Architecture for Silence

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Perspective View, Students

Architecture for Silence

Leina Godin

Prof Martin Bressani and Fabrizio Gallanti @ McGill University

*This post is part of a collaboration with McGill Univeristy where we will be sharing a selection of unrealized student projects.


This project proposes an architectural alternative on how we process death, overcoming the sense of powerlessness by re-defining the funerary procession in the densely populated city of Tokyo.

Contemporary Japanese rituals of death are undergoing changes as the population faces a persistently low birth rate with a rapidly ageing population. Atmospheres of Japanese funerals seem to be changing as well where the mourners feel less bound by old conventions. Thus the cultural shifts in Japanese traditions pushes the funeral industry to reassess the notion of funerals with trade fairs for them becoming more common and present.

How does architecture play a role in this ever-changing funerary procession? Can architecture be the catalyst in transforming the modern funeral and what could then be the new relationship between death and the city? Indeed, death in the contemporary city is at a critical point where a new solution is mandatory.

This led to a vertical urban solution, housing all funerary acts from the moment of demise till burial, where the emphasis is on functionality while balancing the artistic and architectural freedom that cemeteries should offer to the­ public. The project creates a new pathway and a new machine for a more fluid, concise, and personal experience of death; a muted moment away from the city noise.


This project addresses the pressing demographic issues of Japan, while setting a precedent for what many developed countries may encounter in the future. The architectural solution is an efficient, sensible, and silent design amidst the density, chaos and noise of Tokyo.




Who influences you graphically?

Too many to count. The works of various architecture studios – particularly BRUTHER or LAN, firms that tend to use a simple yet clear monochromatic language. I think that student work, presented on Instagram through their own school’s platform or on others like koozarch or pinterest inspire me as well. And to top it off, I like to follow magazines and blogs like Mark Magazine, Domus, or Socks studio and Fig projects.


What is the effect and purpose of the white frame?

 The white frame essentially tries to emphasize and elevate the content. I firmly believe that each piece of information offered in an architectural presentation deserves its own panel, in its own frame, and presented as a stand-alone piece that can then compliment the other panels to create a whole picture. I personally prefer this method of one-off pieces rather than large panels having everything compiled on it like in competition format.

Another reason in this particular project was that white is the symbolic color of death in Japanese culture – white was omnipresent throughout the development of this thesis.


What dictated the graphic language of the project?

The graphic language oscillated between the popular infographic language you find in Japan everywhere and realistic renders of the interior experiences. This was definitely dictated by the concept, which as a topic is sober, a bit dark, and frightening to some. I tried to be playful with the diagrams and the over-simplification of the actual events going on in the project but then re-inserting the affective nature of the spaces in the renders.


Were there any parameters when constructing the different views? What were the main objectives/atmosphere you wanted to convey?

I really wanted to limit the views to only the significant experiences in the project. Focusing again on how to express the silence and muted architecture, which is then emphasized by the monumentality of the project. The main intent of the visuals was to represent an alternative way of facing death. I did this by limiting the color palette and tone, ridiculous verticality, dark rooms and a lot of white.

I aimed for an atmosphere that is dark, simple, clear, a bit too monumental. But the experience of a procession, such as the one designed, demanded something that would leave you in a bit of awe and confusion..



What defined the choice of the axonometric and the views as means through which to reveal the proposal?

I like how concise the axonometric is as a means of representation of architecture. I feel like it gives the most amount of information without jeopardising the graphics of the project or the clarity of the content… It’s my favourite means of communicating a global representation of architectural designs. It’s the introduction and conclusion of my thesis.



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