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Belarusian Memorial Chapel

Spheron Architects for The Holy Sea of Rome, Woodside Park, London

Belarusian Memorial Chapel.
Belarusian Memorial Chapel. Credit: Helene Binet

Lovely building… Looks like it is made of matches and held close to the camera' – Judge Russell Curtis

The Belarusian Memorial Chapel is the first wooden church to be built in London since the Great Fire of 1666. The chapel has been built for the Belarusian diaspora community in the UK, and is dedicated to the memory of victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Funded by the Holy See, the 69m2 chapel sits surrounded by 17 protected trees in the grounds of Marian House, a community and cultural centre in north London. Accommodating up to 40 people, its design mixes traditional and contemporary elements. 

  • Belarusian Memorial Chapel.
    Belarusian Memorial Chapel. Credit: Joakim Boren

Entirely pre-fabricated, the lightweight timber structure is made from sustainably sourced British Douglas fir. Extensive use of CNC technology allowed separately manufactured parts to be assembled on site, allowing quick construction. Traditional forms and motifs are complemented by contemporary detailing, exemplified by the undulating exterior fins that form the facade. Similarly, ground level clerestory windows running throughout the chapel enhance natural lighting inside, while giving the appearance that the structure is floating.

Extensive research into Belarus’s wooden church tradition was undertaken by project architect Tszwai So, who spent time in Belarus, recording and sketching traditional churches in rural villages to gain closer insight for the design. So worked closely with the community both in the UK and Belarus to engage with their immediate needs.

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Client The Holy See of Rome

Principal designer/architect Spheron Architects

Engineer and principal contractor Timberwright

Services engineer Arup

Wood suppliers East Bros Timber, Egoin UK

Environmental/M&E engineer Arup

Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Change Project Consulting

Planning consultant Alpha Planning

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