Banality of Death


Jesse Verdoes

Figure 16 – Washing station from the highway

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.

Figure 17 – Plan drawing showing the connection between te station and the highway

Figure 18 – Elevation drawing

The Terminal

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.

Figure 19 – View from parking

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.

Figure 20 – View from roof towards agriculture

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.

Figure 21 – View from roof towards bus terminal


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.

Figure 22 – Rammed earth samples, one stabilised with water (left) the other stabilised with blood (right)

Figure 23 – Detailed cross section

The Ritual

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.

Figure 24 – Washing station plan and section

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.

Figure 25 – Stage IV: washing the body

Figure 26 – Cylinder takes water down to the basins where its filtered


Figure 27 – Detailed cross-section


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.

Figure 28 – Stage V: Drying the body


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.

Figure 29 – Stage VI: Shrouding


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.

Figure 30 – Purification of water by the washing station

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.



TU Delft / Faculty of Architecture