In fall 2015, the Church of Norway announced a competition for a new church in Ulsteinvik, Norway. Amongst 38 applications, four were selected to participate. Snøhetta was on June 11 2016 announced as the competition winner with the project “Excelsior”.
The existing Ulstein Church, built in the 1800s, is today lacking capacity and flexibility. There is therefore a need for a new church building, which will be placed together with the existing building. The new church will, in interaction with the existing one, house a great diversity of activities and also facilitate several activities simultaneously.
With the competition proposal “Excelsior”, Snøhetta intends to create a customized and sustainable church for Ulsteinvik that is both a worthy and a functional frame for the church’s activities. The new church will be built next to the existing church, and the two buildings make up a new whole, both functionally and symbolically.
The new church’s location makes good use of the part of the area that has not previously been used as a cemetery. The church room and associated functions are located on the ground floor, with the entrance facing the existing church. With a separate entrance from the west, the administrative functions are placed on the first floor. On the third floor one can find the chapel, which is entered through a plaza under a big tree. The main volume will primarily be built in massive wood, supplemented by a supporting structure in glulam.
The art strategy in the project supports the concept of the architecture, and suggests a decoration with a cross in the church room and the chapel.
The concept for “Excelsior” can be explained with three simple words: the Rock, the Tree, and the Space. The rock is the fundament on which the new church is built. It represents eternity, the solid, the past and the altar as a meeting with God. The new wooden church building is established as a new landscape. The wood represents growth, creation, future and sustainability. The layered shape rises up like atree towards a skylight over the church space, referring to tree rings and rings in water. The space is created as a cavity in the wood. It represents the present, life, and the pilgrimage. In the church room one can find both the horizontal axis in the community and pilgrimage, and the vertical axis in the connection between heaven and earth through the skylight.