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    is this idea stupid???

    By John Tubles
    Oct 14, '10 4:01 AM EST

    Ok I am figuring out my thesis… and I have a project proposal due on Monday so I need anybody’s help,
    Here is the premise of my problem… My thesis is somewhat odd in relation to I guess what people consider normal these days…I want to design a crematorium. Why… because I like them… but besides my personal opinion that I know I should not include in my thesis because personal reasoning weakens your argument…
    anyways… so heres more about the idea…
    I don’t want to create just a beautiful cemetery/crematorium… because it will still remain as cemetery/crematorium… and since death is such a broad topic I want to narrow down and focus on the relationship of death and living cities and see whether I can integrate them together…
    And as for integrating here is my idea…
    Imagine there is natural calamity that happens in some major city like Tokyo… Many people died, so my plan is to rebuild an underground crematorium/mausoleum/catacomb… private and has reverence to the dead... with a memorial that is somewhat above ground which becomes the halfway mark between dead and living programs… then above the memorial is somewhat “living” program which I haven’t decided yet… oh this will be set inside a major city (probably not in America because this seems impossible for here)

    People are going to die eventually so I want to design for the dead like, people design for the living…
    Secondly, I think it is wasteful to use spaces in major cities that reserved only for the dead, especially in high density places....
    I want to design a place that even though it involves dead people and the topic of death it could still have something vibrant where living people can congregate and/or pay respect to..
    I also dont think that because people are dead you can just place them in whatever area outside the city... it feels like your banishing them...

    Is this idea stupid? Insensitive? Rude?

    Any other comments and suggestion are most definitely welcomed... and please be truthful and more feedback the better...

    Ps.. I wrote thisblog in about 3 mins so im sorry if my English is a bit challenging….

    As of now this quarter sucks! Tooooo much work…

    Again please help… Anybody… and thank you!


    • fbarboza82

      I think it is a really interesting idea and you should go ahead with it. The explaination made a lot of sense and it's definitely outside of the box.

      Oct 14, 10 5:03 am  · 

      I like it...

      Oct 14, 10 9:22 am  · 

      It's not stupid. At least once a year at our school someone does something related to death. The thoughts surrounding life and death is sensitive, almost a taboo subject and has the potential to be provocative. I say push it as far as you can. Have fun!

      Oct 14, 10 9:54 am  · 
      John Tubles

      thanks for the quick response....

      oh btw again im sorry for the bad english it was written in about 3 mins around 2 am when caffeine and sugar has worn off... ooh it is bad...

      anyways what i did not state clearly is:
      My clients (tragedy victims, especially the dead ones...of course) whose issues I intend to address... does it come across as insensitive and rude... because the last thing I want to do is face a panel of jury 10 months from now and not get a real crit about my architecture but just a crit about my unconventional idea...

      oh well then again I cant control that right...

      oh anyways i will post the progess of my thesis in this blog which makes this entry thesis_01

      Oct 14, 10 10:31 am  · 

      i like your thoughts. i don't think it is a bad idea for a thesis as long as it doesn't become one of those romancing the dead via scarpa colorification etc. i like it if it can be a 21 st. century project based on some real infrastructural and land issues as you stated as well as some other issues like memory etc.. having lost some friends recently, i have often thought about this idea and conflicts that come with it regarding what to do with the body which was alive and thinking a minute ago.
      i am also writing this while driving.;.)) so, excuse the mess.. i'd like to follow this project.

      Oct 14, 10 1:52 pm  · 

      I think this is a great idea. It shows that your thinking outside the box and have great justifications for your ideas. Having to deal with the death of a friend recently, I don't think its insensitive at all. You can find good ideas for activities if you visit some cemetaries. You'll find that the relatives come visit every week and hold bbqs, picnics, play catch, and even do their daily jogs.

      Some other line of reasoning you could include is an integration that works bidirectionally, to keep the memories of the deceased in the activities of the surviving relatives, and the vibrant activity the living bring to the memorial grounds as to keep the deceased in the world. Actually, I think you may already be onto this idea...

      good luck! update us on how your project turns out.

      Oct 14, 10 4:44 pm  · 

      I just thought of another thing, there is also this sort of network that surviving relatives in the same cemetary form; they visit the grave site so often that they get to know each other. Another idea for activities you can hold are to help facilitate this social network.

      Oct 14, 10 5:01 pm  · 

      I love the idea, but I don't understand, why does it have to be sudden-mass-accident victims? I think it would be much more difficult - and ultimately much more lyrical and challenging - if this memorial space had to respond to slowly increasing amounts of dead over time, and additional use over time - the way a traditional cemetery does. How can this space continue to be a living, mutating, current space for citizens, even as culture changes, lives change, the city changes, and people continue to die and their loved ones continue to need a meaningful space in which to contemplate their dead?

