Team - Matthew Dubin, Ace Ren | Fall 2016
death and the city
ARCHOUTLOUD Competition | Honourable Mention
With a population of over 14 million people, Tokyo has
rapidly transformed its urban environment to be one
of the densest cities in the world. However, unlike most cities it has an aging population, so much so that the city is running out of room for traditional cemeteries.
With limited land, residential areas are now experiencing the puzzling phenomenon
of “pocket cemeteries” a silent, yet undesirable
neighbor that serves as a constant reminder of death.
Using a small plaza in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo,
the competition asked entrants to create a modern solution for an urban cemetery, focusing heavily on
the relationship between death, tradition, technology
and the bustling culture of Tokyo. The only requirement was to utilize urns as the burial method, a
process that is widely accepted in Japanese tradition
and can afford the creation of a “vertical cemetery”.
As a team, we wanted to create something poetic to
create dialogue between the program and the city.
The primary concept driving the design is the desire to temper the morbid perception of death.
The project memorializes – and even celebrates – the deceased through the introduction and manipulation
of light and nature beneath the city streets.
Buddhist tradition, a mountain is a symbol of Buddha that represents strength, peace and honour. If one
looks beyond the city skyline, Mt. Fuji looms in the
far distance and is part of a group of volcanoes that are known as the “holy mountains”. Inspired by this
natural form, the project takes on the image of
these three mountains, creating a sculptural metaphor in the heart of the city that does not immediately
stand out as a symbol of death.
The underground columbarium is divided into three reflection zones which are designed to provide a distinctly different user
experience and interaction with nature. Collectively,
the reflection zones all serve to temporarily severe the connection between the user and the city and offer a respite from
reality. Both sound and sight are manipulated to focus the user’s attention on self reflection and meditation.
Unlike a traditional cemetery, which may serve
as a reminder of human mortality, Transcendence fully interacts with the surrounding city scape.
The columbarium utilizes a mechanized storage system
that transports the individual urns to and from
their storage block in the well. A network of horizontal and vertical tracks are embedded in the cast-in-place
concrete and allow for visitors to locate and either retrieve or store their loved ones’ ashes.
Downtown Tokyo is not suited well for a program
that emphasizes, celebrates, and manipulates the
natural environment. Due to the city’s overbearing skyline, each of the three wells within the project is
individually designed to capture as much natural light
as possible while simultaneously retaining a clear
view of the sky. The varying levels of distortion to the wells is a result of their relative depth and the varying
height of adjacent buildings. Additionally, each well is
designed to offer visitors a noticeably different userexperience.
Transcendence consists of three subterranean reflection
zones – each emulating and consisting of an
element of the Zen garden: sand (which representswater), rocks (mountains), and moss (islands). In order
to achieve the necessary height for the efficient
and proper storage of urns, each well had to be partially submerged beneath the plaza. Visitors enter the
space via a single spiral ramp that spills out into the
largest basin and have the option to experience the different reflection zones at their own leisure.
© michaelrahmatoulin 2020