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Church by Espen Surnevik, Photo: Rasmus Norlander

Resurrected in White Porcelain: Church by Espen Surnevik

"Reis opp – Rise up!“ - This is how the architects refer to the church now standing where the old wooden one burnt down. The new building's steel supporting structure is clad inside and out in white porcelain tiles, referring not only to the colour of the old church but also to the city's tradition-rich porcelain industry going back to the 19th century.

In designing the new church, the architects took their inspiration from the archaic obelisk-style burial gravestones in the church's historical graveyard, grouping eleven geometric volumes around the central part of the new church building. These taper upwards at an inclination of 3.3 degrees and are graduated in height according to their functions. The slender obelisk of the spire towers 34 metres above the other volumes and the chancel is located in the second-highest structure while a double pyramid contains the chapel. The organ, the sacristy and further ancillary rooms are to be found in the six low obelisks. All eleven rooms are structurally independent, and the space between them is spanned by the ceiling of the nave. Skylights and glazed openings connect the individual volumes and allow light to permeate the interior, where it is reflected by surfaces in gleaming white porcelain, resulting in a sublime, spiritual mood. Oakwood forms a contrast to the cool, smooth porcelain, with the warm material finding use on non-structural elements such as partition walls, suspended ceilings, furnishings and doors.

The altarpiece is the work of the artists Marie Buskov and Espen Dietrichson. The sculpture formed out of 236 porcelain shards in white, gold, green and blue hues and measuring almost 7 x 5 metres is reminiscent of light penetrating through a blanket of cloud, an effect enhanced by the daylight cast from above onto the matt blue mosaic tiles of the chancel's rear wall. Although the new church in Porsgrunn mainly consists of a traditional place of worship, it can also be flexibly used for a large number of activities. The bright, light-flooded atmosphere in the church expresses optimism and openness, and a large window in the entrance facade fosters dialogue between the occurrences inside and people outside. Maybe the advocates of reconstruction of the old church just need a little more time to reconcile themselves with the new one.

Further Information:

Altar picture: Espen Dietrichson und Marie Buskov
Technical building equipment: Erichsen & Horgen
Construction company: Tor Entreprenør

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