arvo pärt centre . laulasmaa


The Arvo Pärt Centre will be an instrument to make the landscape sing.

Intensifying the Sensorial
The Northern Estonian Forest is full of music: the sorrow of the Southern wind, the crackling of the branches, the whispering of the leaves, the screeching of the swallows, the silence of the snow… Perhaps the remote singing of a Runic tune… The Baltic singing traditions are inevitably linked to the Estonian nature, and the Arvo Pärt Centre should become an opportunity to evidence that relation, to make it physical.
But the Laumatsaala’s forest is not just the sounds. It is also the winter’s sun’s raking glare, filtering through the pine trees, the luminescence of the night sky during the Northern Lights, the springy stepping on the foliage, the glittering of the sun over the sea, the whiteness of the snow, the teardrops of melting ice, the profiles of the clouds, the endless nights, the blaring sunrise, the blossoming of the daffodils… There is a whole phenomenology of light, form and color that the Arvo Pärt Centre will seek to intensify.
One of the most distinctive qualities of Arvo Pärt’s music is its systematic composition which is driven towards effect, rather than to detail. Unlike other contemporary minimalists, interested in the texture and the detail of the composition, Pärt’s music uses similar compositional techniques while seeking an impression, an affect. This is not technique for the sake of it, but to produce a sensation.
Our project is ultimately aimed at the intensification of sensations: to create a chamber of resonance for the energies of matter, sonic or luminic. Sound and light are ultimately vibrations, rhythms of matter, waves, corpuscules, bouncing on other matters, occupying them, reflecting, refracting, crossing... Like Arvo Pärt’s music, the Centre poses some fundamental questions that have been there since the origins of mankind: Is the wild orgy of sensations in nature the effect of a contingent and ever-changing recombination of matters? Or is there an underlying order, perhaps the manifestation of a higher form of intelligence?

AZPML Team: Alejandro Zaera-Polo, Maider Llaguno, Guillermo Fernandez-Abascal, Manuel Eijo, Iñigo Arrien, Pablo de Sola, Mintra Maneepairoj
Renders: Estudio Berga & Gonzalez
Model: Atelier La Juntana
Other Consultants: ARUP, HML
Client:  Arvo Pärt Foundation
Place: Laulasmaa Villae, Estonia
Competition: 2014
Area: 1600m2
Cost: 3.5M €

From Physical to Metaphysical
Arvo Pärt’s music elevates the sensorial to a transcendental, unifying experience. The Arvo Pärt Centre will seek to transcend the sensorial perception and its phenomenal experience, and project it towards a trans-subjective, essential state, akin to the circularity of Pärt’s work. The appearance of stasis, both in Pärt’s work and in the Centre, exposes the more meaningful movements that occur within, the subtle changes in tonality, rhythm, texture. Pärt’s compositions create a sort of mythic time, in which experiences of past, present, and future amalgamate into a single one. We move constantly between the sensorial to the phenomenal to the ontological.
Pärt’s music tendencies to a spatial circular experience probably arises from the physical or somatic associations of sound being diffused throughout large orthodox churches and cathedrals, where one becomes surrounded by a continuity of sound which is non-localized and tends to fill the reverberant space. The Arvo Pärt Centre will have to create the conditions to produce a space where sound and light reverberate. The large volumes of air for every room in the complex are aimed to produce this very effect of reverberation. The slanted surfaces in the roof will contribute decisively to produce a diffuse, yet precise, sonic environment.
But it will not be only a sonic environment, but also a visual one, where the direct views of the forest are combined with reflected views, which bring views which are not possible without the building itself, which will enable unprecedented glimpses of the forest. The slanted roofs will also capture the raking sun inside of the different rooms, producing a luminescent environment, an intensification of the Northern light.
In Arvo Pärt compositions both perceptual and phenomenal worlds arise as a result of reduction, stasis, and the evocative possibilities of automatic phenomena. Laumatsaala’s nature is for the Arvo Pärt’s Centre building, the source of automatic phenomena which are transformed and magnified by the building: capturing the sunrise and sunset light inside of the rooms, watching the clouds in the ceiling, framing the view of the forest… Arvo Pärt’s Centre is a magnifying mirror of Laumatsaala’s nature.

