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Avanto Architects: cemetery chapel, Vantaa, Finland.

Finnish architect Ville Hara, who was premiated in the AR Awards of 2003 for his bulbous, timber gazebo (AR December 2003), is now in partnership with compatriot Anu Puustinen under the auspices of Avanto Architects. This competition-winning project for a funerary chapel adds a new element to a historic church site in Vantaa, just to the north of Helsinki. The Church of St Lawrence was originally built in the fifteenth century, along with a parsonage and bellcote, as a parish nucleus for the then hamlet of Helsinki.

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Avanto's chapel links these disparate elements in the landscape without being an overtly conspicuous presence, despite its evident newness. The old stone church and bellcote still dominate in a patrician way, with the parsonage buildings as a separate entity. Massing and materials respond to the cues of the surroundings, with stark planes of rendered brickwork and natural stone animated by the rich, jewel-like hues of patinated copper sheet and mesh.

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Local demographics forecast a trebling of capacity over the next twenty years, so the new building has two chapels, enabling separate services to be held concurrently. Each chapel has a dedicated foyer to tactfully prevent groups of mourners intermingling on arrival or departure. There is also a space for paying final respects and a separate chamber for burial urns. A series of orthogonal walls define the chapels and their attendant courtyards, for contemplation and light. The walls form a solid, rusticated base, from which rise the copper-clad volumes of the chapels and urn room. The composition is anchored and completed by a corner belltower.

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Consciously understated in the best Finnish tradition, the architecture strives to orchestrate a sense of tranquillity and dignity. Movement from one room to another is emphasised by subtle changes of light, scale and materials. Courtyards function as passages, a wall turns onlookers towards the light, the intimacy of a particular space gives reassurance to mourners. As the architects describe the final journey from mortality to eternity, 'The path turns toward the unknown, but goes on ...' C. S.

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From churches to sports centres, projects that engender a sense of community.
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Title Annotation:Community
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUFI
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Words:368
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