Building the End
A Space for the End _ Silvio Carta
Several definitions of architecture encompass such questions as how to meet human needs, accommodate activities, display power, remember past events, or—most recently—trigger new and more complex social schemes. All these examples are meant to convey meanings and functions for living people. But what happens when we require architecture to deal with the aftermath of life? Funerary architecture has the delicate duty of representing a threshold between two phases of human existence: life and its end. More than in other architectural typologies, funerary architecture needs to create a religious atmosphere in which proportions, light, colors and materials are all called upon to provide an adequate platform for the belief, remembrance, grief and tribute that follow a loss. C3 has previously discussed similar questions in The Form of Remembrance(#323) and Places of Worship Never End(#312) and elsewhere. However, the analysis of the projects in this issue will shed light on a significant aspect of these special works of architecture. Constantly and ubiquitously present at the beginning and ending of our lives, natural elements appear to be a crucial design element for architects called upon to face the challenge of building for the end.
Architecture of Memorial
Architecture of Memorials: Designing the Presence of Something Absent _ Nelson Mota
In 1910, Adolf Loos has provocatively written that “only a very small part of architecture belongs to art: the tomb and the monument. Everything else that fulfills a function is to be excluded from the domain of art.” Loos’ blunt statement brings about critical issues on the assessment of the social relevance of both art and architecture. However, one thing most would agree: There is arguably a more challenging architectural endeavor than that of designing a tomb or a monument, or, at any rate, designing any kind of memorial. Architecture then becomes the medium that has to answer problematic questions. What is the right representation of the past? Is there an accurate and rightful memory? Can, or should we be faithful to the past? How can we portray something extraordinary using ordinary tokens?
Designing a memorial is being responsible for contributing to the development of collective memory. It shares, thus, a common goal with the role of the historian. However, as French philosopher Paul Ricoeur argued, history is about “truth” whereas memory is about “faithfulness” to what ought to be remembered, what can be forgotten, what might be forgiven. Hence, following Ricoeur, we have to take into account that the function of a memorial is, above all, to raise historical consciousness. The right balance between remembering, forgetting and forgiving is thus the main challenge that an architect/artist has to face when designing a memorial. Loos tacit dismissal of the functional value of a memorial seems then to fall short acknowledging architecture’s healing potential. It fails to pay tribute to the immense usefulness of bringing about the presence of something absent.