Monday, August 19, 2013

Jackson Memorial Columbarium

A little late but here is some images from my thesis work together with the synopsis I used for its presentation:

This project is sited on the north half of Smith Park in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. It consists of 8,800 square feet of program devoted to memorializing the deceased. The cremains are housed in 1,700 individual niches throughout the complex. Multiple levels of privacy are achieved through the assembly area designed to host funerary services - and which also contains columbaria - family sized chambers, and the main columbarium.

The inspiration for choosing a columbarium for my final project arose from the desire to investigate surfaces to an extent not previously accomplished in my studio work. This investigation looks into the ways that surfaces project space, and how the atmosphere of these spaces vary according to the ways in which the surface is detailed. After a number of formal iterations, the boundary of these surfaces was defined through a series of moves across the site; excavating earth and exposing subterranean surfaces, and construction, creating surfaces above the site. These moves were based on analysis of the existing context which treated the urban fabric as a type of surface. This fabric became the datum from which surfaces were created above and below according the undulations in the vicinity.

This project relies on strength in its details. I took great care in designing the courses of the stonework so that when two courses meet at a corner their movement is continuous. Furthermore, the way in which corners are handled speaks loudly to the priority of the space. Floors and ceilings were areas of exploration for me. I have decided to keep the floors light and the ceilings dark to increase the perceived volume of the space, and to take advantage of ambient light, as there is no directional light in this design. Doors also proved to be very important, and the variation of them allow me to express importance within the processional aspects of the project.

Because of the nature of this program each space becomes intensely personal to anyone inhabiting it. This had to be considered at every step of the design process. The result of the process is a series of details based on a language of patterns and figural motifs. These details have no embodied narrative, but provide the visitor with objects to project his or her emotions upon. In this way a single set of details allow for a multiplicity of interactions with the user.

The patterns I developed for this project represent my first attempt to include any type of traditional ornament in any of my projects. Therefore they should not be viewed as my final intent for this project, but rather as the beginning of my exploration into a pattern based aesthetic. These patterns were designed in response to the mechanical nature of life. In early drawings I relied Sullivan-esque ornament. While these details may have correctly related to human nature in his time - the symbolism of the seed as it relates to democracy - today’s society is much more mechanical or electronic in nature. I feel that as a society we have moved beyond any purely organic analogies and into a species which must be discussed in terms of technology as well as biology. Therefore my ornament is an attempt to convey our culture in the same way that Sullivan wished to convey his view of humanity.

I felt that it was important to include figural motifs in addition to geometric patterns. Patterns may create an atmosphere themselves, but the human form is so recognizable, and provides such a strong analogy to oneself that their inclusion seemed mandatory in this type of space.

Materiality became a very important factor in this project. More than just the visual aesthetic different materials achieve but what atmosphere do they create? The weight of stone, and it’s coolness to the touch made it important for my primary material. Materials that develop a tarnish or a patina over time, are intensely interesting to me. Stone has this quality, so for an accent or secondary material I looked to bronze because its patina is much louder than that of stone, turning blue or green like copper in the right environments. Bronze also has the ability to be casted which makes it an interesting choice for the creation of reliefs and details. Traditionally such ornament was hand crafted, increasing the cost of the project and eventually contributing to its absence. Casted panels allow for fast economical production while still allowing for traditional pattern aesthetic.