REST STOP II – THE WASHING STATION
The washing station houses the ablution facilities that are needed to prepare bodies for burial. Because of its central location it is visible and easily accessible by car, which opens up the possibility to weave in a stream of visitors that is not necessarily connected to the funeral ritual.
The building consists of a heavy volume framed by a lightweight steel structure. At arrival, the structure channels the visitor towards the building as it is extended over the parking area.
The roof space is conditioned by a solar-textile shading that generates the energy needed for the building. The flat public space, elevated above the trees, can be used for different purposes: to drink a coffee, to watch an exhibition about the shrines in Mashhad, or to look over the vast agricultural fields that feed the city. Specific volumes, such as the cylinder protrude through the roof, hint to the various stages of the washing ritual.
On the other side of the building, one finds a bus terminal that connects to the rest of the territory: the playscape, the shrines, the cemetery or the view tower.
Using the excavated earth of the playscape, and blood from the meat industries around the watch tower, the volume of the washing station is constructed with walls of bio-stabilized rammed earth. Using natural materials ensures that the wall could potentially be fully deconstructed without leaving a trace of pollution. The thick walls condition the space where the washing ritual takes place.
The design deals with the mechanization of the washing ritual in which the traditional steps of washing are performed by a machine. As an alternative to the disengagement of the relatives and the washing process (current situation), active waiting rooms are designed parallel to the two washing lines, accommodating a sequential experience of different spaces based on a spatial translation of the washing process.
In stage IV, the body is washed in a process that is repeated three times, with three different substances. Relatives walk on top of an elevated pathway with fine sand, coarse sand and gravel underneath. A big cylinder brings rainwater down that is collected by the textile roof. It runs down through the different filters underneath the walkway so that it can be used in the building.
Contrasting the washing space, the space inside the cylinder is high and filled with light coming from above. The cylinder punctures the roof and fills the building with light, air and water, a functionality that is communicated through its detailing, emphasizing this particular moment of the washing ritual.
The visitor re-enters the hallway next to the space where the shrouding ritual takes place and the body is wrapped in different layers of white cloth. Referring to this act, the massive exterior wall becomes layered and opens up, letting light in that directs the relative to the end of the hallway, where the body comes out of the machine, fully prepared for the last prayer and burial.
Water and its purity are highly valued in Islam, as water is believed to sustain all life on earth. In the arid climate of Mashhad, water is a scarcity. As stated before, water is collected via the roof and filtered before being used in the building. After use, the water is filtered using reed fields and then released into the river. The reedbeds also function as a purifier for the polluted river itself.
Point of Transition
The dual functionality of the washing station allows visitors that are normally unrelated to the ritual come in contact with the washing process through the spatial experience of its architecture. The station is a point of transition: an entrance to the territory for the relative of the deceased engaging in the ritual, the tourist starting a tour, and water flowing into the river.