‘Only a very small part of architecture belongs to art: the tomb and the monument. Everything else that fulfils a function is to be excluded from the domain of art.’ – Adolf Loos
The tomb might be arguably the spatial typology most singular, resolute and absolute: finality manifest. Adolf Loos saw its lack of quotidian function, other than containing and implying importance as worthy of a complete reclassifying of discipline. The Loosian tomb employs his trademark apparatuses of the cube and the ziggurat; however he also charts convention with a careful use of symmetry and orientation – both design drivers deeply earthed in symbolism and that I would encourage you to explore.
However, austerity is only one method of remembrance. The Taj Mahal not only operates on an entirely different scale to Loos but with fist-sized rubies inlaid into its skin, rarity and abundance are used to convey the importance of the departed. And beyond material, layout is key to the success of this typology that is very much embedded in the realm of the interior: with levels of interiority and containment tied to degrees of sanctity. Furthermore, consider that periods of occupation also vary greatly between users of the tomb, from the fleeting to the eternal.
What is the spatial syntax of grief? Is it stereotomic or tectonic? Spartan or opulent? Where will this typology develop when digital avatars attempt to succeed our provisional flesh?
How will we memorialise the terminally offline?
BRIEF BY DAVID FLOOK
A – Mausoleum for Max Dvorák (Study Model), Adolf Loos
B – The first known photograph of the Taj Mahal, 1858, Unknown