Building Duration:  A House Living Toward Death

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Virginia Tech


Life is a transition through stages, framed by birth and death. We transition through life in a nonlinear fashion, moving sometimes closer to, and sometimes farther from, rest. Daily, we rise for living and fall to rest. Daily, we prepare for activity and prepare for sleep. Daily we age and endure, but our burdens may lighten with the coming of Spring or a new member to the family.

In reverence to the stages of life, I have designed a house living for death - a house that provides a meaningful setting for the stages of life and our daily transitions. The house provides a dwelling for a cemetery caretaker, whose very vocation is a daily encounter with death.

The house, living for death, is composed of aspects that call the dweller to death and to life. Death is reflected in a stone foundation and walls for the private quarters of the home, for rest and daily preparations. These ground the dweller in ultimate rest. Life is reflected in rooms of timber that create a place for nourishment, entertaining, and leisure during the day. The centerpiece of the house is a stone hearth that adjoins the stages of the house - stone and timber, death and life. Just as the stages of life are nonlinear, the stone and timber construction of the house meet and acknowledge each other and their respective roles. For example, the sleeping quarters have a stone foundation but east-facing walls of wood remind the sleeper that activity calls and that rest in the house is not permanent.

A key feature of the home is its moment of transition to the west, where the dweller is prepared to encounter and acknowledge final rest in the attached cemetery. Two rotating doors create a space for the caretaker to access the cemetery through a moment of transition. In this moment, the caretaker accesses her tools and reorients her mind. Transitioning to the outdoors, the caretaker must ascend to the cemetery and pauses on landing when eye-height with her charges, the headstones. Upon return from the cemetery, the moment of transition is a moment to remove dirt, clean, and again reorient to the living.



Architecture, House, Life, Death, Ocean, Cemetery