Designing a funeral chapel is not the everyday business of an architect. All the more curiosity and creative interest were triggered by the commission from a family in Styria to the Austrian-Finnish office BERGER+PARKKINEN. An atypical and exciting task, also because it was a building freed from compromising functions.
Adolf Loos wrote in 1908 in "Ornament and Crime": "Only a very small part of architecture belongs to art: The tomb and the monument. Everything else, everything that serves a purpose, is to be excluded from the realm of art."
So we were dealing with a borderline area of architecture, an area where otherwise determining themes such as function have little influence on the design. It was therefore necessary to find a new approach, as a basis for the actual design work.
The architects created a connection to the castle within sight, using light and a vertical orientation to create the mysticism and spiritual atmosphere appropriate for a tomb.
If we examine examples of architecture from early cultures, the oldest evidence of human history are tombs.The desire for permanence was paramount in the construction of tombs. This is still true today for all sedentary cultures.
In the specific case, old masonry that would be suitable in principle for the construction of the chapel was available at the site. This local stone comes from a farm building mentioned in documents more than 800 years ago, which had collapsed a long time ago.
The stone, with all its peculiarities, became decisive for the design and the architects succeeded in creating a material-aesthetic connection of the new building with the castle.
The material coincides with that of the retaining walls and also with the masonry of the foundation walls of the castle.
The new walls were thus created from the remains of old walls, a fine example of sustainability and a cycle through direct reuse of existing demolition material.
Not all stone is the same and this local stone has its peculiarities. "Rough hewn and very rustic, it does not lend itself to fine geometric shapes; even edges are difficult to make. This material shows its effect best in the surface" says Alfred Berger. Thus, a decisive parameter for the design was defined.
The solution was found in the development of a very simple form without edges. The result was a round solitaire that calmly and powerfully takes up its position in the landscape. Timeless like the walls of the castle, but clearly contemporary in the precision of its design.
The tower, which tapers slightly towards the top, has only three openings. The gate and the narrow window, are recessed with prefabricated, sandblasted reinforced concrete frames in natural stone. The third opening is formed by a circular hole in the ceiling slab.
We needed a tomb that will be a positive memorial, aesthetically pleasing for our ancestors and family. Therefore the Ascension Chapel was built. Our intention was to create a contemporary architecture from historical materials. For me the use of stone was important. Light enters the chapel through a gilded cylinder, so light has a fuller effect. The chapel stands on an east-west axis and creates a new order in the Park. It is meant to be a place of peace, connecting past, present and future.
In 1995 Tiina Parkkinen and Alfred Berger founded Berger+Parkkinen Architects. In the same year they won the competition for the Embassies of the Nordic Countries in Berlin. Numerous successful competitions and distinctions followed, currently including the prestigious Austrian State Award for Architecture and Sustainability (Staatspreis für Architektur und Nachhaltigkeit 2021), the Architecture Prize Land Salzburg and finalists of the Mies van der Rohe Awards. Regular lectures and exhibition activities in Europe, India, Mexico, and USA. Invitation to the Venice Architecture Biennale, the London Architecture Biennale, Galerie Aedes Berlin. Their work has been published internationally in leading architecture magazines, books, and other media. Berger+Parkkinen fabricates individual and sustainable buildings to a wide range of programs.