Death in the New City; Death of the Old City
The Northern Quarter of Brussels has developed vertically in an evolution synonymous with the late twentieth century Central Business District of the global city. This concentration of modern, high-rise commercial and residential buildings, dubbed “Little Manhattan”, encompasses an area bordered by railway lines, ring roads and a canal. In essence, the very fabric of the infrastructure needed for the successful operation of a world city.
This solid, urban enclave abuts the former National Botanic Gardens, now a much needed green oasis, in direct contrast to the surrounding built environment. The repurposing of Le Botanique into a public park and performance space highlights the requirement to preserve the shrinking natural landscape, which is threatened by the encroachment of expanding urban centres.
This thesis will aim to examine how we reconcile these twin requisites by addressing how we deal with death and remembrance in the new city.
Creating additional conventional cemeteries, crematoriums, and memorial gardens means losing what few unspoiled green spaces remain. By exploiting the built form of the Northern Quarter’s towers, we can connect this to the needs of a growing population and the demand for sanctuary and respite.
A vertical columbarium, or Tower of Solace, would provide an opportunity to firmly plant the urban version of a garden of rest in the heart of the new city. The confident, skyward form of the edifice could acknowledge the inevitability of death and its centrality to life. However, the interior should deliver a respectful, sacred space to receive and store the ashes of loved ones while offering privacy for contemplation. Opening the core of the tower would enable the installation of a central platform lift on which the funeral service will take place; its gradual rise representing the liminal space between life and death.
This thesis aims to sensitively unite the public and private spheres, taking into consideration the civic obligations of the city as well as the diversity of the populace and their philosophical and psychological experience of death and grief.