More than just church images

Over 23,000 high quality pictures, virtual 3d-models and interactive learning techniques: The KUVIO image archive, hosted by Helsinki University’s Faculty of Theology, is becoming a cutting-edge online database of European worship architecture.

Over 23,000 high quality pictures, virtual 3d-models and interactive learning techniques: The KUVIO image archive, hosted by Helsinki University’s Faculty of Theology, is becoming a cutting-edge online database of European worship architecture.

Until the early 1990s, the word had been considered truer and more reasonable in North European Protestantism than the image.

“I felt it was time to break with this”, says Arto Kuorikoski, theological researcher, architect and KUVIO image archive project manager.

Inspired by works of the German philosopher and theologian Horst Schwebel, Kuorikoski’s PhD thesis set off in 2004 to determine and analyse postmodern art works within sacred architecture. The Helsinki University-funded research project merged theology, philosophy, art, and architecture.

It was for his dissertation that Kuorikoski started taking photos of modern churches built and inspired by Finnish architects. This became the basis of the KUVIO image archive, which has developed into an extensive collection of 23,000 photos of 1,200 religious buildings. Besides Christian architecture it also includes mosques and various secular buildings; 15 per cent of those being Finnish. The architectural projects have been placed on Google maps and are accompanied by descriptions, such as historical sources from the literature.

“We would never be able to acquire all material on our own; hence we collaborate with institutions such as the National Board of Antiquities and the Museum of Finnish Architecture, explains Kuorikoski. Further partners are the departments of Art History at the Universities of Jyväskylä and Helsinki, the Philipps-University of Marburg in Germany and the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, USA.

Worship buildings usually also entail political discussions. Which religious community is allowed to build what and where; and how is this decision justified against other interest groups? No wonder many unrealised architectural projects found their way into the image archive, too. For example an alternative architect’s plans for Helsinki’s famous Temppeliaukio Church: thanks to virtual 3-D modelling, the archive user is now able to experience what it would have been like to enter the church if a different design had been implemented.

The archive’s purposes are manifold. Lecturers can use the material to prepare their seminar – equally for art, history, architecture or theology lessons. For architects it may serve as an inspirational source, and students and researchers may also access it for their research. The archive is freely accessible and free to use for any discipline: “our present to the University”, stresses Kuorikoski.

From 16 to 26 October 2012, the Faculty of Theology will discuss issues related to urban religion at Think Corner, such as how different religions appear in cities, and who has the right to the city.

The Think Corner programme 16.-26.10.2012 »»

KUVIO research archive »»

Faculty of Theology »»

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Text: Claudia Gorr
12.10.2012
University of Helsinki, digital communications


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