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ar_aug_2004 _ROJO_REVISED

20/9/04

Spain, like Italy, maintains a most


distinguished tradition of tombbuilding, but in many places it is
becoming eroded by what Manuel
Clavel Rojo calls a kitch-esque
style, with a language composed of
PVC door and window frames and
bathroom tiles ornamented by
plastic flowers and musical angels.
So when he was asked to make a
family mausoleum in the little La
Alberca cemetery in a pine forest
on the edge of Murcia in south-east
Spain, Rojo was determined to
return dignity and simplicity to the
rites of burial and mourning. Yet he
did not want to fall into what he
considers to be the trap of wistful
Classicism like Loos and Aalto with
their broken column grave stones.
The Murcia tomb is orthogonal,
with no references to history; it

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Page 58

speaks through light, space and


materials. It is made of slate and
glass with a big wooden door, and
is fronted by a simple rusted steel
cross. Built on a slope, the tomb is
designed to enhance the vertical
dimension of the entrance
sequence that rises from a massive
slate base that emerges from the
hillside in rather the way that Peter
Zumthors thermal bath protrudes
geologically from its Alpine incline
at Vals (AR August 1997).
The tomb chamber is entered at
the lower level through a narrow,
3.6m high door of solid wenge
wood which, once opened, reveals
a shaft of luminance falling from the
tall translucent panel that rises
vertically in the upper part of the
entrance sequence. The panel is
made of thick sheets of glass laid

horizontally on top of each other


with slightly ragged edges that,
externally, give the glass a texture
that relates to the surrounding
slate blocks. Looking up from the
doorway, an image of the metal
cross is discernible through the
translucent plane, while its shadow
is thrown on the thick glass when
the sun is in the right direction.
Rojo calls the platform on top of
the slate block an altar where
burial occurs. It is of travertine,
penetrated by two slots. One is for
the internment ritual, in which the
coffin is lowered down into the
tomb-chamber, while the actual
insertion of the remains into their
niche is hidden from above. This
opening is closed by a solid slab of
Pakistani onyx, which can be slid in
and out of position.

1
Tomb speaks through light, space
and materials. In foreground is onyx
slab covering coffin entrance.

DIGNITY IN DEATH
Imaginative understanding of materials makes this tomb a fitting set for rites of passage.

M AUSOLEUM , M URCIA ,
S PAIN
ARCHITECT
M ANUEL C LAVEL R OJO

ar_aug_2004 _ROJO_REVISED

20/9/04

12:35 pm

Page 60

A shallow pool with a glass base is


formed in the other slot in the
travertine. Here, water is
continuously in motion, gently
pouring from a smooth slot. So the
light that passes through the pool
to the underground chamber
flickers, in contrast to the more
constant luminance from the onyx
slab and the translucent vertical
glass panel. In daytime, the space is
filled with constantly changing light,
a reminder of the evanescent
nature of life in the constant, calm
presence of death. E. M.
Architect
Manuel Clavel Rojo
Project team
Luis Clavel, Jos Estrada, Jose Domingo Egea,
Antonio Victoria, Jose Antonio Abad,
Marmoles Santa Catalina, Cristaleria Acriper
Photographs
All photographs by Juan de la Cruz Megas,
apart from no 4 which is by David Frutos Ruiz

2
Visitors entrance is at lower level
with huge translucent panel above.
3
Travertine podium is an altar for
burial rites. In foreground coffin
entrance, beyond pool slot.
4
Chamber with light from onyx slab.
5
Cross with pool behind.

1 niches
2 coffin entrance above
3 pool above

1
3

1
1

plan of chamber (scale approx 1:100)

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M AUSOLEUM , M URCIA ,
S PAIN
ARCHITECT
M ANUEL C LAVEL R OJO

axonometric section

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