The cemetery as figure of intimate public space

Abstract : The cemetery is an architectural and urbanistic organisation of bodies and monuments reflecting a physical, social and cultural context. The bodies and ashes are intended for disappearance in the invisible world while the monuments represent a sign of immortality on the visible side of the world. They are the materialisation of the dead one can lean on for remembrance, grieving process, construction of the individual or collective story. The autonomy of the cemetery fall within the cultural practice. As symbolic place of rest and pragmatical place of storage, it has is own legal and moral framework. Moreover, these spaces are a powerfull imagination shifter that allows to transit from one world to the other, to get closer to the dead loved ones, to travel in ones own biography, to meditate over ones own finitude. As a place of silence and immobility, it contrasts with other urban public spaces. But what do the different architectural and urbanistic organisations of bodies and monuments tell us about our relation to death, to the dead and the other living beings ? What community do the bodies and the signs draw spatially? And how do these spatial organisations afford or not certain situations, positions, postures, movements, gestures or attitudes ? Can the cemetery, as figure of intimate urban space, help us to think public space anew? The notion of ambiance will be usefull to apprehend the complexity of spatial experience and the notion of threshold, thought as articulation of not only spatial but also temporal, practical or symbolical entities, will help us to detect variations in ambiances and reveal the dynamics involved in sensory experience of urban spaces. Leaning on empirical work on funerary spaces and practices (audio and video recordings, observations, interviews) and a selected litterature, this communication aims to develop the thought that architectures and ambiances support or prevent autonomy of action, movement, gesture. It means also to reveal how architecture, as science of subtle correspondences (tibetan meaning), and as medium for memory, has a role to play in the fabrication of the individual and common story we are weaving every day. In the french context of deep transformation of funerary practices and its legal framework, we will present some contemporary design answers, the spatial practices coming out and question theirs moral repercussions.
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Conference papers
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Contributor : Pascaline Thiollière <>
Submitted on : Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 2:10:28 PM
Last modification on : Monday, April 8, 2019 - 4:56:02 PM

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Pascaline Thiollière. The cemetery as figure of intimate public space . International Architecture Philosophy Conference Autonomy Reconsidered: Ethics in Architecture, Urbanism and Landscape, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, Jul 2014, Delft, Netherlands. ⟨halshs-01475032⟩

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