Tuning of Traditional Typologies; Textural Consistence and Repetition
While Arvo Pärt music is undeniably global, both in spirit and clientele, its roots are quintessentially Estonian, based on the Runic songs and the Baltic singing traditions. Pärt’s music blends the rigors of serialism and dodecaphonic composition with traditional Estonian choral music. This project is an effort to thread those two aspects of Arvo Pärt’s work into a piece of architecture that mediates with the local landscape and architectural precedents.
The building is based on the varied repetition of a unit which has been distilled from the traditional Estonian farm, a four-gable pavilion roof, where two gables are extended in order to produce vertical skylights. This basic unit will be scaled and stretched up or down in order to optimize its acoustic or luminic performance to the different functions in the complex. In the upper casquet of the ceiling a mirrored surface will be installed, in order to reflect the light of the sun and the views of the forest at a high level. The clerestory will work both as a light trap and as a periscope, looking at the forest on the ceiling of the rooms.
By making the pitch of the roof higher, we will increase the volume of the space, changing its acoustic performance, but perhaps also enlarging the daylight ingress through the skylight. Depending of how do we orient the skylight, we will capture the light of the sunrise or the sunset, or noon. It is precisely the similarity between the different parts of the building is what will help to perceive the subtle differences between the different rooms. Like in a gothic town or in a church, there is a very rigorous typological system that is adjusted to varying conditions of light, acoustic resonance, views, temperature, volume of space…
A library does not sound like an exhibition room, an archive has very different luminance conditions than an auditorium. But also, one does not look the same at the forest from a private room than from a cafeteria. The building becomes a device that mobilizes different material qualities and intensify their sensation: the amount and quality of natural daylight, the temperature variation, the acoustic reverberation, the air flow through the rooms… We will be in fact able to “tune” the building, both acoustically and visually. Rather than “composed”, this will be a “tuned” building.

The different tuning options are:
⦁ Scale of space. The footprint of the room can be varied in order to accommodate program.
⦁ Pitch of the roof gables. The slope of the gables can be altered in order to gain volume internally. Volume and angle of the roof will have an effect on the acoustics of the spaces and the air ventilation.
⦁ Size of the clerestory. The size of the clerestory will affect the light intake and the views to the forest, reflected on the ceiling. This can be controlled by displacing the clerestory plane closer and further to the peak of the roof. The closer it is to the peak, the smaller is the skylight, the further, the bigger.
⦁ Orientation of the clerestory. The orientation of the clerestory will affect both the daylight intake and the quality of light. Being oriented to the north or to the south will provide an entirely different effect, both luminic and environmental. East or West orientation will be equally influential on daylight and solar gains. In some cases the units can have a double fronted clerestory N/S and E/W. This will increase luminance but will reduce substantially the “periscope effect”
⦁ Openings of the walls. Depending of the number/scale of the openings, the rooms will have a more or less intense relation to the forest, by framing different views to the forest or enabling users to walk outside.

Repetition, Aggregation, Textural Unity.
The perceptual space produced in Pärt’s music is built through resonance, consonance, and dissonance that arises as a result of the sustaining of a unified texture. Pärt’s music maintains allegiance to equal temperament. The textural disposition of tintinnabulation is generated through a melodic line contouring around a single pitch or collection of related pitches, to produce the sense of several voices merging into one.  The rhythmic repetition that is often present in Pärt’s work contributes to the textural consistence necessary to produce this effect. This idea of similarity and textural consistence has been a crucial inspiration when producing the structure of the building. The systematic repetition of a typological unit, derived from the traditional Estonian Farm and tuned to suit the specific functions, is what will produce consistency across the sensorial effects produced in every room of the complex: the merger between the different voices of the building.
The building has been organized through the grouping of self-similar elements, which resembles a cellular system. Like other natural structures, this organizational system enables growth and adaptation to changing environments. The different rooms are not strictly bound to programmatic specificities but to sensorial effects. This predisposes the rooms to certain functions (for example, the archive has almost no light ingress) but does not preclude them from potentially evolving a different functional pertinence.
Rooms are therefore flexible and interpretable. The plan is formed through an aggregation of units to a central foyer, in a vaguely cruciform structure, where the center expands into four different areas: auditorium, archive/offices, library and creative rooms. In between these expansions, the building captures the space of the forest through four open courtyards. While the cruciform structure and its rigorous quadripartite organization is present in the plan, the exterior perception is a much more contingent aggregation of self-similar units.
The building unfolds in a single level, and its irregular perimeter engages with the surrounding forest, providing multiple opportunities to relate to in in different modes. Sometimes, rooms are open to the forest; in other instances, rooms are linked to the open courtyards. The movement of the volumes, its roofs, the cellular geometry and the references to the vernacular architecture of the area dissolve the mass of the building into its beautiful surroundings.

