Overlapping walls of curving concrete encase this funeral chapel in Graz by Austrian architects Hofrichter-Ritter.
The three walls never meet, but are connected to one another by panels of glazing that denote entrances at the front and back.
The chapel of rest is at the centre of the building and can seat up to 100 guests at a time, although the glazed facade can also be opened up to accomodate larger parties.
The middle concrete wall curls around the end of this hall to screen views out the cemetery beyond.
Ancillary rooms are wrapped around the eastern side of the building.
Photography is by Karl-Heinz Putz.
Here’s a project description from Hofrichter-Ritter Architekten:
“Father, into your hands I commend my spiritâ (Luke 23:46)
The chapel of rest for the Steinfeld cemetery is designed in the form of two curving formwork elements made of reinforced concrete and appearing as two carefully receptive hands. It is the centrepiece of the redesigned Cemetery Centre which was begun by the municipal parish of Graz under episcopal vicar Dr Heinrich Schnuderl, continued by Christian Leibnitz, the new municipal parish provost, and finally built to a design by Hofrichter-Ritter Architects in 2011.
From the perspective of urban development the building site had become a peripheral location due to the construction of the new, exclusively pedestrian tunnel underneath the railway line. Upgrading the site and, as a result, the Steinfeld cemetery was a matter of importance for Grazâs urban planners. Consequently, the cemetery has regained its significance as a public space and park.
A new concept for taking final leave of deceased loved ones has been developed in dignified and pleasant surroundings:
1. The chapel of rest serves as a chapel of rest and place of final blessing in one.
2. After the farewell ceremony the deceased is accompanied in a funeral procession through a separate entrance out of the building to the burial ground.
3. Due to increased demand on the part of the bereaved members of the family, technical multimedia facilities enable the farewell ceremony to be arranged in a highly individual way, if so required.
Depending on the particular choice of seating arrangement, the chapel of rest can accommodate up to about 100 people. In special cases larger funerals can also be held by opening up the northern glass wall and by using the spacious dimensions of the open forecourt. Cultural events may also take place at this site. Vital ancillary and service rooms have been positioned in the eastern part of the hall to facilitate smooth operations at the cemetery. These rooms are encompassed by a wall which runs along the length of the road and also acts as a necessary noise barrier to the Sí¼dbahn railway line. To the south, the wall goes on to define a green area with a columbarium grove and wall and with urn graves. Amenities such as a florist, stonemason, phone box and a public toilet are also situated right at the forecourt.
The chapel of rest:
The area for the farewell ceremony is regarded as the key space: the central location, size and above all the height of the room makes it the heart of the service centre. This space is used in three phases. These can be staged differently, depending on how the room has been arranged, especially with regard to the openings and lighting effects. The sequence is as follows: laying out â farewell â accompaniment of the deceased to the burial ground. An approx. 150 m² chapel of rest, surrounded by two shell-like walls (see ground plan) with a ceiling height of about 4.80-5.0 m, forms the main structural element of the building. An overlap between the two shells hides the view of the exit to the columbarium grove and cemetery grounds.
The ancillary rooms used for running all of the cemeteryâs operations and arranging funerals are joined to one side of the chapel of rest. They consist of the rooms required for the funeral (lounge, preparation, work room, store room and frigidarium), for the priest and for the cemeteryâs administrative staff. These rooms cover a total area of about 120 m². The outer wall of the ancillary rooms described above is formed by the “new cemetery wallâ.
The intention is to build a new cemetery wall flanking the ancillary rooms and the new columbarium grove. Much of it will form the outer wall of the ancillary rooms. Made of white concrete, this wall features different slants: where it performs a space-enclosing function, the wall slants towards the building; where it has the sole function of a “boundary wallâ it slants away from the site (cf. photo of model). A second, relatively small structure has also been included in the overall design; it accommodates two small business premises and a public toilet.
Start of planning: May/June 2010
Completion period: November 2010 â November 2011
Chapel of rest: approx. 150 m²
Ancillary rooms: approx. 120 m²
Sheltered area at the front: approx. 40 m²
Length of the new cemetery wall: approx. 75 m² (height varies from approx. 2.00 to 3.50 m)
Columbarium grove / park-like area: approx. 550 m²
Paved forecourt: approx. 500 m²