Rakvere Vabaduse Square and St Paulâ€™s Church Architectural Competition Submission
For the City Government of Rakvere 9 July 2009
Site Design 2.1 Existing Conditions 2.2 Site Design Proposal 2.3 Traffic 2.4 Vabaduse Square 2.5 Car Parking 2.6 Competence Centre 2.7 St Paul’s Church 2.8 Existing Substation
Arvo Pärt Hall 3.1 Church Restoration and Renewal 3.2 Principles for the design of the Annex volume 3.3 Construction Systems 3.4 Environmental Systems 3.5 Technical Considerations 3.6 Acoustics Planning 3.7 Design of Main Concert Hall 3.8 Design of Cafe 3.9 Design of Arvo Pärt Music Room
Copy of Competition Boards (reduced scale) 01 PLANNING 02 SITE CONTEXT 03 ELEVATIONS 04 PLANS 05 SECTIONS / INTERIOR 06 SECTIONS / INTERIOR
1.0 Introduction As a counterpoint to the making of an annex in support of St Paul’s church and Rakvere Vabaduse Square, this proposal combines the idea of the annex with that of the nexus. Whereas an annex is mainly supplementary in nature, a nexus considers the interrelationships of those around it. In this sense, this proposal aims to create architecture which might aspire to the music of Arvo Pärt – whose compositions are not dominated by rigid hierarchies but the interplay of multiple streams. “One plus one, it is one – it is not two.” Arvo Pärt in conversation with Antony Pitts recorded for BBC Radio 3 at the Royal Academy of Music in London on 29 March 2000
2.0 Site Design
2.1 Existing Conditions With the building of St Paul’s Church and Rakvere Common Secondary School by Architect Alar Kotli, one can read into his intent to use their elevations to define a significant and noble public square. Unfortunately, this intent has remained incomplete due to surrounding buildings that do not share their elevation orientation and a large and inhospitable traffic circle. The overall effect is one of disparate elements that are dwarfed by a huge roundabout.
2.2 Site Design Proposal The insertion of a new major public building, the Competence Centre, completes Vabaduse Square on the western side. The new tree-lined square is coherent and appropriately scaled to the significant buildings which define it. St Paul’s Church now occupies pride of place along the northern side. An annex to the church extends the building elevation to define the square. The annex is set low to the ground in order not to detract from the original church as well as to avoid casting shadows on the square. The symbolic link between St Paul’s Church and the monument of the War of Independence is maintained by a dramatic slice through the Competence Centre. The completion of the two spires on St Paul’s steeples would further highlight its significance in the landscape of Rakvere.
2.3 Traffic The large curves of the existing traffic circle encourage vehicles to maintain a high speed. By tightening the geometries of the site to introduce slimmer roads and corner crossings, vehicular traffic is slowed down and pedestrians are allowed to move with greater ease. The existing traffic directions are maintained to minimize disruption to the surrounding roads. Access to all of the buildings on the site is accommodated by passenger-side drop-off.
2.4 Vabaduse Square With defined elevations on all four sides, the new square creates a spatial identity that is distinct from its surroundings. At-grade pedestrian crossings are positioned for ease of access at the front entrance to each of the buildings facing the square. A ring of canopy trees provides shade and defines the edge. A large green lawn in the center accommodates large sunny gatherings with the trees and buildings as a backdrop. Stump openings along the perimeter to ventilate the car park below offer a place to sit down as benches. At night, the ventilation openings allow light from the underground car park to up-light the canopy of trees.
2.5 Car Parking Located under Vabaduse Square, the naturally ventilated car park provides 105 parking spaces. It is open to anyone visiting the site. Direct access is linked to the square and the Competence Centre.
2.6 Competence Centre Positioned to define the western side of Vabaduse Square, the Competence Centre also contributes to a longer line of elevations along L. Koidula tn. In order to keep the scale of the square in balance, the height of the Competence Centre would match that of Alar Kotliâ€™s Rakvere Common Secondary School. Above ground the building is sliced in two in order to preserve the view between St Paulâ€™s and the monument of the War of Independence. Below ground these two buildings are linked as one continuous space.
2.7 St Paulâ€™s Church The grassy mound in front of the church is paved over to re-establish the front entrance to the church and the new annex. A slight incline removes the need for steps and creates an aspiring approach to the building. A service bay with parking for performers is provided in the rear.
2.8 Existing Substation Given the immobility of the existing electrical substation to the east of the church, a breathable open-joint cladding is proposed in limestone to match that of the church. This would be held tight to the north in order not to interfere with the spatial effect of the L-shaped corners of the two Kotli buildings, while along the rear the cladding would expand to align with the turning radius of the curb. An alternative to limestone cladding would be to reuse the masonry from the removal of the later external additions during the church restoration.