Multiple Ecologies
While Arvo Pärt’s work is undeniably universal, it is deeply rooted in the Estonian landscape and musical traditions. The integration of the building and the surrounding ecologies has been an important concern in the conception of the project.
 Like Arvo Pärt’s music, the project departs from its perceptual dimensions, yet is concerned with essences and will eventually transcend the merely perceptual. The building is not simply a perceptual instrument; it has to be able to engage fully with the ecologies where it belongs, as much as make them explicit.  It engages with water, snow, heat, energy, sun, wind… The Arvo Pärt Centre will not be composed but tuned into the multiple ecologies to which it pertains. Architectural spaces are not static or isolated but dynamic and systemic. They form an open system that unfolds in continuous exchanges with the environment, an aggregate of surrounding conditions and influences, a mirror of nature in the literal sense.
Sustainability is therefore one of the main drivers of the design. This has been a major concern on all decisions of the project:
Typology and Massing
The building type has been determined with the purpose of optimizing the performance of a building that is made for the public. All rooms have been kept on ground level, but have been given a substantial volume. This has two effects:
1. The rooms are all in contact with the earth, which will be used as an environmental stabilizer. The heating system will be done through a radiant floor which will provide comfort on the lower level.
2. The rooms have a large air volume, which will allow the building to reduce the rate of air renovation.
Likewise, the corrugation of the building mass will present opportunities to provide daylight to every room, and possibly natural ventilation. The height of the rooms will also be used in the summer to induce natural ventilation.
The materiality of the project has been carefully considered in order to minimize embedded energy and Co2 emissions. Low carbon energy footprint will be achieved by using local materials such as Siberian Larch for the structure and the wall construction, including the natural wood fiber insulation which will make most of the construction material into a carbon trap. All interior finishes, floor, walls and ceilings will be built with Ash wood, a locally sourced material too. The exterior faced-sealed cladding, which is proposed in naturally oxidized copper for durability and efficiency is 97% recyclable and has low embedded energy. All the exterior paving materials will be made with impervious surfaces to avoid altering the hydraulic cycle.
Active Systems
80% of the building’s energy will be supplied through Ground Source Heating and Cooling and the peaks will be met through a biomass boiler, covering 100% of the energy supply from renewable sources.
The Arvo Pärt’s Centre will establish a seamless continuity with the natural environment, both as a sensorial mechanism, and as a energy device.

Aiming at the maximum versatility for the spaces, in the proposed scheme there is a loose connection between the spaces and their functionalities. For each unit, the lighting, acoustics and views have been designed to create a variety of atmospheres that are generally adequate for reading, performing, working, relaxing… Although the different pieces have been basically determined by functional needs they are not unique to their function, they are reconfigurable spaces that are sufficiently flexible to adopt to future uses; Typology transcends function.
The spaces are organized around a central unit, a foyer that acts as a main public space for the Arvo Pärt Center. In this space we have located the reception, the cafeteria, the shop and the children’s playground. This unit is 18m x 18m x 11 m high, a generous volume that will concentrate the social life of the Centre, but which will be also suitable to host concerts and exhibitions. In order to allow for this programmatic flexibility, the floor plan to height ratio and roof pitch proportions have been designed to guarantee diffuse acoustic conditions that will be suitable for concerts.
Another important aspect that we have taken into account in the design of the lobby is the presence of the landscape. Being in the core of the building, we have introduced a large 6x4m skylight/periscope oriented towards the South to bring direct sunlight to the heart of the building. Being the largest periscope of the building, the mirrored surfaces around the skylight, will reflect the dense forest down to lobby, increasing the luminosity of the space to an almost magical condition. The clerestory and the mirror will animate the foyer with the dancing of the pine trees and the drifting of the clouds.
To this central piece to the Centre, four different programmatic branches are attached:
1. The office and archive branch to the South East
2. The workshop and storage branch to the North East
3. The library branch to the North West
4. The auditorium branch to the South West
In order to provide the maximum flexibility to the interiors as well as to regulate the privacy levels of the different units, the dialogue between the lobby space and the programs allocated in the branches is reconfigurable through variable screens that can be adjusted according to the needs, time or type of occupation.
The library and multipurpose rooms can be fully opened to the lobby to produce a continuous exhibition space, open classrooms, etc. The auditorium wall can be folded to extend the event to the lobby and increase the performance space. The common area in the office unit can be opened to increase interaction with the lobby and the visitors. This spatial flexibility will make the center more versatile to better adjust its units to specific needs.
The perimeter of the lobby is permeable to the landscape through four open courtyards which lie between the programmatic branches. These courtyards minimize the disruption of the landscape, reducing the number of trees to be relocated and, most importantly, establish a direct connection between the landscape and the lobby, making a seamless transition from inside to outside.

