Temppeliaukio Church – The Rock Church in Helsinki

Top view of the snow covered Temppeliaukio Church The Rock Church In Helsinki

Photo by Sofie von Frenckell
Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki, Finland. The pews in the illuminated church hall are visible through the skylights. Photo by Sofie von Frenckell.

The Temppeliaukio Church, also known as the Rock Church, is one of Helsinki’s architectural gems. The Church was designed by architects and brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened to the public in 1969. What makes it such a fascinating place is that it is built directly into solid rock. It was one of my favorite places to explore when I lived in Helsinki, Finland.

The Rock Church in Helsinki

Aerial view of Temppeliaukio Church The Rock Church

Photo by Sofie von Frenckell
Photo by Sofie von Frenckell, showing a charming Helsinki Töölö neighborhood and the church’s roof garden. Note: no steps from the street to the entrance make the building suited for all people.

This iconic building was before its time in many ways. The Temppeliaukio Church has been awarded prominent architectural prizes abroad for its uniqueness and new solutions.

Built into the bedrock, Temppeliaukio Church is one of Helsinki’s favorite attraction and an important architecture-based destination. This church is featured in hundreds of architectural journals around the world.

The entrance of  Temppeliaukio Church.  Photo by Sofie von Frenckell.
The entrance of Temppeliaukio Church. Photo by Sofie von Frenckell.

Its impressive atmosphere, marvelous architecture, and superb acoustics have made the church popular as an excellent concert venue for tourists and locals alike. Nevertheless, the Temppeliaukio Church is first and foremost a place of worship.

I always loved that besides being an architectural gem, it is a choral and classical music venue. I will never forget the marvelous Sibelius concert in this special place. Some moments in life are simply unforgettable.

Another feature that captivates me is the window-studded, light-capturing ceiling covered with over 13 miles of copper stripping.

The Rock Church – Interview with Heli Suhtala Uvalic

Temppeliaukio Church The Rock Church inside

Photo by Sofie von Frenckell
Inside the Temppeliaukio Church. Photo by Sofie von Frenckell.

Dear Heli, can you please let us know what inspired architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen to build this unique structure?  

The Suomalainen architects were two brothers born on the island of Suursaari (“The Great Island”) situated in the Gulf of Finland. Since WWII, this island is now a part of Russia. Suursaari mainly composed of the hard granite rock that is typical for the Nordic area. The story goes that the brothers just loved their native Suursaari, but unfortunately, they had to leave as refugees because of the war. But in their hearts, they always longed to go back to Suursaari.

Since the Temppeliaukio Church is located inside this granite cliff, it was exactly the material they cherished. As adults, they also worked for the Finnish Defence Forces building cave complexes. Thus, building into the hard rock material was familiar to them.

The architects went on to participate in the 1961 architectural contest (which they won with their plan called “The Stone Church”) for a new church building on this present site. Timo and Tuomo were exceptionally proud of the acoustics of the building.

Temppeliaukio Church – The Rock Church’s Unique Features

The copper roof of the Temppeliaukio Church The Rock Church

Photo by Sofie von Frenckell
Copper coil roof. Photo by Sofie von Frenckell.

Could you please tell us more about the formidable copper coil roof?

​The roof consists of 22 kilometers (13 miles) of the copper coil and weighs nine tons. The diameter is 24 meters (79 feet) and the height from the floor to the ceiling is 13 meters (43 feet) at the highest point. The copper ceiling is surrounded by 180 skylights. The copper ceiling is also one of the main factors behind the fantastic acoustics inside the church hall. The other contributing factor is the rough exposed stone walls.

Temppeliaukio Church – The Rock Church Dual Function

The Temppeliaukio Church has a dual function, as a place of worship and a superb concert venue. Could you please let us know how the Temppeliaukio Church became such a fascinating concert venue?

​Already from the beginning, the architects were focused on having splendid acoustics in their church. The inner walls were supposed to be coated with concrete to form plain white walls. During the process, they changed their plan and realized that the exposed rock walls were exactly the right thing to provide the church hall with fantastic acoustics.

