while i’ve implied before that architects are particularly bad at designing their own graves, the design project of housing the dead has long been an opportunity for introspection and reflection, from highlighting the significance of an individual, to meditating on the urban qualities of the city of the death. perhaps because the dead are less vocal users, and their visitors tend to filter out, ultimately the architecture of cemeteries has allowed freedom and personal introspection to a few architects. so why is this typology largely absent form school projects? rather than designing yet another digital library/multimedia museum, why not design a cemetery? i have seen studios on designing your own tomb, but the cemetery is perhaps too un-pc: it is, rationally speaking, a waste of space, in an era where landscape is a precious commodity (at least in most places). however, as the architects below prove, cemeteries can take on many different roles, from providing much needed green space to reflecting on the nature of architecture itself. and as boullee, woods, and hejduk prove, you don’t even need to build them (of course now we have virtual cemeteries, but let’s try to stay on topic). ultimately cemeteries show more about the designer than about the dead they house, and that is perhaps part of their allure—they can be (and often are) narcissistic exercises. but they are also an opportunity for design emptied out, for design as poetry. after all, what is more poetic than death?
so in no particular order, and including everything from the single unit/tomb to the density of urban housing (i have omitted monuments to the dead, which constitute a different category):
newton cenotaph, etienne-louis boullee
cemetery for chaux, claude-nicolas ledoux
cimitero san cataldo, aldo rossi
tomba brion, carlo scarpa
cementerio de la igualada, enric miralles
einstein tomb, lebbeus woods
cemetery for the ashes of thought, john hejduk
necropolis / cemetery for the deaths of architecture, john hejduk
ps. i’m sure i’m missing some, let me know! i’m aware i’ve stayed with big names and omitted famous cemeteries such as pere lachaise.
pps. krematorium treptow, alex schultes and charlotte frank