The Southern Courtyard acts as the main public access to the Center. This courtyard framed by the Auditorium performance rooms and the Administration unit, is facing the pedestrian path that links the visitors‘ public parking with the Center. This façade has been considered most adequate to locate the public entrance. The visitors, will walk through the forest and have glimpses of the center through the trees. As they approach the building they will discover the entrance courtyard.
The Western Courtyard opens to the deep forest where the topography descends gently, opening the perspective to the landscape. Framed by the Auditorium unit and the Multipurpose Classroom, this courtyard will act as an outdoor sitting area, a terrace connected with the cafeteria in the lobby. This terrace will be an ideal space to contemplate nature, we envision it as a relaxation space for visitors and collaborators of the foundation, an outdoor congregation area.
The Eastern Courtyard is framed by Arvo Pärt’s private rooms and the Centre’s Archive. This is where we have located the Tower and the Chapel, which have been merged into a single unit of extravagant proportions. The Tower staircase leads up to a platform, 25m high, where the 3m x 3m viewing platform sits. From this platform, visitors or guests will be able to enjoy a 360” panoramic view over the treetops, the forest and coastline of the Laumatsaala peninsula. The ascension to the tower has been considered an integral part of the chapel, which gives shape to an unusually vertical space which will bring light to the altar from an oculus at the top of the tower. This will be a sort of vertical pilgrimage where the Tower will elevate the faithful for the contemplation of the landscape. A spiritual ascension that intertwines with the volume of the Chapel and becomes enmeshed within the sacred space. Once in the platform, protected by a perimetral balustrade, the visitors will gifted with a very unusual view to the beautiful landscape of Laumatsaala.
The Chapel is organized as the heart of the tower. Oriented East-West, opens to the landscape to the East bringing together the horizontal views that get lost in the landscape framed by the courtyard extension and the vertical perspective of its interior. The internal volume of the Chapel is 15m high. It draws a conical volume that will filters light to the meditation space.
 The Northern Courtyard, serves as an outdoor reading area for the Library, whose doors open to this space seeking an extension of the interior space towards the forest.  This courtyard will also be used to access the building from the private outdoor parking area located in the North East corner of the site.
The sequence of the four courtyards generate cross directional landscape views through the building, hiding the building from certain angles and giving the forest a powerful presence inside the building. The courtyards enable natural ventilation for every unit, as well as a direct exit to the exterior from every room. They will ensure that the interiors of the building will feel closely integrated with the natural environment of Laumatsaala.

