A Tomb for Conversation - For Kafka & Dostoyevsky


An imagined cemetery where Franz Kafka and Fyodor Dostoyevsky would be buried together, honoring their imagined conversations.

This project begin as a class project for the undergraduate class Skills and Processes for Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Chicago, where we were prompted to design a tomb for two artists. 

Kafka and Dostoyevsky both inject a very distinct spatial imagery into their writings -- the twisted court attics in The Trial, the snow-burdened village in The Castle, and the St. Petersburg apartment of Raskalnikov...This is not a coincidence, afterall, both are writing in an age of rapid modern/urban development, which brought about new alienating conditions for human beings. Both authors wrote vividly about spaces of anxiety and sought to find a way out. For Dostoyevsky, the answer lies in Orthodox Christiannity. On the other hand, Kafka explored alternate, peripheral positions from which one can observe structures of power, sometimes successfully and other times not.
I sought to capture these narrative themes in the spatial design of the cemetery. After passing through the woods, our visitors arrive at anentrance which takes them underground into a claustrophobic maze. Eventually, they arrive at the other side into the open, where Kafka and Dostoyevsky would be buried. Rising up from the ground, they can now look back at the ground-level traces of the maze they just passed through, now barely the height of their waist. The visitor’s journey follows Dostoyevsky’s themes of suffering, confusion, and lastly salvation. It complements Kafka by putting the visitors, at the very end, in a position of propspect that allows them to observe the structures that had previously trapped them.

But, just like the mice in Kafka’s “A Little Fable”, the visitor is never forced to go through the underground. It is merely a choice that they are invited to make. And so the cemetery is an open space: the visitor can walk around through the trees and wander among “the city of the dead” above in whatever direction they wish.

Somewhere in rural Central Europe...

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