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Architecture for Death

Part 1 Project 2013
Matthew Wilson
Nottingham Trent University | UK
‘A cemetery is not a tomb. It is, rather a relationship with the landscape and with forgetting: imprints like abstract signs, an abstraction that begins with walking and with tracing the best path with one’s steps’
Enric Miralles, ‘Mixed Talks’

In the UK there is an established tradition of below ground burial that evolved from the grounds of the local parish church into the sophisticated Victorian celebration of death. In today’s society where burial is the preferred option out-of-town burial sites have been proposed, indicating the degree of marginalisation felt towards cemeteries, moving them to the periphery out of reach of the city. An out of sight, out of mind mentality which further reinforces the majority of the population’s avoidance of the subject of death. In this project I try to find a new approach to death in the ever growing urban landscape, and attempt to engrain the subject of death within a city, celebrating the life of previous generations of forgotten cities.

A sense of apathy among the population and local authorities has led to the standardisation of the modern funerary process and bred an assembly line culture. However in an increasingly globalized world where cultures are becoming mixed and exponentially more diverse, I question what happens to the funeral process without the usual ties to religious rituals.

The project embeds itself in a traditional cemetery in the heart of Nottingham’s urban fabric. The majority of the graves are from many generations ago, and have been forgotten by today’s city. The result is an overgrown and unused plot of land, which is being left to decay out of an illogical anxiety of disturbing or changing the site.

The resulting scheme considers the language of architecture which is best suited to such a sensitive issue. A key focus on materiality and tactility runs throughout the project. The building contrasts life and death, tactile and controlled materials guide the movement of life around the building. In comparison with raw, harsh materials being used for untouched areas. The scheme uses scale and phenomenology to encourage the release of emotion.

Matthew Wilson


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