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in Orbetello


Project by: Eli Austin & Alexander Estes


“then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”  Dealing with the studio’s theme of Bonificare we were conceptually interested in a different interpretation of the term.  As opposed to the reclamation of the earth, we are dealing with the reclamation of the body and soul.  From this, our project is a funerary grounds operating on the two drastically different sides of our site in Orbetello.  These two sides of the site, field and quarry suggested to us two different interpretations and manifestations of a funerary program.  With the field being composed of the space for the dead, the cemetery and mausoleum, and the quarry consisting of spaces for the living, various emotional and contemplative pavilions.  However, this duality is not completely rigid.  Both sides of the site promote and suggest multiple interpretations of dealing with grief and loss as well as different perceptions of life.  Within this framework, we have investigated and deployed the use of many different types and forms of stone in order to exemplify these qualities and convey an interconnectivity with the body and the earth.  


Our research into the grounds of production and extraction in the Maremma region consisted of  analysis into the production of stone; specifically Travertine within the Saturnia Travertini Italia Quarry. We identified formal qualities of extraction, excavation, subtraction, stratification, and striation which informed our analysis of the quarry process. We then designed a pavilion that translates the various scales, textures and material qualities of travertine into a series of cascading spaces. 


Using our studies of stone and quarries as a jumping off point we decided to investigate and scan congregations of stone, natural and man made, within Florence.  Specifically, within the confines of the river that runs through florence.  Shifting from the literal scan, we saw an opportunity to investigate the formal tectonics of the scan through the use of texture mapping.  Doing this in conversation with the formal characteristics we identified in the stones we formulated an irregular grid from the irregular logic of the random distribution of stones within our scanned grounds from which we melted and transformed into a regular ground also present within the scans.  This delicate balance between regular and irregular, or order and disorder resulted in a series of figure ground drawings and renderings from which we extracted strategies and operations that eventually began to inform parts of our cemetery grounds.  


Regarding the cemetery side of our project, we utilized multiple ways of working with stone in order to inform different interpretations and readings of the various funerary programs present within our project.  In our research into Italian funerary grounds we identified the importance  of a mausoleum flanked by a loggia surrounding the inner cemetery site.  Creating a barrier or separation between the profane and mundane ground of the everyday from the holy ground of the cemetery.  This is manifested in our project through a reconceptualization of both elements, a gabion mausoleum and a cloth loggia as well as the introduction of an interconnected reflecting pool.  Using stones extracted from the site, the mausoleum becomes a transformation of the present grid within the cemetery, containing the ashes of those past as well as pieces of the earth.  Allowing those who wish to be buried above ground in such a mausoleum to still return to the earth.  The ashes are kept above ground but still surrounded by stone/earth.  Along with this, the form factor of the gabion mausoleum creates a transparency in the mass.  Allowing light to shine through in different ways at various times of the day and year.  Continuing on this concept of transparency and chiaroscuro, the mausoleum is shrouded in a cloth loggia.    Symbolic of the veil over the body, this cloth loggia is a dynamic element.  It contains the mausoleum within while simultaneously allowing for a transparency of light and views through.  Additionally it changes the spatial experience of the surrounding space of the mausoleum through its interaction with the wind and weather, introducing a temporal aspect to the space.  Within the confines of the mausoleum and loggia is the cemetery ground itself which contains the graves of those lost.  These graves are then organized into a grid of regular blocks, inside each regular block is an irregular transformation of such a block which contains the burial grounds.  Within these blocks is again a separation of ground through the use of stone, with travertine and pietra serena curbs marking the transition between the earth and burial ground.  Connecting these burial blocks are a series of weaving paths that create points of entrance into the holy grounds as well as interject the site with a condition of wandering or nomadic tendency, parable to an interpretation of life as a whole. 


Within the cemetery grounds is a non denominational chapel that circumvents the typical formal structure of abrahamic religious buildings in order to inform more of a spiritual sense of being.  Formally a spiral, the chapel allows entry from all sides, pulling one into the central space of “worship”.  In relation to the other pavilions on the quarry side of the project, the chapel is constructed out of two forms of stone, rough and smooth.  Rough marks the threshold of entry into the central space which then is composed of smooth stone.  


The pavilion of contemplation consists of a space only large enough for one person.  One enters into a staircase in the ground traveling through rough stone before they arrive in a room of calm.  Open to the sky, the occupier is suggested to sit on a stone and peer into the projected space before them.  A pyramidal form projected horizontally into the earth absent of all light acts as the void with which one can enter their thoughts and contemplate death as well as life.    


The heavy pavilion, in a similar fashion to the others, is a space open to the interpretation of the occupant.  An elongated space carved into the earth with massive stones suspended above the heads of those within.  As one may typically look downwards in a state of grief, this space suggests one to look up and recognize and reflect on the scale of themselves and what may be hanging over them.


The time pavilions again carves into the earth to reveal a repetition of three spaces.  Each space contains a pool of water and a set of stairs descending into the water.  However each space contains a different condition of water.  One contains a spout gushing and splashing water into the pool, the next simply drops droplets of water into the pool creating slight ripples in the water, and the last is simply a still pool of water allowing for reflection in the sun.  Again suggesting different interpretations, this pavilion promotes a transition between stages of emotion.   


The pavilion for self is again a carved underground space which is arranged around a central void that brings light deep into the earth. The Individual contemplative rooms lined with cloth are meant to bring people together that are dealing with similar traumas of grief. The rooms are designed to only allow for an individual to sit in the room alone to be with their thoughts but to feel as though they are not alone, corresponding to each other in an axis.

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