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Architecture that brings solace. RELIEF project honored in international competition

Dobrawa Bies
28 of February '22

Michalina Linkowska, Joanna Spychała and Zuzanna Zdanowicz, architecture students at Poznan University of Technology, received an honorable mention in the international competition Columbarium - The Chamber of Memories organized by Bee Breeders. Their project RELIEF - a minimalist columbarium at the Forest Cemetery in Riga is an attempt to bring solace to the various stages of mourning.

The goal of the Columbarium - The Chamber of Memories competition was to design a columbarium in Riga, accommodating five hundred niches, each of which can hold one to four urns, and a comprehensive landscape design solution for the Forest C emetery in the Latvian capital. The competition was organized in conjunction with the Riga City Council, which expressed interest in developing one of the winning entries. It was asked that the design solutions be sustainable and incorporate the best of ecological solutions. The organizers also asked the question, how can architectural design help the grieving process?

 Projekt RELIEF,
kolumbarium wieczorem

RELIEF project received an honorable mention

© Michalina Linkowska, Joanna Spychała, Zuzanna Zdanowicz

Covering 86 hectares, the Forest Cemetery has been in use for more than a century and has become a memorial cemetery for those who died in combat during World War I. The site contains many sculptural monuments and tombstones dedicated to important and influential figures buried in the cemetery, including prominent Latvian politicians, military and public figures.

Projekt RELIEF,
lokalizacja Projekt RELIEF, otwarcie

A columbarium would be built in Riga's Forest Cemetery

© Michalina Linkowska, Joanna Spychała, Zuzanna Zdanowicz

honorable mention for polish students

The works submitted for the competition were evaluated by a jury consisting of: James Biber (Biber Architects), Marta Frazão, Filipe Rodrigues and Inês Vicente (Atelier Data partners), Ricardo Gomes (, Lydia Kallipoliti (Cooper Union), Katie MacDonald (After Architecture), Angelo Renna (architect and writer). The jury decided to award three projects and give seven honorable mentions.

First prize and the Riga City Council prize went to the HALO project by Christopher Taylor of South Africa. Second prize went to a team from the United States consisting of: Rachel Reinhard, Mengru Wang, for the project Under a blanket of plants. Third prize and the BB Green Award and BB Student Award went to the concept Urn Field - Line And Decomposition, authored by a team of students from Slovakia consisting of: Andrea Bočková, Karol Gregor, Matej Gurka.

 Projekt RELIEF, Plac

The Opening Square is a meeting place

© Michalina Linkowska, Joanna Spychała, Zuzanna Zdanowicz

Among the honorable mentions was the RELIEF project by students of the Faculty of Architecture at Poznań University of Technology - Michalina Linkowska, Joanna Spychała and Zuzanna Zdanowicz. The concept was made under the direction of Dr. Agnieszka Rumież as part of the course Ochorna dziedzictwa II.

RELIEF, or relief

The starting point for the creation of our project was a thorough analysis of all stages of mourning and the emotions that accompany them. Summarizing the analysis carried out, we can conclude that each of us experiences similar emotions, but we differ in the way we externalize them and in our different social needs. Sometimes solitude will be more soothing, at other times being among people. The design of the columbarium assumed the creation of spaces that will give the opportunity to experience and deal with emotions, in a way tailored to the different needs of the users, the authors introduce.

Projekt RELIEF Grawerowane płyty

The name of the project means relief and refers to the engraved sandstone slabs

© Michalina Linkowska, Joanna Spychała, Zuzanna Zdanowicz

The main idea of the project inspired the students to name the project RELIEF, which translated from English means relief. According to the authors, their project is meant to be a place that allows you to feel and deal with emotions in your own way. In addition, the name of the project refers to the minimalist, engraved sandstone slabs on the walls of the columbarium, which form reliefs on the smooth concrete walls.

Projekt RELIEF, aksonometria

The premise is based on a composition of five squares

© Michalina Linkowska, Joanna Spychała, Zuzanna Zdanowicz

minimalist columbarium

The entire design premise is based on a composition of five squares. They form interconnected intimate interiors. The young architects proposed six modules of openings - arches and circles, which frame the views of the surrounding forest and sculpt the resulting walls. The authors used colored concrete as the main building material, which is durable and allows prefabrication. Spatial identification is facilitated by planted different species of trees, individual to the interior. The niches were placed in three rows and closed with sandstone slabs - each of them will hold up to four urns. A shelf was made of the same material as the walls, where visitors can leave candles and flowers for their loved ones.

łuk wyciszenia SchOdy samotności

An arch of tranquility and SchOdy of solitude

© Michalina Linkowska, Joanna Spychała, Zuzanna Zdanowicz

Serenity in mourning

The emotions that accompany the next stages of mourning return to us unexpectedly. The occurrence of such feelings as anger, sadness or hope takes place in an irregular and variable cycle. Each visitor to the columbarium can choose the space that best helps him or her at any given time, these are: Arc of Tranquility, Opening Square, SchOds of Solitude. Each of them includes a warm detail in the form of a wooden finish, the architects explain.

The authors designed three special spaces. The Arc of silence is a space that can be used to calm down or get rid of emotions in the form of shouting, depending on your needs. The designers used vertical wooden razor blades in the aisle to provide acoustic attenuation.

Projekt RELIEF

Each visitor to the columbarium can choose the space that will best help them in the moment

© Michalina Linkowska, Joanna Spychała, Zuzanna Zdanowicz

Theopening square (Social square) is a space with a wide wooden bench, allowing people who need contact with each other to stay together. The landscaped opening provides a view of the surrounding forest, offering solace in nature.

The last element is the SchOds of solitude (Stairs of solitude). They lead to a platform that allows one to commune with nature in solitude. The elevation of the observation level above the terrain is symbolic and increases the viewer's field of vision.

Also read about the Bogucice cemetery project by Nina Kempa. A student at the Warsaw University of Technology, her design, which is a metaphor for the road and an analogy of the stages of mourning and recovery from them, received the first prize in the Brick Architecture competition in 2020 in the Future Construction category.

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