Foto: David Thunander

Andrum - "Room for thought"

Mobile Sacred Space for meeting spiritual and social needs also during covid-19.

”Room for thought” outdoor chapel was created as an answer to people’s spiritual and social needs during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nyréns arkitektkontor (Nyrén Architects) and Lagunda parish received financing for the project through Sweden's Innovation Agency Vinnova. 

As a result of covid-19, it has become difficult to perform funerals gathering family and friends. This is especially true in areas where churches and other buildings are historic and small. Lagunda parish is one example among many where small countryside churches can not be used in the midst of the pandemic. As a solution the Nyrén Arkitekter cretated an open-air outdoor room that allows people to meet safely.

The chapel is lightweight and removable construction in wood without walls. The open architecture ensures a safe and secure gathering. It is built in modules and can be expanded if needed.

In Lagunda the chapel is placed next to a medieval church, but the building can be used regardless of religion and cultural contexts. 

The idea is that the building should be able to use and benefit even after the corona pandemic is over. The project also has been thinking about collaboration with aid organizations, such as UN Refuge Agency UNHCR.

Since the chapel was inaugurated in July 2020 it has been used for many common church services, as well as for funerals, baptisms and a wedding.

More about the project

The purpose of the project was to create an outdoor sacred space, a room that is dignified and connects to tradition and cultural heritage. It must be expandable in order to function in diverse contexts, and provide opportunities for gatherings at important places, such as near churches that are invaluable spiritually, culturally, and emotionally but that are unsuitable in terms of security and accessibility.

The coronavirus (COVID-19 has aggravated a problem that churches, congregations, and managers of other aspects of cultural heritage have been wrestling with for a long time – the difficulty of operating within a living cultural heritage where particular, historic, or antiquarian sensitive places are both the prerequisite and the problem. At present, the problem is further accentuated when it is crucial to maintain safe distances during all types of activities and gatherings. In the future, such readiness will probably become a customary part of society and cultural life, an abiding lesson from the coronavirus’s rampages.

Gatherings in small churches are oftentimes hampered by limitations to the number of people allowed to be present. The churches were built at a time when security meant thick walls, highly placed windows, and heavy doors to protect the church's precious treasures; for obvious reasons, those priorities do not satisfy the emergency service’s requirements of double exits, low thresholds, and easy evacuation. Now that the risk of contagion also means that distance between people must be guaranteed, many older churches become even more unsuitable for gatherings.

Innovation and solution
The project was among other things inspired by the canopies used in religious contexts, to create the feeling of holiness and proximity to both heaven and earth. Another inspiration was the flexible and expandable church in Taizé, which can be opened and expanded as needed while not losing its central focus and harmony. Like the church in Taizé, the project’s room is expandable: when the parts are expanded to create more space, a cross will be formed in the middle – a cross that is open to the sky.

A portable church should reflect its local community if it is to be recognized as part of that community. All in all, the desire is to create an outdoor complement to narrow and restrictive church spaces, a complement that enables gatherings within the religious, cultural and historical contexts where people belong.

The chapel is  placed in the cemetery at Fröslunda Church, in an open and flat area which has not yet been used for burial sites. On one side of the open area, there is a high forged-metal cross donated by a parish resident, and on another side is the cemetery’s Garden of Remembrance. The other two directions will offer views of the beautiful church and the open fields, respectively.

In a time of crisis and difficulties, it is important to look after not only people’s material and physical needs but also their spiritual and social needs. The latter needs are on the United Nations’ list of fundamental human rights and are among the World Health Organisation’s goals for health, including existential health. Throughout the ages the church has offered solutions with functional meeting places, creating a space for hope in a time of crisis.

The church in the world has a history of being mobile, of not only leading but also following people. This is easy to forget in a country like Sweden, where the churches have stood for centuries. To create a mobile church that can accompany people to the places where they want – and need – to have worship services would be a symbolic link to the biblical migration when the ancient Israelites carried their altar during a long journey to the Promised Land. Even today, we are all journeying to a new destination.

Further information - mostly in Swedish