The idea of death is one of those parts of life that is so complex and that we would probably never fully understand. During our whole life we live with the imminent possibility of dying sooner o later and our existence will go from being completely possible, a fact, to be just a memory. Besides those conditions we know death as a concept because it is part of our everyday life, but in this case dying as a verb, as a situation that happens represents an impossible event in time because death is precisely where time ends.
In the major cultures in the world, the idea of death is represented in very different ways, but all of them share a deep respect, doubt, pain and fear. In our country, Mexico, death is considered a social event, its even celebrated in a joyful way. As a social event, death gathers people who show support to the deceased’s family in their mourning. This matter results particularly interesting because what we perceive in life is just pain and sadness of the living people like us. At some point in the funerary event, the deceased person is put aside so the family and close friends stand out. This is very normal because in the end death and everything related to that concept is an event that touches our whole life, while the concept of dying is an “antievent” that results inconceivable for us.
Between all the existent typologies, a funerary house is one of the most complicated buildings for an architect to design due to its symbolism. We live every day with the possibility of suffering someone’s death or even dying ourselves; and that is how the architect has to deal with his or her own death while planning a space that will mean the ending of lives. When approaching the topic, is inevitable to think in our own death, that's why besides the symbolic meanings, there are also personal feelings involved. The design of a funerary home considers death as an event but not as the end of events.
When Tatiana Bilbao started with this project, a lot of death ideas are taken in consideration. Between those ideas and in an abstract way, the decision of using the two concepts, death and dying, is taken in the generation of an idea. Spaces for death as an earthly event are created for people like us to have a place for expressing our feelings. In addition, each space has characteristics of dying.
Concepts such as time are very important. Time, or the end of it, is a basic component of death and the building started to feel like very time-oriented while the design process was followed. The spaces freeze time in some ways causing peace and calm sensations. The idea of dying stops every event in our life and that’s exactly what this building does: stop completely our life and just for a moment, give time for thinking about death. The spatial results combine soft colors and materiality that, added to specific light moments, they create the whole experience. Careful planting design makes easy to understand the building and adds a life component to death.
The final building is arranged in five private chapels, each composed by a living room, a wake room as well as a hotel room for families to stay and rest whenever it’s necessary. Each of these components of the chapels recovers the previous ideas while sunbeams coming from the upper part of each building invade the space with tranquility. For getting the complete experience, this five chapels era merged together trough a pergola corridor and intermittent vegetation.
The other venues in the funerary house answer to functionality issues; in this way administrative offices, cafeteria, waiting room, as well as funeral related service areas were added. The building develops in two levels: one of them underground and the other at street level. All the service areas and hotel suites are located underground, leaving the upper level to visitor-related spaces.
In the end, the building satisfies the needs of such a facility, but in addition it gives the families and friends of the deceased a moment in time. A frozen moment that it will not exist in the future but provides an important experience that lets us continue with our lives.
Photographer: Iwan Baan http://www.iwan.com/photo_Funeraria_San_Louis_Potosi_Tatiana_Bilbao.php