St. Henry's Ecumenical Art Chapel is placed in the landscape like religious buildings traditionally were. Outside the city of Turku, it stands upon a hillock amidst pines and spruces on the island of Hirvensalo, an area characterised by open fields and wooded hillocks. The shape of the building follows the contours of the site. The gradually forming green patina of the copper cladding blends in with the colour of the pine trees. Amidst the buildings of an activity centre, the chapel resembles an old village church.
The entrance to the east-west oriented church is from the western end. The permeating idea is that of a quiet journey towards the east, the altar. The lighting, too, confirms this idea. One walks from darkness towards light from a hidden source. The elongated nave is organised in two parts, the chapel in the front part and the gallery at the back. The visitor can study the works of art during the service. The arrangement is familiar from Renaissance churches.
The chapel is constructed like an upturned boat. Another layer of recollection is that of a herringbone. The loadbearing structure consists of tapering ribs made of glued-lasminated pine. Rising at two-meters intervals, they give the building a natural, organic form. Between the ribs there is a curved interior lining of ten-centimeters wide, untreated pine boarding. In the course of time, natural light will turn the tone of the timber to a reddish color. The floor boards, twenty-centimeters wide and five-centimeters thick pine planks have been nailed to the joists and run parallel to the space. The floor is waxed and makes a clicking sound like the floors of old churches when you walk inside. The vestry furniture, vestibule benches and hat rack are made of solid, edge-laminated common alder.
Since the client was a union of several different churches - Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox,the symbolic fish form serves to unite all the various churches involved in the chapel while the interior has powerful references to the Bible tale of Jonah in the whale’s belly. Even the exterior of the chapel covered with glimmering copper plates applied in a pattern suggesting fish scales are supporting the overall impression of that creature.
While the impressive fish volume appears rather compact and enclosed from the outside, the experience changes radically while entering the entrance at the western gable. A magnificent high pointed interior composed of laminated pine beams are meeting dramatically in a ridge almost ten times the height of a human. At the bottom of the mayor space the aisle is spatially separated from the nave of the church by secondaryspaces hid in two wooden boxes intersected by a rampart moving upwards. Along the sides of the rampart restrooms, an office as well as a staircase leading up to the choir balcony are hiding.
Sanaksenaho has restrained the wooden cross at the altar so it almost appears camouflaged since he didn’t want the religious symbols to be too intrusive. Instead he provided a naked interior for quiet speak in order to allow greater space for the visitors’ own reflections.
The chapel's patinated altar is the last public work of academician and sculptor Kain Tapper. In the altar window is a work by artist Hannu Konola, and light filters through it onto the altar wall.