Noted architects often have uninspiring graves

A new book suggests while noted architects may have designed important buildings, their gravesites don’t often reflect their skills:

I was inspired to visit Graceland, located at 4001 N. Clark St. and home to the graves of many other notable Chicagoans, by the new book, “Their Final Place: A Guide to the Graves of Notable American Architects.” This slim, self-published volume is no masterwork, but it raises an intriguing question: How, if at all, do architects, who spend their working lives creating monuments for clients, choose to memorialize themselves?…

What Kuehn discovered is surprising: The aforementioned memorials at Graceland, which distill the essence of their subjects’ architectural style and achievements, are the exception, not the rule. Many architects are buried beneath simple headstones. Some look as if they were ordered from a catalog.

“It seems strange that these great architects, who created landmark structures during their lives, put so little thought into how they themselves would be memorialized for time eternal,” Kuehn writes. “Apparently most of these architectural giants, like most of us ordinary people, either did not feel like dealing with death or felt that a lasting memorial for them was not important.”…

Yet he notes a countertrend: Many architects have had their ashes scattered on bodies of water, on landscapes or in buildings that have special meaning. There’s no memorial to Chicago architect Harry Weese at Graceland; Weese, a sailor, wanted his ashes scattered on Lake Michigan. In another interesting tidbit, Kuehn reports that the ashes of Paul Rudolph, a former dean of Yale’s architecture school, were distributed in several places, including the ventilating system of the Rudolph-designed Yale Art and Architecture Building (now called Rudolph Hall).

Perhaps these architects put all they have into “living” buildings or the scale of a memorial is simply too small? The flipside of an analysis like this would be to then look at the people who do make elaborate plans for their graves and death. If they aren’t architects, are there patterns to those who do prepare?

I do wonder how more elaborate memorials might be received. I’ve seen a few articles over the years criticizing larger gravestones or mausoleums, tying the excessive size and cost to McMansions. The key here might be to create tasteful, innovative, and relatively small graves.

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