Programmatic branches
The Southeast wing is where we have located the office and archive rooms. A unit of 9m x 9m and 4.5m high serves as a transition zone from the foyer to the office welcome area, office bathrooms and storage area. Here we can also find part of the administrative spaces. A unit of 12m x 15m and 5.5m high hosts the common working area and the core of the directors and administrative offices. Finally, a 12m x 12m x 4.5m high unit hosts the archive spaces. This unit is located on the Eastern end of the branch, to maximize the control of the archival areas. The archival spaces have been designed with control lighting, humidity, temperature as well as fire protection requirements to guarantee the most ideal archival storage conditions.
The Northeast wing is where the creative rooms and Arvo Pärt’s private workrooms are located. This 12m x 12m and 5.5 m high unit, with a skylight oriented towards the East will collect the early morning sunlight and project the dawn into these spaces. These rooms can also enjoy the eastern sunrise from their terraces. By introducing a fully openable glazed façade towards the terraces, we invite composers to work in the outside as an inspirational environment.
In the Southern side of the Northeast branch we have located the auxiliary building, the utility rooms and the exhibition storage. Given the cold winters and frequent snow, we believe that including the auxiliary unit as a seamless part of the Center building is an important necessity. When archival elements need to be transported, having the auxiliary building connected to the lobby, will guarantee a safe connection to the archival rooms and the auditorium’s storage spaces. These complementary programs have been contained in two units of 9m x 9m and 5m high and 9m x 12m and 6 meter height, respectively. In order to provide more storage space, we propose to introduce a cellar over the utility rooms.
In the Northwest wing we have located the Library, the Berlin Room, the Library workroom and the Multipurpose Classroom. The Library and its reading rooms are contained in a 12m x 15m and 8m high unit. This unit has a large skylight oriented towards the North to avoid direct sunlight onto the reading tables. The high roofs will enhance sound diffusion to avoiding first order sound reflections. The reading rooms, separated by lightweight divisions, have been also included within the Library space. The Berlin room and the Library workshop have been located adjacent to the main reading room in a 9m x 9m and 5m high unit, with a skylight facing West and a terrace that opens towards the forest. This terrace aims at encouraging a constant dialogue between the interior environment and the outside. Lastly, in between the Library and the Foyer we have located the Multipurpose Classroom. This 9m x 9m and 5m high unit, offers a flexible space to respond to additional programmatic requirements, such as extending the exhibition area, offering additional space for the Library. Like in the Berlin room, the Multipurpose Classroom opens to the landscape and down the hill towards the depth of the forest.
 Finally the Southwest wing is where the Auditorium, the Workroom, the Green Room for performers, the Sound Control Room and the Auditorium Storage have been located. The Auditorium volume and its skylight is oriented towards the West, to allow the sunset in and to maximize the views to the forest. Also the fully glazed western facade drawns the architecture boundary between inside and outside seamless. The Auditorium has a terrace to enable indoor and outdoor performances to take place. The geometry of this unit 12m x 15m in plan and 9m in height, has been designed taking into account the acoustic environment it would produce. Its geometry has been designed to fit the most suitable acoustic conditions for an Auditorium. Its layout will enable maximum flexibility to organize the stage and the seating in different configurations, central, linear, in a U… Its border with the lobby may unfold when necessary to increase its footprint or extend the atmosphere of the event taking place in the Auditorium to the rest of the building. The Performance Rooms and Green Rooms are located adjacent to the Auditorium in two units of 9m x 9m and 4.5m high, and 12m x 12m and 6m high. The Auditorium Storage is also located in this area to allow direct access from the Auditorium, unfolding in two levels to maximize the storage space.

Site Strategy
We propose a building in a single level, structured as a self-similar system of cells based on the repetition of the same spatial structure. This basic typology, based on the traditional Estonian Kiidi has been distorted to admit different programmatic needs. The irregular perimeter of this unit aggregation enables the building to adapt to the forest, ensuring that there is no significant solution of continuity of the trees.  Instead of planning for a large unique volume, the variation of the volumes, the roofs, the cellular geometry and the references to the vernacular architecture are aimed at resolving the visual and ecological relation of the sizable complex with the surrounding ecosystem.
The access to the site is located on the Eastern limit of the site, where it meets with a road that connects with 11395 Laulasmaa Lohusalu Tee, which defines its Southern limit. The public and private parking areas are located along the road on the Eastern border. The public parking is situated near the access road 11395 Laulasmaa Lohusalu Tee and the site service road. This location is considered desirable to minimize the presence of cars within the site and to encourage visitors to experience the forest when accessing the Centre.
At the Northern end of the service road, the administrative parking has been located. The design of the car park has followed the strategies applied at the public car park to define an organically integrated vehicular area. The surfaces of the parking will be made with grass parking pavers, to enable the landscape breathe and minimize the presence of impervious surfaces.
The paths in the forest have been designed establishing a dialog with nature. The pedestrian paths that will connect the access point and parking areas with the building don’t trace a straight line, but they respect the subtle changes in the topography and adapt to them, defining a meandering path. For the materiality of the path we propose a subtle pavement finished with compacted gravel. This material will draw a path that blends with surrounding the green. The lighting of the path reacts to the accidents in the forest. It doesn’t align with the trajectory but it surrounds it, adjusting the distance to the path, to allow for areas of the landscape to be lit. This environmental lighting, will turn the path into a more immersive experience in the forest.
The building location has been defined taking into account the presence of trees. We have aimed at minimizing the relocation of trees, and for this reason we have located the Center in the Northwest corner of the buildable area. Regarding its orientation, the plan is slightly rotated respect to the North-South axis, due to its adjustment to the topography. The site has a drop that is running more or less in North-South direction, which is misaligned with the Western edge of the site. This geological accident is the one that determines the orientation of the building.
Given the fragmented morphology of our proposal for the Center, where the whole is perceived as a collection of parts, the presence of the building is aimed to be light footed in the landspace, it dialogues with the scale of nature. Similarly, the approach to the building and the discovery of its spaces happens gradually… it will be part of the experience of a trajectory through the forest. 

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