28 February 2018

Case Study: The Belarusian Memorial Chapel

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The first wooden church built in London since the Great Fire of 1666, the Belarusian Memorial Chapel combines the traditional form and materials of the rural Belarusian church with a contemporary twist.

 

The Belarusian Memorial Chapel stands tall, surrounded by protected trees in the grounds of the cultural centre for the Belarusian community in North London. This small timber chapel is dedicated to the memory of victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

 

The explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant killed 31 people in the immediate blast and exposed 8,400,000 people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia to radiation, displacing thousands, some of whom settled in the UK.

 

After being turned down for planning permission twice for an extension to the original community building, the client approached Spheron Architects who took a fresh approach to the project.

 

Spheron Architects director, Tszwai So, was the perfect choice for the project, having spent time in Belarus researching the design of traditional churches, including those abandoned following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

 

Rejecting an extension for a standalone building, the architects combined the traditional form and materials of the rural Belarusian church with a contemporary twist by introducing an undulation of the timber elements on the exterior chapel wall.

 

Clerestory glazing and tall frosted windows flood the church with natural light. The timber-framed structure features a pitched shingle roof and a domed spire, serving as a reminder of the loss of many wooden Belarusian settlements after the Chernobyl tragedy. The interior, which can seat a congregation of 40, is adorned with timber screens depicting historic icons.

 

The Belarusian Memorial Chapel is the first wooden church built in London since the Great Fire of 1666. Mikalaj Packajeu, chair of the Association of Belarusians in Great Britain

 

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