Let life be beautiful like summer flowers, and death like autumn leaves.
—— Rabindranath Tagore “Stray Birds”
Cutting through a piece of green moss, I stole the huge sky. The white clouds seemed to float out of a mirror, and a bright moon quietly fell on the steps.
—— Mu Du "The Basin".
It is said in "Coco" that a person will die three times in the life. The first time is when your heart stops beating and your breathing disappears; the second time is when you are declared to cease to exist in this society at your funeral; the third time is when you are forgotten by the last person in this world who remembers you. Therefore, death is not the end of our life, but being forgotten is.
It is taboo to talk about "death" in Chinese traditional concepts, so we use other words instead, such as "nirvana", "passed away", "ascend to heaven", "rest in peace", "eternal sleep", "gone" ... Try not to mention the word "death". But after all, death is the truth of life that everyone has to face. During the long journey of life, learning to accept death is the homework we all need to do in the whole life.
Chinese are deeply influenced by traditional etiquette such as Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Fengshui culture and traditional living environment. For the dead, they hope to be buried in their hometown, just like falling leaves returning to their roots. Over time, the cemetery has become an ancient and very commemorative place. Most traditional Chinese cemeteries have always continued many elements of ancient cemeteries. The buildings are heavy and dull Chinese or antique architectural styles, give people a heavy, depressing, even gloomy and terrifying psychological feeling.
The architectural practice of Cloud Mirror gives us the opportunity to think more deeply about death. Placing death in the dimension of time, the pain and fear are actually fleeting, leaving behind more missing. At this special time point in 2021, we want to alleviate the pain of death, especially the depressing brought by tradition to the living, through design. When you get close to death, you will have many inexplicable questions, such as “in what form will I die? What is my funeral like? Where is the burial? Who will choose the place of burial for myself? In what form will relatives and friends pay homage to me? Will they soon forget me? ...” This will lead to all actions, whether important or trivial to answer these doubts.
"Every one of us has worked hard all our lives for a better place to live." When you face death, you may also hope that you can be placed in a Fengshui treasure land, and you can continue to enjoy an ideal residence in another world. For the deceased, it is a spiritual continuation of the good life before death, and for the living, it is the common wish of most people to use this to bless their descendants. Some people choose their own cemetery before they are alive, looking for an ideal residence in a hundred years; while the living will also go to the cemetery from time to time to mourn the memory of the dead under the traction of longing. The cemetery has become an important carrier connecting the emotions of the living and the dead, it’s not only a place for the dead, but a spiritual sanctuary for the living.
Shijiazhuang Ander Memorial Park is located at the eastern foot of the Taihang Mountains, with numerous surrounding natural scenic areas. The project site features magnificent and beautiful scenery, lush greenery, making it an excellent Fengshui treasure land. The design of the Cloud Mirror aims to respect traditional funeral culture while transforming the design concept of traditional cemeteries. With a focus on landscaping, artistry, and personalization, it seeks to embody a harmonious, peaceful, relaxed, and warm humanistic landscape atmosphere with a strong sense of ceremony and artistry. The emotion-free warm spaces aim to provide people with physical and mental relaxation and allow the living to heal their sorrows while offering a resting place for the deceased. The goal is to achieve a symbiotic and joyful coexistence between humans and nature.
As the saying goes, every person who leaves will turn into a star in the sky...
"I am grateful that our light cones once overlapped each other, and you changed my star path forever. Even if we never see each other again, you are the reason why my galaxy has not fallen apart, and the eternal composition of my cosmic web. Love is not will be obliterated, and the dead never go far."
The blinking of stars is one of the most mysterious and beautiful natural phenomena in the universe. For different cultures and belief systems, stars have different meanings and symbols. The ancient Babylonians regarded the planets as gods, and each planet corresponds to a god; the ancient Greeks connected the stars together and imagined them into various images, and staged exciting myths and hero legends in the starry sky; the division and naming of the ancient Chinese starry sky The system was established under the cultural tradition of "harmony between man and nature", and developed three walls, four images, twenty-eight constellations and so on. Human ancestors' imagination of the starry sky all originated from their own lives. Different living environments and production characteristics determine the variety and richness of the starry sky culture. Today, stars are not only celestial bodies that exist independently in nature, but also gradually become a cultural carrier endowed with rich ideological connotations and emotional colors by human beings. At all times and in all over the world, countless celebrities and poets have described the stars with emotion, conveying the common emotions of human beings: eternity and loneliness, parting and longing, hope and dreams, etc. In order to balance people's different religious beliefs. The design of Cloud Mirror chooses neutral architectural language to shape the scene, and the star becomes the core image expressing architectural emotion.
We take the triangle in the star-shaped element to refer to the star. The triangle is the basic figure of the geometric pattern, and the equilateral triangle is the most stable structure. There are a lot of classic applications in architecture. The equilateral triangle becomes the core image embryo of the cloud mirror. Extended by the imagery of stars, the nebula, the twenty-eight constellations and the most well-known Big Dipper among them have become important carriers for constructing the cloud mirror narrative scene. The Big Dipper is a star official belonging to Ziwei Enclosure. In traditional Chinese culture, the Big Dipper is the maker of the order of the world and the center of all things in the world.
