Posts tagged with "Death":

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New book prepares crematoria for the architectural spotlight

Goodbye Architecture: The Architecture of Crematoria in Europe by Vincent Valentijn and Kim Verhoeven nai010 publishers, $80 Long a taboo subject, death is becoming a hot topic in architecture. Not since the 1980s has a book devoted to architecture and death been published, and many merely examine historical temples, tombs, and rites. Responding to an increase in cremation, Vincent Valentijn and Kim Verhoeven have authored Goodbye Architecture: The Architecture of Crematoria in Europe, a book collecting Europe's finer examples of architecture that does indeed burn. The book design, also by the authors, strikes a perfect balance between an image-laden coffee table book and a text-heavy treatise. Each of the 26 highlighted projects opens with a site plan, a building axonometric, the number of ovens, the number of incinerations per year with the percentage of type, as well as the size and program dedications. Spreads of photos, plans, and sections unfold with descriptions of context, conceptual approach, materials, and special features, punctuated with circulation diagrams: one for the deceased and another for visitors. Analytics, interviews, and essays follow. Cremation's resurgence in the West is recent—Japan has long had a near 100 percent cremation rate while Islam forbids it. Despite the Vatican's ban from 789 until 1963, the first modern crematorium was built in Milan in 1876 following the unveiling of a new oven at the World Exhibition in Vienna. Incineration caught on slowly, mainly by "cultural and intellectual elites," and has grown steadily since the 1990s. Currently, over a thousand crematoria perform two million services every year. How the crematoria weigh technical issues, context, and local customs varies widely, and this is where Valentijn and Verhoeven's research shines. Many facilities have undergone renovations and extensions to meet stricter emissions standards. For the crematorium in Aarhus, Denmark, designed in 1969, Henning Larsen returned for the 2011 upgrade and in the process enhanced its sustainability. Condoned by both the city council and the local church, excess heat warms the chapel and other buildings within the district's heating network. Architect Paolo Zermani invites visitors to the rationalist Tempio di Cremazione in Parma, Italy, into the crematorium for a ceremony, which is uncommon in Italy where cremation has been viewed as a technical process. Zermani's design inscribes a deliberate route through the landscape to the oven—the ritual procession is the promenade architectural. While many are singular in their use and isolated, other crematoria openly embrace their communities with flexible plans and mixed programming. The crematorium at the Heimolen cemetery near Ghent, Belgium, comprises two pavilions. One contains the oven, the other houses reception and ceremonies, which allows non-associated uses like a cafe and an auditorium for presentations and lectures. Similarly, the crematorium designed by Eduardo Souto de Moura in Kortrijk, Belgium, opens its facilities for concerts to better integrate with the community.   Others attempt to redefine and popularize the typology. Architect Albert Chambers Freeman, who published the type's first overview in 1904, showed that crematoria were highly cultural and contextual, often located in areas where final rites were divorced from the church. Albert Heinrich Steiner's Nordheim Crematorium in Zurich, Switzerland, expresses an appeal to the masses. Dok architecten designed the City of Haarlem, Netherlands' crematorium with a cultural institution atmosphere to attract clientele in an era when people deliberately plan their funerals. It makes sense that today's architects continue to grapple with designing an identity. Following the alphabetically arranged portfolio, the authors cull their analysis into a series of spreads auditing chronology, context, programmatic breakdowns, number and type of cremations, circulation, ritual spaces, and taboos. I found myself frequently flipping through the book to connect these details to the projects. The section "Theory-Design-Practice" eschews images for essays and interviews from crematoria academicians, managers, and directors, as well as several architects. Luigi Bartolomei examines socio-religious conceptions of fire, exposing the need for a psychological and phenomenological approach to experiencing cremation rites. Laura Cramwinckel reveals symbolic meanings of fire in order to build acceptance for the alternative to interment. Douglas Davies's emotional processing of death reveals how successful design addresses "emotion, identity, and destiny." Kris Coenegrachts, director of IGS Westlede, which commissioned the Heimolen crematorium, says secularization has popularized incineration, but without rituals, clients can develop unique services that affect programming, circulation, technical capabilities. One aspect alluded to, but skipped, is sustainability. The authors celebrate public parks around crematoria, but graveyards provide open space and nature trails as well. Considering land use and energy demands, I wonder about the energy required to incinerate a body versus the carbon sequestering of a similarly-sized burial plot, and leaching of formaldehyde. Possibly exceeding the authors' original scope, today's climate, literally, begs energy and resource analysis, especially as the authors provide detailed quantifiable infographics. The authors occasionally submit to hyperbole: "the crematorium is more ambiguous than any other building type," and crematoria "more so than other buildings, reflect [our society]." Fortunately, the hyperboles are few. More importantly, they clarify the challenges to a typology in transition and ignite interest in the designers and buildings confronting specialized needs. Goodbye Architecture recognizes a growing trend for cremation and the design possibilities that the mutating rituals and spaces provide. The building type is a design challenge accepted by the architects and clients whose projects are included. Part travel guide, history, and analysis, the book is a welcome addition to the limited study of funerary architecture. James Way promotes ecology and preservation at Biohabitats.
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Post-mortem architecture takes center stage at Art Omi's EXIT exhibition

