Siddhi Mehta

Siddhi Mehta

New York, NY, US


Memorializing Death

The funeral ceremony centers on beautification of the deceased’s life and memories. The deceased is treated as ‘alive’ until the time of cremation. The whole process of the ceremony is symbolically represented as diagrams representing each step of the ritual. And these diagrams are then manifested architecturally. This process begins with the folding of hands, last water given to the deceased and ends with the enshrinement of the deceased’s ashes. Walking through the building, the visitor undergoes a procession marked by a series of experiences and spaces, which mark the ceremony's various stages. Residual, transitional spaces in between allow the visitor to pause, reflect, and proceed to the next stage. The sequence of architectural forms appears like memories where architectural symbols derive meaning. The group of these architectural forms- the mental images of these forms is the architecture of memory.

The site for the design is next to a shrine which was not affected by the tsunami. The design serves as a public park with the interplay of the symbolic diagrams as individual experiences in a spatial sequence. Seen from this park some of the symbolic diagrams of the Japanese death ritual appear as partially submerged with a few architectural fragments as sculptures in a landscape. The main intention was to design spaces that would blend in and provide an atmosphere of sympathy and dignity for the bereaved through a carefully designed spatial sequence. Throughout the building,­­ forms, materials and natural light play a crucial role in conveying appropriate characteristics of each space and in heightening the ritualistic experience of transition through these spaces. Spaces with ceremonial purposes are dignified and dramatized while connecting areas are designed to create a natural flow and a sense of repose between consecutive activities. The light entering these spaces is reflected by materials- Wood, Concrete, Cor-ten steel, Stone and Glass. 

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Status: Built