Based on the star map of the Big Dipper and its symbolic meanings in traditional culture, the landscape nodes of the Cloud Mirror have emerged. The main entrance features a Time-Space Gate designed with the symbolism of Tianxuan (Merak), where a large circular mist gate and cloud installations on both sides create a unique artistic conception of "embracing both realms, hidden in the clouds". Adjacent to the entrance, a pond with the symbolism of Tianshu (Dubhe) has been meticulously restored, expanded, and transformed into a grand "basin", allowing the fragmented "Vermilion Bird" to regain its spirituality. Along the edges of the "basin" are two rows of tall, ceremonial green corridors constructed with majestic round cypresses. Stepping onto the "Wisdom Terrace" representing Tianquan (Megres), suspended above the "basin", one can gaze eastward. The "Time-Space Gate" is reflected in the emerald pool water, and looking eastward, a wide and vibrant grass slope unveils the soul of the site, the "Tree of Life". At the end of the grass slope is the "Realm of Nirvana", embedded in the mountain. The entire front area of the landscape follows the principles of simplicity and originality, creating a clean, spacious, natural, unique, and ceremonial landscape environment through the use of water, round cypresses, large lawns, dry streams, and preserved native plants.
The "Tree of Life" is a giant native scholar tree (Sophora japonica) located at the center of the site. With the changing seasons, its leaves flourish and fall, symbolizing the continuous cycle of life. The grand scholar tree engages in a dialogue with the valley, displaying its desolation and verdant faces. Having weathered storms and showers for over a hundred years, it bears witness to the enduring stories of the Nangou Valley in Biaocun. This magnificent tree serves as the soul of the entire site, resembling the brightest star, Yuheng (Alioth), in the Big Dipper. It represents an extraordinary, remarkable and vibrant symbol. People can gather under its shade for heartfelt conversations or sit alone beneath it for contemplation. We hope that in the future, it will accompany more individuals across the river of time, providing spiritual solace when faced with mortality.
The Cloud Mirror is the most significant supporting building in the memorial park, integrating functions such as the cemetery service center, memorial hall, ash storage center, meditation courtyard, restaurant, display of funeral items, flower sales, cemetery exhibition and cemetery management office. The Cloud Mirror is located at the end of the handle of the Big Dipper constellation, Yaoguang (Alkaid). In ancient times, it was a symbol of auspiciousness, representing fearlessness and rebirth. The triangular shape of the land at the foot of the mountain is combined with various scales of equilateral triangles to present the imagery of stars. The Cloud Mirror floats in the valley like a massive star, reflecting the distant stars in the sky. It symbolizes eternity, remembrance, protecting and strength. The design of the structure revolves around a central triangular skylight courtyard, where the layout, architectural form, and structural details fully consider the relationship between triangular elements and light and shadow. The skylights on the triangular roof and the triangular framework in the corners create a sacred and rich interplay of light and shadow in the service hall and courtyards. Every noon, sunlight penetrates through the glass skylights on the roof, breaking through the glass floor of the service hall, pouring down from the leaf installation in the central skylight courtyard, and penetrating through the translucent glass brick walls of the restaurant, illuminating the courtyard of the lower-level memorial hall. This beam of light connects heaven and earth, yin and yang, creating a sense of sacredness, clarity, and ceremony in the space, while also adding a touch of colorful warmth.
The central triangular skylight courtyard in the Cloud Mirror is also a symbol of the Chinese concept of “harmony between man and nature". The three sides of the triangle represent the three enclosures: the Ziwei Enclosure, the Taiwei Enclosure, and the Tianshi Enclosure. To enhance the ceremonial atmosphere of the building as a whole, twenty-eight columns are arranged around the perimeter, symbolizing the twenty-eight constellations in traditional Chinese culture, representing the changes of the four seasons and the cycle of life in the natural world. Each boundary of the three enclosures is equipped with a semi-outdoor space where people can stay, contemplate, and meditate. These three special places provide opportunities for people to engage in dialogue with nature, with themselves, and with the departed, serving as unique and emotionally healing spaces.
On the way to the cemetery, there is a small village where the buildings are constructed using rough stones and rammed earth. The roofs are covered with traditional grey tiles. The low-rise buildings nestle amidst the mountains and towering trees, almost hidden in the valley. To integrate the Cloud Mirror with the surrounding valley environment and create a scene of peace, the lower part of the building's exterior is constructed with rough stones, while the upper part is painted with warm-colored straw paint that matches the local soil color. The sloping roofs are covered with gray aluminum-magnesium-manganese roofing instead of traditional gray tiles. The entire building extends horizontally, embedded in the excavated mountain with a low profile. The local rough stone and straw paint exterior, lightweight eaves, warm wooden ceiling, and abundant transparent glass give the entire building a simple, bright, serene, light, and delicate appearance.
The service center, restaurant, display of funeral items, and cemetery exhibition, which are spaces where people spend a longer time, are all oriented towards the best views. The lush mountains and bright sunlight shine through the full-length glass, creating a natural, relaxing, and warm space for people.
The cemetery serves as an important carrier connecting the emotions of the living and the departed. In this unique architectural practice, we aspire to use design to bring a touch of warm solace to the weighty topic of "death" and provide healing to those who have experienced the loss of loved ones. We hope that the cemetery can be appreciated and cherished as another form of life, giving this ancient commemorative place ecological healing, emotional functions and artistic value, reflecting the humanistic and practical value of modern cemeteries.