Arquitecture and Town Planning

Funeral home and garden in Pinoso

Built     -     Public building     -     2010

> Selected work by Fundación de la Caja de Arquitectos: Arquia Próxima 2008-09

> Selected for the Exhibition of Architecture in Alicante 2008-11 organized by the College of Architects of Alicante, new building category

"The fear of death is about considering ourselves wise without being it, since it is pretending to know about what we don't know. Death could be the greatest blessing of human beings, no one knows, and yet everyone fears as if we knew with absolute certainty that it's the worst of evils” (Socrates, 470 BC, 399 BC)

Historically we find different definitions of death that demonstrate how this concept has moved from positions closer to darkness, pain and fear, to positions related to the concept of sadness, change and light.

Designing a building where you will live, perhaps, the most unknown stage of human existence necessarily involves the assumption of uncertainty as a concept to include in the process of ideation.

We understand this building as a place that will resist being forgotten, remaining in the retinas of their users, and therefore a place where the sensitive realm has to be controlled. Parameters such as sound, temperature, light, humidity, lighting, privacy, relationship with nature become very important.

The plot is situated on the outskirts of town, at the end of a cul-de-sac, close to the municipal sports centre and behind a cultural centre, both with great activity. This creates certain urban tension, since the building is in the middle of various incompatible activities. In this situation we proposed to arrange the ensemble generating a vegetation mattress with enough identity to establish itself as the 'centre' of all these public buildings and activities. We have created a forest of 29 Japanese maples, able to articulate, differentiate and limit the variety of uses. A forest where the new building can be apart of all the other activities.

Additionally, the back of the building is buried and, as if it was a cave, its main facade emerges from the fields forward. The vegetal roofs composed exactly the same as its surroundings emphasize this and prevent glances from the adjacent sports facilities  used daily by school children for several activities. It is for this reason that the building is arranged around six hollows formed as courtyards or 'bitten spaces', they allow a controlled relationship with the exterior avoiding interaction. From the interior rooms you are only able to see the sky and the inside.
 And this interior-exterior permeability becomes very important in this new town site.

Formally the building 'crumbles', breaks through a virtual structure and cantilever beams that frees the limits and meetings of any structural member. A great distance the building is a mass buried among trees, halfway nuances that can appear to realize the instability of the building, "something that looks calm and displacing the user, slowing their access - Inside, space is seen air, thin and subtle.

Facing 'the fragile', identifiable in this project as a fluke but rather as a meeting mentioned in its interior, the strength of its formal and material abroad. The project seeks to reassure the speed in which we live by the clash of these two contrasting situations: an interior light and weightless compared to a blunt and heavy exterior.

The interior-exterior permeability becomes very important in this new town site.

Access is twofold: the main linked to the reception and the cafeteria, as well as management offices and common uses of the funeral home is located in the front garden on the edge of the building, ie not make any bankruptcy or recess to allow the user read access. No signals. The aim is, again, displacing the user in relation to the building. This is traditionally a place for family gatherings and friendly, which not only shows affection and respect for the deceased, but also, in many cases, people are not seen for some time. In this situation, it is achieved that the meetings take place in the outdoor garden and access to the building is usually collective, we believe that emotionally interesting for two reasons: first, lets leave out the salutations and the emotions of people who just rediscover and therefore reduces the sound strident, (remember the morgue is a small building less than 500 m2) and the second, than against an individual experience of depression, the apparent collective feelings and emotions normally support and improvement.

The organization of the plant responds to a diagram of five levels of privacy from the public as to the private: level 1, the most public is the access, hall, reception, cafeteria, offices and bathrooms, at Level 2 is the large waiting area that provides access to the chapel, and is also where the output is high, from this you access to Level 3, the waiting room of each of the viewing room, level 4, great importance because it is somewhat superficial but matérico, is defined in an area of access to each room where all the walls are made of beech, is lit differently, is the most straight and narrow space of the set, which is trying set a limit and give the impression that you can access an area of calm and level 5 is the room, which can be configured in various ways depending on the amount of public or personal decision, the whole room is conditioned acoustically to that sound pressure levels do not exceed 35 dB.

Each room has a direct relationship with the outside through a courtyard. Each courtyard is defined at different altitude, causing visions and feelings different from the interior of each room. The glass walls from floor to roof patios, staying in three different positions: below the level of the floor at the same level in the soil as 80cms above the ground. When you walk into a building half-buried, the perception from outside is different, but we believe the more interesting being in the room and not knowing very well that you are bound depth, the courts have also attached two volumes that emerge above the ground cover, which increases the feeling. These volumes are the chapel and placed the area where the air conditioners.

The chapel, meeting staff, used in defining the concepts of scale, color, sound and lighting in a very specific order to generate an atmosphere of 'everyday decontextualizing' that allows the user to somehow escape from the secondary and mundane, to get to reflect on what's important. A chapel is accessed through a large, heavy door, at the same time fragile and unstable, 'is the gateway to a different place', pull that door and go is an unknown experience for the user. This door is part of the ceiling of the chapel space, an area torn by the higher light of half-open windows and equipped with high sound absorption, a place where silence is heard and where the light marked the time.

The chapel has two functions: one group, such as funeral rites, and other personal and unique, as is the individual recollection. Architecturally, the only difference that has been proposed is the type of artificial lighting. In the case of holding a ritual, recessed lights are activated to 50 cm of the soil and the alienated in the altar area, resulting in a weightless space where the light is below the knees, in exchange for no personal recollection turn any lamp, and the space is lit from the external markers in the adjacent patio, a light that illuminates the ceiling, stretching the space up.

For a decade, this small provincial town of Alicante, is a place of residence and employment of immigrants of different cultures and traditions, this situation is increasingly topical and real, in this case more than 10% of the population are immigrants internationally. Moreover, the beliefs and customs are updated and changed, and even people who share beliefs sees, understands and lives the death differently. Therefore, this funeral is to be used by people of different faiths and traditions. This apparently circumstantial, is of particular importance in the design of spaces and internal communications. The relationship with death is increasingly different and personal, and this building, architecturally speaking, must be able to assume most of these situations.

Although conceived and well-defined organization, it works different levels of uncertainty and adaptability. The interior looks generating complex at the same time diffuse.

A public building in a crisis country. We shouldn't forget the effort that this building means for its citizens: the project has 495 square meters and a budget of 431,583€, this situation forced us to finding material solutions and building techniques, systems of maintenance that reduce that effort. Not forgetting, maximum degree of ecological adaptation and sustainability at the landscape level. This is an intervention that gives more for less.

We have not developed a formal speech, or of style, neither technical nor iconic ... only project we have worked slowly without losing sight of each assessment discussed above, with particular emphasis on that do not dissolve in disciplinary conversations, constantly rescuing and giving value.

The emotional factor is a study and design. Assuming a high degree of uncertainty and defining the limitations of behaviorism, we believe that this may be one of the most attractive concepts to be studied in future projects.

Client - Town Council of Pinoso, Alicante
Status  - 
Building Engineer  -  José Verdú Montesinos
Team  -  Oscar Carpio Rodríguez (Constraction's Project Phase) and José M. Noguera Pardo (3D views)
Principal Use  -  Public Building, Funeral home
Site  -  Pinoso, Alicante, Spain.  38º 21’ 55.59” N 1º 02’ 55.29” W
Area  -  495 m2
Budget  -  431.583 € (excluding V.A.T.)
Photo of construction process  -  Luisa Martí
Photography  -  David Frutos

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