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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Spires of Mourning: Urban Necropoli

In the course of editing/completing the overdue-post about the Spires of Mourning for the Riskail setting, originally planned for Veteran's Day, I did a quick Google search on the term 'Spires of Mourning,' and I discovered the following from: Lapham's Quarterly, which is a site that I fully intend to go back to, as it merits a great deal more scrutiny indeed.
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.”

This intriguing concept at the very cutting edge of the Nineteenth Century is further developed by Colin Dickey in an essay Necropolis, and at the Roundtable blog section of Lapham's Quarterly: Skyscrapers of the Dead.  The essay is interesting, and the Skyscrapers of the Dead piece offers some nice examples of how this idea has been developed out in the world we all share. 

There must be some psycho-squamous and inscrutible thing in the water, or squirming about out in the blogosphere since Telecanter recently posted about Hanging Coffins, and that bare-knuckled genius Warren Ellis has also latched onto this idea from Lapham's Quarterly over at his blog as well.  Good company to be keeping in both regards.  Besides, the mausoleum-tower/pyramids of Thomas Wilson have been out there since 1820, so it's about time someone did something with them...

As for the Memory-Ships mentioned in the Spires piece at Riskail, it looks like Hong Kong is (maybe) going to do something similar, only they're looking at building floating cemetary-islands, not autonomous ships, but then, if a particular ship were to get big enough and full enough, perhaps it would tether itself off somewhere and effectively become something of a floating island cemetary moored off amongst some of the quieter, less traveled backwater by-ways of the Estuarial Marshes.  It's cool when the 'real world' catches up to some of these bizarre notions; it also spurs one on to then see how much farther such concepts can be taken...

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting.

    You may find this inspiring, too.

    http://www.forestlawnmemorialsouth.com/dm20/en_US/locations/04/0402/photo-gallery.page

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  2. Cool. Thanks for the link! There is a suprisingly large population of dead, amortal, undead and post-dead individuals in Riskail, so this sort of thing is important, at least to the various Necrosophics, Necropolitans and other similarly antebiological factions...

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