Odd Østbye. Kirkelandet Kirke – Organic Church Form Born from Reinforced Concrete

How the new construction technic evolved the Norwegian church from the traditional style to a modern form after the second world war.

The Little Local Church History in Kristiansund

In Kristiansund, there had been three churches before Odd Østbye’s modern church came. All those churches were built in wood with the regular square form. The first Church was burned after a lightning strike. The second one was moved to another place by the local city council in 1872 and demolished in 1884. After existing for around 60 years, the third traditional wooden church was destroyed in a fire after a bombing in1940.

IMG1(left) – The Second Church, Cultural Heritage                                IMG2(right) – The third Church,1898, Albert Steen

IMG3 – Interior of The Third Church, Cultural Heritage

Today’s Church

Kirkelandet church, designed by Odd Østbye, was built in 1964. The concept of it is “ Mountain Crystal in Roses” — the concrete church has bright space full of light and surrounded by the flower garden.

IMG4 – Concept Drawing, Sketch by Odd K. Østbye in «Byggekunst» 4/93.

Through the modern architecture history of Norway, churches were commonly constructed and rebuilt in the ten years after the second world war, but there was little difference in the aspects of form, construction technics and material, as the three church mentioned above in Kristiansund. Until the end of the 1950s, the role of churches in the society became more public for activities other than religious service, which required more room. At almost the same time, modern architecture was introduced in Norway, with the new innovate construction technic — reinforced concrete, which eventually triggered changes in church form. 

IMG5 – Kirkelandet-Kirke, Arkitektur N, bk-nr-7-1964


Kirkelandet church is the first innovate concrete church with such a massive volume and organic form in Norway after world war II. There have been the two concrete churches built by 1960, which are Molde Cathedral by Finn Bryn in 1957 and Vardø Church by Eyvind Moestue in 1958. However, they still follow the traditional principle in some way, the only change is material. When Kirkelandet church was built, it demonstrated a real modern church with the most fashionable material at the time.

IMG6 – Interior Space of Kirkelandet Church, Teigens Fotoatelier, 1964

How the New Construction works

At first impression, the distinctive form is organic and enormous compared to the traditional Norwegian church. The church contains 800 seats and has no column in the middle of the space, which forms a very holy church room and extreme long beams, from 30 to 40 meters, hanging on the air without any support. In order to deal with the bending stress, the beams themselves have varying thickness, and the columns on both sides get a different pose from the normal condition.

Section of Kirkelandet church. They are leaned towards outside with an angel, 10 degrees, which can generate the pulling tension against the bending stress from the middle of beams. In addition to the leaning of the columns, there is another pulling tension from the top by the extra “beams”. These components make the basic frame.

Construction Illustration – There are different construction layers. All main structures are built on the same foundation. Between the gaps of the frames, there are a lot of concrete connections and foundations to reinforce the structure. Also, it brings places for coloured glass windows to introduce the sunlight from outside.

Mathematical Construction Map – Each frame rotates 2 degrees around the point. It makes people feel there is the angle, which gives both the outside shape and interior space an intense direction.

Side Wall Illustration. In order to bear the loads transferred from beams and the hight, the side wall is with specific shape and escalation from the middle to both heads. It is like lining up a series of triangular columns continuously. At the same time, the distinctive of side wall introduces the church space a quality, which emphasizes the light and holy by the shadow on the walls.

By arranging the basic structure frames in a mathematical and logical way, it produces a fan shape with slight differences and angels in the facades. From the construction of the church to its final form, we can see the delicate relationship between both. 

Facades of South and North. The south facade has a stretching position, while the north one presents shrinking shape from bottom to top.

The dialogue between the aspects of both construction and form shows how the brand-new structure designs the unique form from inside to outside of the building in its own way.

Modern Space and Religion

IMG7 – Interior Space of Kirkelandet Church, Teigens Fotoatelier, 1964

The traditional wooden church usually has other functions surrounding the main structure, people have to access them through the church hall. However, due to the advantage of the new construction method, the other functions in Kirkelandet church are compactly organized on the one side, accessible directly from a side door near the main entrance. This feature decreases the impact of the movement route and introduces a special quality of pureness and emptiness into the main space, which brings more possibilities for other programs, such as concert, daily meeting. So the church becomes not only a religious place but a public centre in some way. The fan-shaped interior space emphasizes the orientation towards the altar and the feeling of devotion when people praying.



Utgitt av Nordmøre Museum Kristiansund, 1998, “Årbok for nordmøre museum”

Ingerid Helsing Almaas, arkitektur-n.no, “Odd Østbye, ”Det er bare å stille spørsmål!”

Hildegard Meese, Nordmøre Museum Yearbook 2011, “Alterutsmykkingen i Kirkelandet kirke”

Arkitektur N nr. 7, 1964, “Kirkelandet Kirke”

Alf Henry Rasmussen, 1993, “Våre kirker. Norsk kirkeleksikon”


IMG1(left) – The Second Church in Kristiansund, Cultural Heritage, Source: https://kulturminnebilder.ra.no/fotoweb/archives/5001-Alle%20kulturminnebilder/RA1_INDEKS/RA1/Topnummer/T336_02/T336_02_0861.tif.info#c=%20%%202Ffotoweb%%202Farchives%%202F5001%20-All%%202520kulturminnebilder%%202F%%203Fq%%203Dkristiansund

IMG2(right) – The third Church in Kristiansund,1898, Albert Steen, Source: https://digitaltmuseum.no/011012890119/kristiansund-n-kirke-folk-i-gata

IMG3 – Interior of The Third Church, Cultural Heritage source: https://kulturminnebilder.ra.no/fotoweb/archives/5001-Alle%20kulturminnebilder/RA1_INDEKS/RA1/Topnummer/T336_02/T336_02_0846.tif.info#c=%2Ffotoweb%2Farchives%2F5001-Alle%2520kulturminnebilder%2F%3Fq%3Dkristiansund

IMG4 – Concept Drawing, Skisse av Odd K. Østbye i «Byggekunst» nr. 4/93, Source: https://www.google.no/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiFgJycr8LeAhVLBywKHYBMA8cQjRx6BAgBEAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fikamr.asp24.no%2Fsedak%2Ftest%2FSED_0007_004.pdf&psig=AOvVaw0rnWlK_zSJMHmgr5i8Qrkk&ust=1541682944753412

IMG5 – Arkitektur N, bk-nr-7-1964, Source: https://arkitektur-n.no/prosjekter/kirkelandet-kirke?cat=20

IMG6,7 – Interior Space of Kirkelandet Church, Teigens Fotoatelier, 1964 source: https://digitaltmuseum.no/011012604981/kristiansund-nye-kirke


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