      Oct 14, 10 7:07 pm  · 

      The idea is not stupid at all, but does have the potential for the discussion to go where it might not be the most constructive for you (personal experience.) You might have the most control over the crit and your project overall if you don't start with Death and Crematorium, but build the case (might not be the best word choice...) for it, around it, over it, under it. Know what I mean? Not how it is the only logical choice, but how this intervention/construct of yours will illustrate/change the underlying motives and layers. Good luck. Keep us posted.

      Oct 14, 10 10:49 pm  · 
      John Tubles

      thank you again for the feed back and please keep it comming...
      things are making more and more sense to me and It seems like I'm developing a direction... instead of aimlessly wondering around...

      mantaray: the mass-accident-victim plot was conceived because i wanted to create a connection to the site even for people that are not directly affected by it... because my thinking was that a project that i am aiming to do will not change people's mind and perception about the issues of death overnight... so i guess you may call it a cop-out but using this plot makes the idea of a memorial more feasible and palatable to more people than having a memorial housing normal folks... thus making the entire project easier to accept publicly. But I do agree that having the regular crematorium is a bigger challenge and maybe a risk i would be willing to take...

      Misen: "Personal Experience" please elaborate if it is not much of a trouble... and I do agree that the thesis itself must be dealt with utmost care because the subject is so touchy especially here in america...

      oh by the way here is the our schools thesis project process:
      1st quarter [week 0-10]: Subject research and in the end a clear and focused thesis proposal, that is substantiated by facts and interviews , is due
      2nd quarter [week11-20]: Programming research which includes program description, site & zoning..blah blah blah... and another series of papers are due...
      3rd quarter [week21-30] design design design...

      so its a year of work and right now i guess you are witnessing the conceiving part of my thesis project [is it me or that just sounds perverted and slightly gross...hahahhaha]

      Thank you soooooooooooooo much again and please keep it coming!!!

      Oct 15, 10 1:11 am  · 

      You may want to check out John Ronan's proposal for a crematorium in downtown Chicago - it was a response to a an RFP soliciting ideas from various city architects about what to do with the giant Post Office building downtown that is currently sitting empty. It is a really striking and thought-provoking idea. Read the text he had accompanying it.

      And yes - I think the mass-accident thing is a cop-out. Not only that, but frankly it's kind of "9/11 memorial"-y. Is this a memorial, or is it a space for us to practice our various rituals of death? There's a difference. In one you're marking an event - a specific moment in time. In the other, you are providing a space for a multiplicity of meaningful processions (and I mean that in the metaphysical, not necessarily the physical, sense). In the second, the meanings are current and continue to grow and shift with society. In the first, you are marking one event that does not chance, and that simply continues to recede into memory with time. Dull. How much more vibrant could a real city "death space" be?

      And for the record, this is a very timely question and one that many urban designers are quietly pondering. Every so often you'll see an article dancing around the subject... it's very prescient, and needs solving in a thoughtful and respectful manner. Could be very engaging. Think about how people deal with death over time - not just how they memorialize an event - and how that might change in the future.

      There's also an interesting company in... Sweden, I believe? who has recently pioneered a method of reducing human remains to a compost, essentially, allowing plants to be planted and grown in the remains of your loved one. (Can't be done w/ traditional cremation.) There are some interesting ideas on this subject if you start to poke around.

      Oct 15, 10 9:39 am  · 

      there is a cemetery next to ueno in Tokyo that is planted with cherry blossoms in a lovely and fulsome way. every year the cemetery becomes host to revellers intent on drinking beneath the pink clouds of flowers. and they do. on and around the graves of the long and recent dead. they spread out into the pathways between graves and onto the streets as well. it is perfectly comfortable to be there. and i suppose comforting too, to know that death is not so scary and isolated from culture that everyone shuns the place where the proof of its inevitability is enshrined..

      when i went there with my mother a few years back we wondered if it was illicit and not allowed. but then we walked past the local police station across from the graveyard, and the cops were taking it all in stride. it was not disrespect. life in the center of the city was not automatically an excuse to hide from death.

      so there you go, go ahead with the project. the scenario is a nice touch, and the concept interesting enough. if you feel that death is touchy in america ( i don't agree with that btw) it is certainly not so here. have fun!

      Oct 15, 10 9:44 am  · 

      I just thought I would say that last year UW-Milwaukee ran a semester studio based on a mortuary complex. So it seems your idea for a thesis isn't that unusual.