Architects, like everyone else, will one day die—but their work will live on, allowing meditations not only on the loss of their own lives but on death as a whole. In upstate New York, the nonprofit arts group Art Omi is probing the intersection of design and mortality with EXIT Architecture: Speculations for the Hereafter, on display until March 3 at Art Omi’s Benenson Center in Ghent. As the planet’s population booms and more people die than ever before, space for the deceased has become an increasingly scarce resource. EXIT Architecture presents 15 speculative architecture projects that radically reorient spiritual, spatial, and ecological conversations around death. Art Omi solicited proposals from all over the world, and the resultant show is accordingly diverse. New York City–based entrants were numerous, including Michaela Metcalfe, director of design and construction excellence at the N.Y.C. Department of Design and Construction, Roderick Cruz, and Studio Ames. Visitors can peruse video, mixed-media installations, models, a life-sized coffin, drawings, and app-based immersive experiences. EXIT Architecture’s curators—Julia van den Hout, Kyle May, and Warren James—have also shaken things up by including work from an architect who has firsthand experience with death, the late Lebbeus Woods. Woods’s Einstein Tomb imagines a memorial to the famous physicist that’s been launched into deep space, traveling the cosmos until the heat death of the universe, all rendered in his trademark deconstructivist drawing style. The exhibition space itself was designed and fabricated by Brooklyn-based architect Kyle May. EXIT Architecture is the first curated exhibition of the Art Omi: Architecture program, which is also currently in the third year of its residency program.
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Construction is N.Y.C.'s deadliest industry, according to annual reports

Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations, especially in New York City, home to some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. While construction accidents are commonplace, statistics collected over the past ten years demonstrate that construction tops the charts as New York City’s most lethal industry, with more injuries reported last year than any other year following the post-recession building boom, as reported in the Commercial Observer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of construction-related deaths in New York City has remained steadily high over the past few years, with a slight decrease from 21 to 20 annual deaths in 2017. The most recent construction fatality, according to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), occurred in November 2018, when a worker was crushed by a forklift on the site of a six-story residential condo in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. One month prior, a worker repairing the facade of a 20-story co-op in Kips Bay, Manhattan, died after a fragment of the building collapsed on top of him. Despite these gruesome accounts, there are still incidents that have yet to be reported, as the DOB only tracks deaths related to a violation of the city’s construction code, rather than tracking all work-related injuries on the job site. There are at least a half-dozen more fatalities that occurred in 2018 than the 12 cases reported by the DOB, bringing the actual number closer to 20. Although the annual death toll has remained constant in recent years, construction accidents surged significantly in 2018. According to the DOB, 761 construction workers were injured last year, which is a 13 percent increase from the 671 incidents that were reported in 2017. Due to the elevated injury rates, the City Council has implemented a number of measures aimed at protecting construction workers and reduce accidents and deaths on job sites. Among them was a law passed in September 2017 mandating construction workers to attend at least 40 hours of safety training by September 2020. The rise in construction-related accidents since then may indicate that employers are not taking these safety precautions seriously, and that the city is not doing enough to protect construction workers from deadly mishaps.
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What is the future of death? A gallery solicits design responses

