An unprecedented number of recent articles in popular and health journals focus on the physicality of death and dying. In this context, the thesis seizes this moment and proposes an architecture that constructs and registers the concept of death and dying and mediates the tensions between hope and fear, health and illness, sharing and isolation that lie at the core of the contemporary hospice.
Over the course of time, architecture has provided changing forms to the condition of dying. Originally, it was institutionalized in ecclesial communal building typologies that would bring death to the altar, facilitating perpetual confession. It was followed by a shift to the modern hospital that transformed healthcare architecture into a machine for isolating illness and moving air followed. The hospice emerged in the 20th century as an alternative to dying in hospital environments, typically “devoid of feeling and which contribute much to the isolation of the dying.”1 At its core, the hospice accommodates the needs of those with less than six months to live in a comforting environment.
However, this particular environment has yet to find its architectural language, merely cloaking hospital elements in assumed “homey” fabrics on the interior and cladding the exterior in half-timbered facades, a formula that recalls the domestic. In this context, a new hospice paradigm is envisioned to capture the changes surrounding death and its “culture of silence,” amplified to include contemporary rituals that engage the senses of sight, touch, and hearing.
1 Norbert Elias, The Loneliness of the Dying (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1985), 28.