      Oct 17, 10 7:07 pm  · 

      a very interesting project indeed. I would be curious to see how you would get around the cultural challenge of locating somewhere that has a diverse cultural demographic particularly those that have specific rituals surrounding the act of dying and death itself.

      Oct 17, 10 11:51 pm  · 

      there is a long history of both cemeteries and crematoria in modern architecture. there is also a history of mass burials, sometimes sites that are left undeveloped in perpetuity because of a tragedy having occurred (e.g., oklahoma city site). i'd suggest you immerse yourself in the relationship between architecture and death - especially architecture designed to commemorate specific events, even including memorials. know it well when you start to face reviewers.

      you probably already know scarpa's and rossi's projects, but find others: miralles, lewerentz's (exquisite!), behrens at hagen (an all-time favorite for me), the memorial the pentagon, the flight 93 entrants (not just the winner)...

      early modernism dealt with crematoria issues a lot, both because of illnesses that swept europe, as well as because of wwi and wwii, and the need to get rid of bodies for hygienic reasons. this is potentially a very interesting project if you'll dig in. don't just skim along the surface, exploring the sentiment between the event<>cremation, but figure it out technically, environmentally, and from a public-at-large perception/impact.

      Oct 18, 10 7:32 am  · 

      steven those examples you cited (particularly Lewerentz's and Behrens are superb and new to me.

      Oct 18, 10 8:38 am  · 

      Pyramid of Life and Death

      From top to Bottom:

      Maternity Ward
      Retirement Castle
      Hospice and the odd Hotel here and there
      Public Space Program at ground level/s
      Crematorium [also supplies heating to the overall complex]
      Catacombs of Dread

      Oct 18, 10 8:27 pm  · 

      I agree with what mantaray said. What you mentioned above how "...with a memorial that is somewhat above ground which becomes the halfway mark between dead and living programs… then above the memorial is somewhat “living” program which I haven’t decided yet…" I would stop thinking about the solution/design and focus on the problem/inquiry of your thesis. Break away from that and let the information gathered be your guide. Time really flies in a year, believe me (I did mine last year). Also I just heard of a new method involving liquifying the body that is supposedly way more sustainable and cost effective.

      Oct 18, 10 9:54 pm  · 
      John Tubles

      Thank you very much for everybody's input! it is really helpful... i am re-drafting my thesis proposal as of this moment... but i will post them as soon as possible... oh last weekend i followed my good thesis adviser's advice... so i rested... stopped writing and just read and researched...

      reddrhino... thank you for pointing it out... yes i have a year to work with this so i should really stop and focus about the problem instead of focusing on the solution...

      diabase... i am actually thinking of making a diagram about that!

      architechnophilia... yes tell me about it... i think my site is going to be in the philippines because i am familiar with the culture and and it may not be as diverse "country-wise" as modern cities of america and europe... but there are still many different superstitions, religious and paganistic aproaches with death.

      jump... yes i am familiar with the ueno cemetery... i have been there but not during sakura season though i profoundly remember the place being so serene and has that "kimochi-good feeling in japanese"... and yes i am really considering japan aswell as my site... it is a tough choice.... oh and i guess we agree to disagree with the whole america is touchy about death...

      and lastly mr Steven Ward thank you...thank you for great insight and examples!... again thank you!

      Oct 19, 10 2:05 am  · 

      my father's funeral was quite fun. well, as fun as such a thing can be. there was lots of remembering, lots of old friends, lots of irreverent humor and no one complained, even when this large and loud secular atheist was remembered (miraculously!) in the church that he was kicked out of when he was a wee lad intent on ridding himself of his parent's gods. no one was sensitive to any of that, though they might have been....i don't think north americans care so much about death as much as they do about what gods you believe in when alive. amongst the living its minefields everywhere ;-)

      which is neither there nor here...

      as academic i would say it is a topic with lots of prior research, which is both coolio and shitty. on the upside it means most of the theory has been done for you. on the downside it means that if you are going to make a contribution that is new (which is the point of doing a thesis) you will have to push some kind of comfort zone, yours or your audience's, no way around it.

      In which case is better to just wade into the sensitive areas you have found as soon as possible. otherwise it will just be another pretty project.

      Oct 19, 10 4:41 am  · 

      Intriguing idea full of potential. Am passing along an article I saved for another purpose. It's about cemeteries, but has good info, references, and may help your thinking.

      Wheat Ridge cemetery seeks to liven up with art, concerts

      Oct 19, 10 11:17 pm  · 

      Why can't it just be about disregarding the dead? Make it about a societal shift away from mysticism and egoism. What would a maximally efficient crematorium look like?
      As for the survivors, why does grief require an institution?

      Oct 20, 10 8:22 pm  · 

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