3.0 Arvo P채rt Hall
3.1 Church Restoration and Renewal The decision to reuse St Paul’s Church as a concert hall should be much applauded. The current use of the church as an athletic venue has disfigured an important building for both Rakvere and Estonia. The opportunity must now be taken to restore the original legacy of Architect Alar Kotli’s design so that it may be preserved for future generations. The later changes to the church created a compartmentalized space which manifested on the outside with haphazard openings and additions. These changes detract from Kotli’s design intent and should be restored to their original condition. As most auxiliary functions will now be placed in a new annex, the interior of the church can be opened up to its original voluminous space. With no further need for any of the later openings or additions, the clarity and coherence of the original elevations can be restored. As an option, the unbuilt spires of Kotli’s design are proposed to be completed in Litracon (translucent concrete). Spires would appear as solid bright concrete during the day with a subtle warm glow of light from below at night.
3.2 Principles for the design of the Annex volume While some evidence exists of Kotli’s designs for an extended pulpit wing and congregation house, the only architect who could execute the design he wanted would have been Kotli himself. Any attempt to create this building that was never built will always be subjective and open to interpretation. This would especially be the case in light of a public square that was never realized. Instead, this proposal seeks to take an approach that would allow future generations to appreciate the church as it was originally built. The intended congregation house was to jut out further onto the street. While this would not have blocked the view of the church from the monument of the War of Independence, at two stories high this would block the view of the church approaching today along Võimla tn. A low front elevation at the height of the intended pulpit wing is proposed to be visible from the street and set back just slightly to indicate a clean break. The height of this horizontal extension would match that of the main door lintel of the existing church (~1/3 the height of the church between the steeples). At one story high, this would be just high enough to define the north side of Vabaduse Square but low enough to allow more light and oblique views of the church’s west elevation and courtyard. In contrast to the church, the new annex would appear much more open and transparent with full height glazing at the front and along the courtyard. Similar to the church, the annex would also have a recessed front entrance for rain protection, but rather than a sharp recess, the gentle curve of the glazing pulls back to maintain the sinuously transparent effect. Toward the rear of the site, the annex rises to two stories to accommodate the practice rooms necessary for the building. From this position however, the higher volume would not be visible from the street nor would it cast adverse shadows onto the church’s western elevation or courtyard.
3.3 Construction Systems The rational grid layout of the new annex lends itself to simple beam and slab construction. Reinforced masonry walls are proposed for its economy and ability to contain sound when used in double wall construction. Where spans allow, a flat slab is proposed as the roof so that the single story portion that joins the existing church reads as a clean floating plane.
3.4 Environmental Systems The low slung nature of the annex buries most of its functions below grade where it gets the benefit of thermal mass. The earth acts as a natural insulator from sudden temperature fluctuations. A green roof over the single story portion insulates the largest surface area of the building and provides a pleasant view and outdoor breakout space for the practice rooms. It also collects rainwater which could be used for the restrooms below.
3.5 Technical Considerations Several key areas would require precautionary measures in order to avoid damage to the church foundations or subsidence. Hydraulic platforms for the stage and the inclining seating area that are proposed for the main concert hall will involve excavation under the church floor. Probes will need to be carried out to study the depth and condition of the footings within these zones. Without such further knowledge, it should be assumed that underpinning may need to be carried out. Generally speaking, there is no building underground that abuts the external wall of the church except at the existing basement. The Arvo P채rt music room, while not directly abutting the church wall is somewhat close and would require temporary retaining walls during construction. It is the only such room that comes close and would be treated as a one-off.
hydraulic inclining seating area
Arvo P채rt music room
hydraulic inclining seating area hydraulic stage platform
3.6 Acoustics Planning Both closed sound spaces (concert halls, practice rooms, sound studio, Arvo PĂ¤rt room) and open sound spaces (cafĂŠ, lobby) have been spread throughout with buffers in-between so that no two major zones are adjacent to one another. A box-in-a-box construction system of double masonry wall with an air gap is proposed for the small concert hall, sound studio, and practice rooms.
closed sound spaces open sound spaces
3.7 Design of Main Concert Hall The main concert hall in the existing church building involves a number of strategies in order to accommodate the heritage of the interior while making it an acoustically functional space. The internal arched buttresses are a key component of Kotliâ€™s design. Acoustically however, they create unfavorable acoustic shadow zones. As per the acoustic recommendations, curtains are placed within the buttress recesses to adjust reverberation time. To direct sound to the audience, a series of folding acoustic panels are proposed. When not in use, they are folded back â€“ allowing for the formal expression of the internal buttresses as well as natural light from the windows. During concerts they are folded open and locked together to increase the surface area to direct sound. Finally, a balcony is placed along the stage to accommodate the new organ to be placed within the original niche. The curved lip of the balcony aids to focus the sound reverberated to the audience.
3.8 Design of Cafe The café is enveloped in cedar lining to moderate ambient noise and make it acoustically suitable for café concerts. Full height glazing and clerestory openings direct the view to the courtyard shared with the existing church. A reflective tablet rising from the ground of the courtyard marks the location of the Arvo Pärt music room below.
3.9 Design of Arvo Pärt Music Room The Arvo Pärt music room is located in a separate chamber under the courtyard. A vaulted volume provides a sonorous experience that is unique from the rest of the building. A large skylight maintains a view of the existing church and its steeple.
4.0 Copy of Competition Boards (A3 reduced copies attached)