Funeral Home In Sant Joan Despí
By Pol Martin
Spanish architects Batlle i Roig have always been internationally recognized for their fantastic work in landscape architecture. Their buildings are no less interesting as this new funeral home located in Sant Joan Despí competently illustrates. The building features the kind of class and simplicity in architecture that you might appreciate in many modern classic buildings, yet combined with great contemporary landscape design.
The specific location of the new funeral home, at the end of the existing cemetery of Sant Joan Despí and right beside the entrance to the public park of “La Fontsanta” gave the architects a choice between several strategies.
Foremost the building would act to solve the primary functional program requested of the new facility; to improve the services of the existing cemetery. It would be entirely built with the use of sustainable construction technologies and natural materials. It would not be just a building but a new entrance area to the whole funereal complex, organizing the exterior pedestrian connections and parking areas. Most importantly, the building would be integrated as part of the landscape so that the park atmosphere would be preserved. Part of the new volume would be embedded in the existing topography.
Both the new entrance area and the building are organized around the existing street access to the old cemetery. From this point the funeral home building becomes the final construction within the cemetery sequence. The new parking and the exterior spaces provide some sort of welcoming plaza that solves the previous lack of a proper entrance and unifies the new facilities with the old graves.
The site is based within a small valley. The streets surrounding the park and the cemetery are on a higher level. By embedding part of the funeral home in the topography, the architects Batlle i Roig have certainly reduced the visual impact of their new building. Following their intentions, it partially disappears and melts within the park grounds. The roof vegetation merges effectively with the surrounding green slopes, creating a seamless transition between the valley and building.
From the outside it may only appear to be a long and narrow pavilion, but the total surface area of the building is around 700 square meters. Two very different function areas are considered yet separated. One acts to assist the public through the various halls and rooms needed for the ceremonies. The other is the closed areas reserved for the internal practicalities that are associated with a funeral home; frequented by the workers and the movement of coffins. Some voids on the artificial topography provide light to the interior. These courts also establish a visual filter between the different main public spaces.
Choice of Materials
Batlle i Roig have used a basic structural system composed of walls and reinforced concrete slabs casted with pinewood boards. Corten steel pillars comprising of flat bars are also in use. The simplicity in the choice of the construction materials define the building image and its honest character. They provide a brave purity and a sense of class and quality, conferred by the exposed materials. A natural stone is used for the pavement with soft wooden materials strategically placed to provide interior warmth.
The rusted steel pillars of the facade act like a light gradient, visually filtering the exterior whilst protecting the interior from direct sunlight. In combination with the incoming natural light, the exposed structural element textures help create a variation of interior atmospheres: each space is illuminated by a specific and unique light. Like in any spiritual building, the light is used to create part of the building’s imagery.