Sanguine Lily: 1916 Centenary Chapel at Glasnevin Cemetery
Because architecture is inseparable from the circumstances that determined it, these factors, behind any building, shape its material presence. The proposed design for the 1916 Centenary Chapel at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin is no exception. To match the aspirations of a population whose struggle for self-determination is as legendary, as it is tenacious, it became a necessity to conceive an edifice of authority. The structure’s institutional weight mirrors both political intent and metaphorical cues characteristic of those defining moments.
The Easter Rising in 1916 marked the inevitable rise of Ireland’s political independence. Against what was known to be superior military power and resources, the uprising lasted only five days but was a momentous call for freedom. Following the uprising, 232 casualties were buried in a mass grave in the Glasnevin Cemetery.
This design for a 1916 Centenary Chapel at Glasnevin Cemetery pays homage to these lost loved ones. It aims to bring together a unifying whole in the greater Dublin community, acting as a portal for lost loved ones, while being a symbol of indissoluble unity amongst the living.
The 1916 Centenary Chapel at Glasnevin Cemetery was designed as a beacon of hope, a lighthouse in the darkness of unmanageable events. The assertive figuration of the scheme is at once literal and allegorical. Both in plan and in its three-dimensional resolution, the primary goal is a definition of an iconic addition to the city skyline, yet grounded in the factual events tied to this very place. Its design inspiration is picked up from three key metaphorical messages: nationalism (Lily), sacrifice (232), and baptism – rebirth (Reflecting Pool).
This design seeks to build upon the rich symbolic repertoire of the nation by directly referencing the petal of an Easter Lily. To this day, the Lily, appears in graffiti across the country. The Easter Lily functions as a formal source and as an unequivocal reminder of those pivotal events that in the end unfettered the people of this land. The unexpected counterpoint to the somber memories of that bloody period, the organic nature of the chapel’s architecture conveys lightness, promotes serenity, and elicits contemplation in the visitors. Like an elegant raised skirt, the curvaceous edges of this glassed chapel are lifted to make of the burial area of the citizens that died in those five days the visual continuum inseparable in the interior experience. It is here, where life ends, that architecture expressed its most principled ideal to give voice to the universal within each of us.
The 232 glass sphere lights suspended from the ceiling each represent the soul of a casualty from the uprising ascending to heaven to form a luminous crown visible in the nocturnal sky, giving visual form to their ultimate sacrifice thus making the chapel a perpetual beacon of unity for city dwellers.
The East-West orientation of the chapel axis is generative of a longitudinal space sitting on an elliptical water basin. In this arrangement, the mass grave becomes the focal point on the north side, visually integrated into the chapel’s experience.
Surrounded by a large oval reflecting pool, a metaphorical baptismal font sponsors the renewal of the vows of Irish people to the country’s independence, the chapel appears from afar to be a petal floating on a puddle of water. This rich symbolic dimension, of a critical historical moment, references the structure of an overall image of the project. In 1915 Patrick H. Pearse, who drafted the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and who is considered one of the founding fathers of the country, gave a speech to honor the death of O’Donovan Rossa, a chief figure in the Irish Republican Brotherhood buried in the cemetery. In that address, he laid down the moral foundations for the unwavering resolve of his people to set Ireland free. Honoring the remains of a staunch believer in the self-determination of the country’s citizens, Pearse renewed the “baptismal vows” of his generation to fight the British rule until victory.
The Centenary Chapel aims at joining the past, present, and future and shapes it to an elegant and refined structure that will stand resolute for all to remember their common history.
Location Dublin, Ireland
RIAI Awards and Competition, Dublin, Ireland
Renderings by Form4 Architecture / Downtown
F4 Team: John Marx
2016 Jury Winner, Architecture +Rendering A+Award, Architizer
2015 1st Place, Conceptual Architecture, International Design Awards
2014 Grand Winner, Gold Nugget Awards
2014 Future Projects/Competition Award, Shortlisted, World Architecture Festival
2014 Public Building Concept, Honorable Mention, Re-thinking the Future Awards
2014 World’s Top 100 Designs of 2014, Architecture 256 Magazine
2014 The Korean Institute of Architects “100 Architects of the Year”