Ashley Prince

Ashley Prince

Severn, MD, US


A Burial Chapel and Columbarium Project for DC

Death is the most rational thing that happens in life.  The moment we are born, our bodies begin to age and die. This building is not about the rationality.  No, instead, this burial chapel seeks to speak to the grief and the mourning that surrounds death. This place is a place to situate the dead because in situating the earthly remains of our loved ones, we situate our grief.  This place is about the most irrational thing that happens in life: love; and when the bodies of the ones we love die, the irrationality of grief and ritualization of mourning.

"No one ever told me the grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yearning. I keep on swallowing, at other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take in." CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

The curves are designed to speak to the comfort and consolation needed in grief; as if the grieved were being held in the palm of a comforting hand.  The columbarium curve wraps the chapel so that the mourners might feel comforted by the community of the dead to which they are releasing their loved one's remains. Loved ones of the departed may return to the burial garden and walk between the curved walls; these tall, private, platformed spaces allow people to be with their dead.  Mourners may also climb and occupy the upper stairs, the space between the columbarium curve and the outer curve.  This monumental staircase gives the grieved access to the upper three levels of the doubled sided columbarium wall. 

We wanted to speak to the ritualization of mourning, by creating processional space through the garden.  When people gathered for a funeral celebration, they would begin in the entry/reception and process from there through the garden, along the layered walls, to the chapel entry for the celebration. 

This building is not for the dead, but the living; and as such, so much more important to this project is not how the dead are place in the spaces, but how the living inhabited them. We envisioned our curves speaking to the comfort needed during grief by providing cocooning effect.  We believe that our spaces mimic the ancient cave. By creating cocooning caves, we hope to have translated something we know to be true of the experience of solace into architecture and thus spoken the irrationality of love and grief with shared, translated, architectural experience

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Status: Unbuilt
Location: Washington, DC, US
My Role: Equal Partnership; Primary Digital Renderer