Attentive Listening and Elementary Language

The most successful architectural works are usually those which convince us they have been standing there, just as they are, for ages. Leon Belušič has achieved something similar with the design and positioning of a new funeral chapel and cemetery approach in Šembije.

Photo: Leon Belušič, Viktor Žigon

Photo: Leon Belušič, Viktor Žigon

The architect approached the motif of the funeral chapel in Šembije by attentive listening. Listening to the atmosphere of the place, the typical atmosphere of the topos. He follows the language of the existing cemetery and designs a simple spatial composition, thus creating an ambience for a modest, yet no less profound symbolic path of paying our last respects.

The funeral route is defined in clear sequences: when approaching the site one first sees the subdued horizontal silhouette of the cemetery complex with a slightly protruding cuboid of the funeral chapel. By pushing its position to the very brink of the Karst Edge, the architect has created a very much needed larger, open square, the edges of which connect to new boundary walls around the graveyard itself. From this point, the arrival path to the chapel slightly descends – taking advantage of the falling terrain – towards a more intimate, smaller leeward part of this arrival sequence, adjacent to the new building. The composition of the chapel itself – the ground floor plan of which is a simple extended rectangle – replicates the experience of the broader open space on a smaller scale. A small central chamber, the entire width of which opens onto the square, bisects the two small funeral chambers located either side, and then continues forward towards the open space which – albeit modest in ground floor plan – opens dramatically to the magnificent view of the Karst Edge. This point of repose is divided from the Edge with a traditional boundary detail, a stone wall, or škarpa, which in the axis of arrival transforms into a stylized mensa. A place for relaxation is thus formed, for contemplation after an intense emotional experience. The architectural composition, using wonderful spatial dimensions, combines the natural and man-made, creating a place that even inspires a kind of optimism.

Photo: Leon Belušič, Viktor Žigon

Photo: Leon Belušič, Viktor Žigon

Photo: Leon Belušič, Viktor Žigon

Photo: Leon Belušič, Viktor Žigon

The complete article is published in Autumn 2020 issue of Piranesi No. 42-43/Vol. 28.

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Project Data

Architecture: 3b arhitekti d.o.o.
Architect: Leon Belušič
Project team: Ana Pungartnik, Maša Mavrič, Nina Herič, Damjan Hidič
Client: Municipality of Ilirska Bistrica, Local community of Šembije
Project: 2009 – 2010
Completion: 2010 – 2017
Interior design project team: Ines Hidič, Jaša Belušič
Structural Engineering: IB program d.o.o., Miran Pezdirc
Electrical Planning: El projekt d.o.o., Emil Lipovšek
Mechanical Services: Projektiranje Viljem Pušnik