Architecture is a multidisciplinary field and has managed to rise as a necessity than a luxury in recent times the architecture for the dying includes spaces that fall into the major categories of tribute, experience, and mourning like memorials, cenotaphs, and crematoriums. It also includes spaces that have been designed for the terminally ill who have numbered days to their life. Several architects have managed to create a bold statement to shoo away the stigmas and taboos regarding death and dying in our culture. Death is always tarnished in black and painted in a negative tone in several cultures and traditions, often muddled in a lot of superstitions. The shift of this ideology will mark the point where importance will be given to ‘Architecture for the Dying’.

1. ‘Death in Venice’ by Allison Killer

Allison Killer the founder of Killer Architects did not leave any stone unturned even while naming her firm. She and her team focus on the Architecture for the Dying. As a part of pushing this movement, they organized an exhibition in the Venice Architecture Biennale held in 2014. Their project was titled Death in Venice and had exhibits ranging from innovative postcards with death theme, an interactive projection depicting the changes over the years in perceiving and understanding death, an interactive map of London showing the live count of deaths. The exhibition was one of a kind. Some of the exhibits managed to tickle a funny bone and most viewers seemed to hop around happily in the place proving the intent. Exhibitions of this scale can induce a positive aura around the topics of death and dying and treat them as a part of life.

Exhibit at 'Death in Venice' Image © A. Molenda
Exhibit at ‘Death in Venice’ Image © A. Molenda
Killing's Death in Venice exhibition Image © A. Molenda
Killing’s Death in Venice exhibition Image © A. Molenda

2. Jewish Museum by Studio Libeskind

A very powerful and emotion-packed building that takes you through the journey of Jews at the time of the holocaust. Clever lighting and colour scheme ensure that each space etches a different memory. The spaces can nothing but throw light on what might have been one of the most dreaded events in history. This museum manages to take you through the very experience and does not fail to lend you that spooky chill down the spine. The museum has won several accolades and recognition for its unique style and approach. The entrance via underground from the Baroque Museum and the three routes set the perfect stage for a curious and adventurous mind. The choice of materials and the aversion for openings and punctures add to the experience.

An internal corridor in the museum. Image © Denis Esakov
An internal corridor in the museum. Image © Denis Esakov
The Jewish Museum in Berlin Image © Denis Esakov
The Jewish Museum in Berlin Image © Denis Esakov

3. Assisi Hospice by New Space Architects

A person’s end moments form the latest memories of his or her family. These memories can be made pleasant if the space contributes to creating a healthy attitude towards death and life. Assisi home had shifted into this beautifully designed space by the Singaporean firm New Space Architects in 2017. The rooftop gardens, use of light as an active design element and the community integration sets this hospice among the best. The dementia ward designed as a loop and the pediatric ward opening into the rooftop is truly functional and just clever ideas. This 85-bed facility has been located amidst the neighborhood and has integrated nature all along.

Aerial view of Assisi Hospice Image © Marc Tey Photography
Aerial view of Assisi Hospice Image © Marc Tey Photography
Interiors of Assisi Hospice Image © Marc Tey Photography
Interiors of Assisi Hospice Image © Marc Tey Photography

4. Maggie’s centers

Maggie’s centers have gained popularity in the last decade. The concept curated by Maggie Keswick and Charles Jencks during the last days of Cancer affected Maggie. The hospitals and cancer care centers had drained the couple and that they decided to seek out for a home that would enhance the last days. The concept of Architectural Placebo is well settled into their ideology. Famous architects like Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Daniel Libeskind, and many others have expressed this concept in their design approach through 17 Maggie’s Centre on the planet. Each of about 280m2 in area, these have managed to knock down the visuals of a hospital or an institution. Each Maggie ’s center has a concept revolving around the common kitchen thus rendering it the second home. The varied choice of materials and themes are an interesting feature of Maggie’s centers.

Maggie's center in Dundee by Frank Gehry. Source - archdaily.com
Maggie’s center in Dundee by Frank Gehry. Source – archdaily.com
Maggie's center in Fife by Zaha Hadid. Source - archdaily.com
Maggie’s center in Fife by Zaha Hadid. Source – archdaily.com

5. Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Bloomfield, USA by Acoustics by Design

Hospitals always seem to nail down architects in dilemmas and are often held responsible for a bad reputation. While most of the hospitals may fall into the ‘dull and depressing corridors’, there are several others who have worked to redefine the space. Hospitals are often referred to as somber places which would be the last place anyone would want to visit. These architects have stepped up their game and turned these hospitals into nothing less than a spa. The Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in USA designed by Acoustics by Design in an area of 160 acres. The interiors, as well as the exteriors, have integrated nature and ample daylighting into the picture and is also LEED Certified.

The atrium of the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital outside Detroit.Credit...Laura McDermott for The New York Times nytimes.com
The atrium of the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital outside Detroit.Credit…Laura McDermott for The New York Times nytimes.com
Exterior view of Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital Source- henryford.com
Exterior view of Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital Source- henryford.com

Reshmy Raphy has always been a lover of words. Pursuing final year of B.Arch, she is on her path to discover Architectural Journalism. She loves to learn about different cultures and architectural styles, approaches and people. It is this passion that brought her here on RTF.

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