Fennell Purifoy’s Birdeye Cemetery Provides Solemn Spaces For Reflection And Ceremony Within The 100-Acre Site.
The Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery at Birdeye, Ark., serves as a final resting place for fallen soldiers from the eastern and northeastern parts of the state. Fennell Purifoy Architects, based in Little Rock, Ark., designed three buildings at the cemetery: a welcome center with administrative functions; a committal shelter, where burial services are held; and a maintenance shed for the cemetery grounds. Both primary structures share a common formal language and materials palette, which consists of board-formed concrete, glue-laminated wood framing, and bronze-colored, standing-seam metal siding.
The 4,606-square-foot Welcome Center contains a reception area, offices, restrooms, and a gravestone locator. Visitors enter the Welcome Center beneath a large overhang, which leads them into the building through its austere concrete face. Once inside, visitors can gaze across the landscaped cemetery through the curving glass and metal façade. The building receives shade from a roof that rests on the exterior concrete wall on the entry side, and on timber structural members on the cemetery side.
A main concern for the architects was highway noise from the Crowley’s Ridge National Scenic Byway, which runs just 700 yards away from the committal shelter. As a result, the structure was turned away from the highway; a concrete retaining wall and a row of trees provide a noise buffer. The open side of the shelter offers views that sweep over a pond to the prairielike landscape of the 100-acre site. The 2,642-square-foot shelter seats up to 30 people under three glulam-supported overlapped roof panels, but has room for up to 30 more to stand, with space for an Honor Guard as well.
For both buildings, the Arkansas climate, which generally places a large demand on cooling, posed an additional challenge. The architects designed large overhangs to provide shading, and sited the buildings to minimize eastern and western exposure. “In this particular case, the width of the windows gets larger as you turn south,” says principal Phil Purifoy, AIA. “We did some sun studies, and the gain in the morning on the east side was pretty intense, so we narrowed the windows there.” The roof slope eliminates the need for gutters and downspouts, and Fennell Purifoy also drove wells into the site for geothermal heat-pump systems.