mardi 21 juin 2011

The Metropolitan Sepulchre - Le gratte-ciel des morts où l'etrange histoire de la première nécropole verticale

"In 1820 a little-known architect named Thomas Wilson proposed a plan for “a metropolitan cemetery on a scale commensurate with the necessities of the largest city in the world, embracing prospectively the demands of centuries, sufficiently capacious to receive five million of the dead, where they may repose in perfect security, without interfering with the comfort, the health, the business, the property, or the pursuits of the living.” What he proposed, in short, was a massive pyramid, its base covering eighteen acres and its height well above that of St. Peter’s Cathedral—a metropolitan sepulcher, a skyscraper for the dead.

Wilson envisioned massive flights of stairs on each side of the pyramid, leading to an obelisk on top that would include an observatory. In the gardens around the pyramid, a sculpture garden would counterpoint the “bold, monotonous, and sombre background of the pyramid;” not just a house for the dead, it would be a monument for all of London.

“This grand mausoleum,” Wilson claimed, “will go far towards completing the glory of London. It will rise in majesty over its splendid fanes and lofty towers—teaching the living to die, and the dying to live for ever.” Moreover, it would pay for itself. At £5 per burial (around $500 today) the project would return a tidy profit for its investors.

Wilson’s idea was rejected in favor of the garden cemetery plan recently pioneered in Paris’s Père Lachaise. Specifically, the cemetery was designed as an antidote to city life; it was an idyllic natural repose where the living could escape the bustle of the city by communing in verdant fields with their loved ones. Wilson’s pyramid, on the other hand, was to be an extension of it—just as urbanites dwelled in spectacular architecture and ever-taller buildings, so too might their dearly departed."


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