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Crematorium At The Eastern Necropolis

Part 2 Project 2003
James Taylor
Sophie Mitchell
Mackintosh School of Architecture | UK

The central issue that this final year thesis sought to pursue was that of the human aspects of architecture. How, this building might come to touch a person’s heart, that its rooms could hold time like the mind stores memory, that the buildings detail and how it is ‘lived’ might continually reinforce ones sense of the whole. More than anything, that this building in its every aspect should bear forth meaning; in the way it brushes against ones skin, in the way it smells and sounds, how it meets the soles of ones feet and hangs above our heads. It was with these notions in mind that the decisions concerning both the choices of typology and site were taken.
The site itself is currently a disused plot of land situated adjacent to Glasgow cathedral, nestled against the bridge of sighs and directly opposite the Eastern necropolis. What was of particular interest was the unique location of the Eastern necropolis in its relationship to the wider city and how this relationship of the city of the living to the city of the dead, seemed to reach its apogee in the experience of crossing the bridge of sighs. Here then, even at this early stage, the concept of a building that dealt with the ideas of transition, human ritual, the in-between and the relations of inside and outside was becoming evident.
The building, then, seeks to play out a sequence of thresholds, each time re-affirming an ever-increasing level of enclosure and intimacy. To achieve this a small arch in the bridge of sighs was used as the point at which the funeral cortege enters into the site, before rising up to the arrival courts of each of the chapels. From here the cortege progresses around the site and out to the necropolis. In this way the bridge of sighs becomes both the first and the final threshold of the mourners journey. The make up of the building is itself connected to this notion of a transition between two elements. As such, one can diagrammatically explain the building as being made up of light and solid elements. The solid elements comprising the waiting halls and circulation spaces were to be constructed from brick and conversely the chapels from timber and glass. Thus the idea of two elements and the transition between the two, observed at the city scale is borne out within the detail of the building.

James Taylor
Sophie Mitchell

The site has to be one of the most challenging in Glasgow. It sits right
next to the great grey mass of the gothic cathedral. It acts as the gateway
to the Victorian Necropolis which dominates the skyline behind the cathedral
and is in turn dominated by the black cold dour statue of John Knox.

Any scheme for any programme on such a site needs to be handled not only
with great care and understanding but with maturity and confidence not
usually associated with architecture students.
James not only magnificently and sensitively solves the pragmatic
requirements of a tough demanding programme but melds it so well with its
site that it enhances the setting and heightens further the dramatic effect
of the surrounds.

Having done all that he then brings out all the stops and demonstrates in
the details a maturity and skill at times reminding me of the best work of
Lewerentz and GKC.

His investigation and production of a design based on context ,programme and
technology has led him to produce a very serious piece of work demanding
serious scrutiny.


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