2000s, the chapel's ceiling collapsed. This was attributed to the construction workers using nylon connectors, which ultimately failed as the metro line was being excavated nearby.

 

Simo-Pekka Valtonen, the structural designer of the chapel, expresses regret that he couldn't oversee the construction process. He highlights several construction flaws, including the absence of a ventilation gap for insulation in the brick facade, inadequate detailing to protect the roof from the elements, and insufficient ventilation for sewage, all issues that have likely contributed to the poor indoor air quality in the building.

 

All these issues, however, are repairable, Simo-Pekka asserts. He emphasizes that as an immediate action, sealing the outer envelope of the building could prevent the underpressured indoor air from drawing in contaminated air through the facade. As a long-term solution, the facade bricks should be replaced. 

 

“The renovation costs are not expected to exceed the expenses for constructing a new building of similar size," he estimates.

 

The repair efforts are supported by the fact that the congregation itself had started to invest in the chapel’s renovation. The floor was renovated in 2020, followed by the renovation of the leaking roof in the summer of 2021. However, in March 2021 it was revealed that the roof renovation would not move forward. According to the congregation’s public meeting records the city had opened discussions regarding combining the chapel’s property as part of the architectural competition of a new multipurpose building taking place in the same block.

 

It seems that what ended the ambitions to repair the building was not its poor quality but rather the competing interests of the city and the consortium that manages the finances and real estate of the congregation. In September of 2021, the consortium announced budget cuts and a list of spaces to be vacated, with Merirasti chapel among them.

BEYOND REPAIR?
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