When it comes to unusual, and creative, uses of wood, you have to hand it to the Finns. It seems that their culture causes their mental juices to flow naturally to wood as a first solution for just about everything you can think of ... and some that you never would. Such as a chapel of ... silence. That's right, the good citizens of Helsinki constructed an edifice of wood which has silence as its primary function. You go in, sit, or walk around, look at the wood, and ... look at the wood.

In this case, you'd be looking at glue-laminated spruce from the hinterlands of Finland.

"The most prominent space of the building is a timber constructed 11.5 metres high sacral space," according to a write up by the City of Helsinki. It creates a calm space, in which the lively surroundings seem distant; the defining elements include indirect light flowing down from above and the warm timber surfaces on the walls and fittings. The total area of the chapel building is 270 square meters housing the sacral space, an information lounge and spaces for one-to-one discussion.

"Originally, the idea of an urban chapel came from the City of Helsinki. The client is the parish union of Helsinki. The parish unions of Espoo and Vantaa have participated in planning the future activities in the chapel."

When I was in Helsinki, I didn't notice it to be an unusually loud place ... in fact, quite the opposite. No honking cars, police whistles, sirens in this pacific city. And yet, the Finns are thoughtful enough to build a shelter for those who just have to have SILENCE to think. Nice of them.

I know what I'd be thinking of ... mental calculations of the number of lineal feet of timber used in the building. And looking for knots. And wondering what the place cost. I know, typical American.

On second thought, I don't think the idea is that original, anyway. I think they got it from watching classic old American TV re-runs. The original "Cone of Silence." (Play video)

Dr. Charles D. “Chuck” Ray is Associate Professor of Wood Operations Research at Pennsylvania State University. His specialty is in the area of operations research, specifically those operational issues that confront the majority of the wood products sector. He previously spent 15 years in research and quality management for two large building products corporations, Temple-Inland Forest Products and Louisiana-Pacific. Ray is the sixth generation of his family to work in the sawmill industry, the Ray Brothers Lumber Company, established in East Texas before the turn of the last century. He can be reached at cdrpsu@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @ChuckDRay. He maintains an Extension website for Penn State at http://extension.psu.edu/woodpro and also writes a blog on all wood issues called Go Wood which can be found at http://gowood.blogspot.com.

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