Monumental Masonry

Reignite interest in funerary architecture. London, December to January 2015

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MONUMENTAL MASONRY - Sir John Soane's Museum, December to January 2015

Monumental Masonry called for architects and designers to create epic monuments in a magnificent celebration of death, and was a collaboration between Bompas & Parr and Sir John Soane’s Museum.

The resultant models created, on display at the museum from 6th December 2014 until 26th January 2015, were auctioned by Christie’s at a spectacular launch night that included an 18th century horse-drawn hearse, live stonemasonry, the extraction of guests’ tears to create memento mori to give their loved ones, candlelit tours of the museum’s crypt (complete with hermit) and Corpse Reviver cocktails served to the music guests said they’d like to hear at their own funeral. The scent of lilies (the flower of death) hung in the air.

The competition was designed to reignite interest in funerary architecture, tombs and mausolea inspired by the sarcophagus housed in the basement of Sir John Soane’s Museum. It attracted 120 entries from international architects and designers. Mausolea are interesting architecturally as they are removed from the usual practicalities required for human interaction in finished buildings, and allow designers to ignore the usual rules governing structure and form – however they are arguably a neglected aspect of the architectural discipline.

Soane himself was a famed creator of funerary architecture and had a fascination for concepts of death. The models of mausolea within his collection are powerful gateways to other architectural ideas and were essential tools in articulating architectural concepts for his students, clients and assistants. The Soane family tomb that he designed at St Pancras Old Church Gardens provided the inspiration for Giles Gilbert Scott’s iconic British red telephone box.

Some 24 designs were shortlisted by Bompas & Parr and these were then scored on narrative and rationale, relevance and ‘monumentality’ by a panel of judges that comprised architects, a professional stonemason, palliative care experts and the Mayor of London’s cultural office.

The Top Ten best scoring entries (in alphabetical order) were by Ben Allen – Memorial to Lost Concentration; Sebastian Bergne – Tomb of the Past (awarded first prize); Shaun Clarkson – Shaun Clarkson's Mausoleum (awarded second prize); Deathlab/LATENT – Constellation Park (awarded third prize); DSDHA – Monumentimals; Marc Benjamin Drewes – Celebration of death; Ordinary Architecture – The Tomb of the Unknown Draughtsman; Paul M Jakulis – Wax Studies, A Tomb for a Nicrophorus Investigator; Tonkin Liu – Face to Face: Sir John; Nathan Webb – Immortality Mask. Their models were 3D-printed by Kall Kwik and Digits2Widgets and raised £5,000 for Sir John Soane’s Museum and cancer charity Maggie’s.

Photography by Ann Charlott Ommedal.