Ruins Remembrance Centre
This studio was based on a class trip to Istanbul Turkey in January 2013. The synthesis of the trip was to extract each students unique interpretation of the sacred in the 21st century.
The cycle of life is studded with contrast as individuals forge their way through the complex, sensory world. It becomes clear to the avid observer that it is through contrast that we are able to fully appreciate opposing qualities of space, time, spirituality, and built form. The city of Istanbul reveals itself to the visitor in a full expression of these paradoxical characteristics. The aged buildings speak to the layers of history that identify the cities landmarks whereas new construction and international franchising stand as an essential counterpoint. The mosques and the call to prayer make the visitor aware of the strong presence of the sacred, whereas the current trend towards tourism and commerce speak directly to the profane. The busyness of the streets and bazaars, the vendors, the locals, the tourists, the animals, creates a multilayered sensory experience that is present at all hours of the day. I find myself drawn to the spaces and moments where the busyness subsides.
The Basilica Cistern, dark and cavern-like in nature, creates a strong sensory experience where one is able to enter a reflective and pensive mood, likened to a meditative state. A feeling of oneness with the raw elements, the dripping of water, the coldness of the stone, slowly envelops the individual in restful solitude. All senses activated. As Juhani Pallasmaa (2005) states: “[a]nyone who has become entranced by the sound of dripping water in the darkness of a ruin can attest to the extraordinary capacity of the ear to carve the volume into the void of darkness. The space traced by the ear in the darkness becomes a cavity sculpted directly in the interior of the mind”. The question remains however, would the appreciation of the sacred felt in the darkness be known without light? Of silence without noise? Of observer without being observed? Eastern aesthetics dictate that the paradoxical characteristics of both elements of design, and other daily endeavours, are essential in the full experience of space and place.
The experience of death and its corresponding rituals in the 21st century is much different that that of the past, as a direct result of overlapping beliefs and definitions of the sacred. The importance then, of a designed space that makes an impact on the memory of the visitor, in essence creates the reason to keep returning to the space, as a sort of ritual commemorating the loved ones lost.
The Ruins Remembrance Centre will be located at 100 rue des Ruines du Monastery, in Winnipeg Manitoba at the site of the century old (1904-1905) monastery ruins. The building will be home to a full service memorial centre that acknowledges the current environmental impact of traditional funerary practices and burial. The Ruins Remembrance Centre focuses upon challenging the existing model of the funeral home by giving individuals a more humanistic, natural, and ecological focus to the processes surrounding bereavement. The unique typology that is the remembrance centre accommodates those who are looking for an alternative ceremony to celebrate the life of a loved one. The Centre includes a non-denominational transformable/flexible space that fulfills the role of memorial chapel, reception and celebration space. The celebration of life ceremonies, typically begin with a remembrance service followed by a procession that concludes with a natural burial in the living memorial park directly across the river from the building. A reception follows the service and procession.
1 Pallasmaa, Juhani. (2005). The Eyes of the Skin. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.