Art Omi, an arts nonprofit based in upstate New York, has issued an open call for an upcoming exhibition that will explore the future of design for death. Exit Architecture: Speculations on the Hereafter will showcase proposals that present critical and speculative looks at both present and future visions of post-mortem architecture and “new ways of marking our exit” from this world. Organized by Warren James, Julia van den Hout, and Kyle May, it’s the first curated exhibition put together by Art Omi’s architecture program. Art Omi facilitates projects for architects that integrate experimental and innovative landscape, architecture, and art ideas. According to a press release, the purpose behind Exit Architecture is to uncover designs that go beyond traditional memorials and religious symbolism, and ones that react to the changing landscape of modern life on Earth.   As the curators note: “The realities of the world today have imposed additional restrictions and opportunities on internment: rapid population growth, densifying urban areas, limited space, environmental concerns, and digitization—all factors that could lead architects to reimagine our own exit.” The chosen works will be on view at Art Omi’s campus in upstate New York at the Newmark Gallery in the Benenson Center from January 12 to March 3, 2019. It will then begin touring on March 15. Architects and architectural teams from any part of the world are invited to propose an idea for the exhibition. See submission guidelines here.
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GSAPP’s DeathLAB examines evolving attitudes towards mortality

The SANAA-designed 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art at Kanazawa, Japan, is hosting the exhibition DeathLAB: Democratizing Death, featuring works by the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP)-based, transdisciplinary lab, led by associate professor of architecture Karla Rothstein. The exhibition is free and runs through March 24, 2019. The exhibition covers DeathLAB's architectural and artistic proposals that address the changing nature of spaces of death in contemporary society, a topic with particular relevance to Japan. The Japanese urban landscape is stressed by over-population, declining birthrates, and an aging population. Due to a shortage of space, people have begun seeking affordable space-saving burial measures. For example, in Tokyo, CNN reported on the Ruriden, a repository of LED-lit Buddha statues, and Shinjuku Rurikoin Byakurengedo, a futuristic temple designed by Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama of Amorphe. It contains a “smart library for ashes” that transports people using a conveyor belt system to underground urns. Alternative practices such as online funerals are also on the rise. The exhibition showcases DeathLAB’s ongoing work in this area through a three-part film and architectural models. The films feature interviews with experts in areas ranging from philosophy to historic preservation.
An illuminated model of Constellation Park, a 2014 unbuilt project, has been assembled for the show. According to a statement by the museum’s curator, Yoshiko Takahashi, “the project proposed nesting thousands of light-emitting ‘memorial vessels’ underneath New Yorkʼs iconic Manhattan Bridge. Harnessing the human bodyʼs latent bio-energy, the memorial vessels would be populated with calibrated microbial colonies to gradually decompose corpses over the course of a year, generating methane that would, in turn, be used to illuminate the vessel network in a dazzling constellation of mourning lights.” The lab believes that death transcends differences of “ethnicity, religion, and political/economic constraints." Constellation Park is meant to be an example of how death can be “democratized” in the metropolis. The project reinterprets the process of biodegradation present in natural burials. It is inspired by the 1960s Japanese Metabolist movement that was enamored with the relationship between organic biological growth and architecture. Check out this link for more details.
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Architect falls to his death from Midtown tower

Architect Bruno Travalja, of Ridgewood, New Jersey, died on Thursday afternoon after falling from the 48th floor of a Midtown Manhattan skyscraper at 6th Avenue and 52nd St. According to the New York Daily News, he bent down to take a measurement and got dizzy when he stood up. He was wearing a safety harness but it wasn't attached to anything, so the co-owner of Crowne Architectural Systems tumbled over the 18-inch security barrier. The Department of Buildings has launched an ongoing investigation. The residential tower was located at 135 52nd Street, between 7th and 6th Avenues.