Over the past year, the students of the interior architecture department of EKA have been working under the tutelage of Ardo Hiiuväin, an interior architect from Vilsandi Island, and several other tutors, to ensure that the people of Vilsandi get a new burial place for urns, or a columbarium, on the island: the role of the students was to design and build a wooden installation to mark the location of the columbarium. Called PESA, that’s ‘nest’ in Estonian, the landmark will be opened on 12 August 2022.
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Already a dozen years ago, the people of Vilsandi brainstormed the idea that the small island cemetery should be opened again for burials. Islanders from Vilsandi have been buried on the neighbouring big Saaremaa Island for many years, but according to the locals, their hearts would prefer the soil of their own tiny home island. EKA interior architecture students visited Vilsandi for the first time already at the beginning of their first academic year, and decided to offer a spatial solution to the problem.
While preparing for the project, the students learned about funeral customs by listening to the lecture of EELK Archbishop Urmas Viilma on funerals and customs, and the lecture of EKA Emeritus Professor David Vseviov on life and death; architect Tomomi Hayashi spoke about the burial practices and customs of Eastern cultures, whilst architect Sille Pihlak talked about design and wood – the team definitely wanted to use wood as a material. Together with representatives of the Vilsandi community, island elder Neeme Rand and islandkeeper Avo Piisk, a work titled “PESA” was selected from among the students’ various concept proposal projects, and it is PESA that has now finally been built.
According to Trine Tõniste, the author of the nest-shaped columbarium landmark idea, the motif is inspired by Vilsandi’s abundant seabirds – the Vaika Bird Reserve was created in 1910 on the Vaika Islands near Vilsandi, and it is the oldest nature reserve in the Baltic States, the predecessor of today’s Vilsandi National Park.
According to Professor Tüüne-Kristin Vaikla, Head of the Department of Interior Architecture at EKA, recognizing and treating birth and death as an equal part of life is a very personal and at the same time initially frightening topic, the importance of which is difficult to overestimate: lightness and beauty.
According to Ardo Hiiuväin, who supervised the students, the project went well in every way: “The topic we dealt with is not a daily, mundane one, but at the same time it offered the students the opportunity to look deeper into themselves for a while and do a little introspection on where they want to leave this world.”
For many years in a row, the studio project “Small Structure” is on the agenda of the first-year students of the Department of Interior Architecture of EKA. In the past, the Pähni forest megaphones, the Tuhu bog observation tower, the Noku fire pit shelters, and an installation investigating the bending/breaking point of wood, built on the banks of Valga Pedeli, have been completed in the past. These are all human-scale objects, that take students through every stage of creating a space, from conceptualizing the initial task to building it on location.
Ardo Hiiuväin, Tõnu Kalpus and Ahti Grünberg contributed to the long process as tutors, Tõnis Agasild with the engineering and Avo Tragel helped the students as a consultant.
Client: MTÜ Vilsandi Village Society
PESA was built for the Vilsandi Island community with the support of Vilsandi Village Society, Estonian Cultural Foundation, EKA, Laasi talu, Jaan and Margit Tätte, Sven and Katrin Honga, Raido and Harri Hiiuväin, Neeme Rand.
Students: Trine Tõniste, Harold Kiisler, Auli Vaino, Laura Pormeister, Hanna Loora Arro, Roger Matthias Laas, Elisabeth Perk, Aurelia Minev, Markus Sirg, Karl August Johannes Pedoson, Hanna Maria Kruusmaa
Photo gallery (Photos: Ardo Hiiuväin): https://bit.ly/PESA2022press
Contact in Vilsandi: