A Church Whose Roof Would Become An Urban Hotspot

A democratic plan would have opened up the church grounds to everyone.

In 2009, the community of Våler, Norway, sustained a severe blow: Their 17th-century church caught fire and burned to the ground. To replace their beloved meetinghouse, the town recently held a competition for a design that would serve as a symbol of renewal. Among the proposals was OOIIO Architecture’s low-lying all-wood structure, whose rooftop doubles as a promenade, providing an open public space with views of the picturesque surroundings.


“OOIIO Architecture designed for Våler a different and new typology of building, trying to solve two problems of the city at the same time,” the Madrid-based firm writes in its brief. “They need a new church, and they don’t have a representative public space, a meeting point where all the inhabitants could meet or immediately associate it to Våler and nowhere else.” It’s a beautiful gesture, making the church accessible and useful to even those residents who don’t attend religious services, in the same way that Snøhetta’s Norwegian National Opera and Ballet house became a public plaza and architectural landmark in Oslo. But there are some practical drawbacks to the plan: Without a draining system, the indented rooftop could become a reservoir of rainwater. And the open chapel, while creating a strong connection to the outdoors, could be unpleasantly chilly during long winter sermons.

That said, a few tweaks could have salvaged the proposal and made for a lovely communal space. Instead, Våler opted for Espen Surnevik’s slightly more traditional structure, whose white façade and pointed naves refer to the original church’s form.

About the author

Belinda Lanks is the editorial director of Co.Design. Before joining, she was the managing editor of Metropolis.