Regarding the indoors plan, the floor space is reserved for the orchestra and performers. The church hall provides ample seating for 750 visitors.

It is such an extraordinary place to experience classical music.

Superb Acoustics for Music Events

Concerts were held here from the very beginning and its music venue reputation grew rapidly. Artists, bands, and choirs from all around the world perform at Temppeliaukio Church giving audiences nearly 400 concerts annually.

I would say that Temppeliaukio Church has a triple function. Firstly, as a place of worship. Secondly, as a great concert venue. Finally, as one of the main architectural indoor sights in Finland.

I’d like to share one interesting tidbit from the locals. Instead of the commonly used “Rock Church,” we use our name Temppeliaukio Church which means “The Church on the Temple Square.”

Temppeliaukio Church The Rock Church details

Photo by Sofie von Frenckell
Different textures within the Temppeliaukio Church.
Photo by Sofie von Frenckell.

Temppeliaukio Church – The Rock Church – Always Something New to Discover

What is personally your favorite part of the Temppeliaukio Church?

First, I love looking closely at the inner walls. All those colors and patterns are just amazing and you see new shapes and small formations every time you look at them!

Temppeliaukio Church The Rock Church wall.  Photo by Sofie von Frenckell
During rainy days, water drips down the stone walls into channels in the floor.
Photo by Sofie von Frenckell.

Second, I enjoy the Rock Garden outside and above the church. On the exterior of the church, you’ll find sculptural stone walls made of the quarried stone from this actual spot. In the garden, you’ll also find a “bench” made of these same stone blocks with all the drilling marks left on display – just awesome!  

I love the building because I always find something new about it.

Thank you, Heli, for sharing your thoughts with us.

A Word from the Founder, Zest & Curiosity

Tijana inside the Temppeliaukio Church at Christmas time.

Some places captivate you and stay in your mind forever. Temppeliaukio Church is one of those places for me. The picture above was taken during a Christmas time visit, where I stopped by just to experience it over and over again.

Zest & Curiosity reached to Heli Suhtala Uvalic, Customer Service Manager at Temppeliaukio Church, and talented photographer Sofie Von Frenckell to collaborate on this article. It was a joy to work with both of them. I am very thankful that Heli graciously opened Temppeliaukio Church doors for us and shared her insights. For Sofie, this was an extraordinary opportunity to take pictures of the church, as during normal times when it is open to the public, the church is never empty.

Sofie is a Helsinki-based photographer with an M.Sc. degree in Forestry. For more of her photography, check her Instagram as well.

For the finale, here is some more music performed at Temppeliaukio Church for you to enjoy!

Enjoy exploring this fascinating architecture, dear reader.

The world is full of wonder.

– Tijana

Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director

Zest & Curiosity

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  • svetislav

    When I first visited the Church of Temppeliaukio 50 years ago, I was not thrilled, it was repulsive to me as a sacral object – a completely unusual architectural solution. However, in the next three visits, my impression changed and today, dear Tijana, I completely agree with your (somewhat paraphrased thought) “I pointed out nicely, certain buildings captivate you and remain in your mind forever.”

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Yes, it had a bumpy start with the local population as well. It was so unusual in so many ways, and locally not at all popular at the beginning in the ’60s. Interestingly, at the same time, it won so many global architectural awards. I loved it as a novel way to explore natural materials. The copper roof is spectacular and the exposed stones are so beautiful. On a rainy day, you have small waterfalls and water condensation dripping on them. What I love the most, as a music lover, is the incredible, crystal clear acoustics.

      It is made for concerts, and the experience for classical music lovers is astonishing. Musical programming includes all kinds of music nowadays. I highly recommend getting tickets for the concert, once you are exploring the building to truly understand it.

      It is amazing that you had a chance to see it so many times. Thank you for your comment. Always great to hear your thoughts.

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