Hypogeum, The Funeral Tower

Funeral Tower
Senses Atlas
2020

The funeral tower is the result of an analysis of the hypogea found in the Valley of the Kings in Thebes. The succession of different types of hypogea forms a framework where the full and empty spaces dialogue along a vertical funeral procession.

Hypogeum and underground tombs

The term hypogeum refers to any underground construction or excavation containing niches for cremated human remains, or loculi for buried remains. Ethymologically the term comes from the Greek hypo (under) and gaia (the earth). In archaeology it is used to define underground structures which are mainly tombs or temples. Although hypogea were very quickly associated with Egyptian civilization, a large part of ancient civilizations have left monuments of this kind. Some examples can be found in Syria, Persia, Asia Minor, North Africa, Sardinia, Greece. This antique geometrical structure is relatively simple, it is made up of an essential element: the sepulchral chamber, accessible through a corridor whose entrance is from the outside. This quadrangular-shaped burial chamber was sometimes decorated with paintings, with a staging of the passage of the deceased into the other world, as was the case in Egypt. The long access corridor leads down into the tomb, and it has a very important processional and spiritual aspect. It also provides symbolic and physical protection from the outside world.

The Thebes Necropolis

Many of these hypogea were large enough to hold thousands of urns, which was all the more spectacular given that they were dug into the side of a hill, into the ground or even into old quarries. Other sepulchres were also entirely built in stone, allowing a great diversity of typologies often dictated by the nature of the soil. There is a very high concentration of hypogeum in the royal necropolis of the Valley of the Kings in Thebes. The sedimentary rock millefeuille has allowed the excavation of about a hundred tombs in existing fracture lines or rocky spurs for almost half a millennium. The typologies of the hypogees also change according to the dynasties and some of them took over existing structures. For example during the 18th Dynasty (-1550/-1292) the access corridor passes through several chambers before turning at a right angle and reaching the final burial chamber (“bent axis” typology). While during the 20th Dynasty (-1186/-1069) the straight corridor goes down until reaching the last column chamber of the deceased (“straight axis” typology).

The funeral tower rising from the underground

Following a work of analysis and drawing of these funerary structures, two features seem to emerge. First of all, the dialogue that takes place between the mass of the earth where the structure is sculpted and the space created by the emptiness within it. This fullness and emptiness conjecture a vertical dimension, with a descent into the ground, carried out differently according to the typologies. The idea is to take advantage of this dialogue between the masses and to invert this symbolic relationship to the descent by converting it into spiritual elevation. A dozen hypogea structures from the Valley of the Kings were compiled and placed end to end following a vertical structural logic. Thus the skeleton draws a long succession of uninterrupted sequences leading to rise in a massive black volume. The relationship between positive and negative mass transforms the structure of the hypogeum into a regular volume, like a mastabba. Although the hypogeum is no longer subterranean, the mass of the volume in which the structure is excavated reproduces this underground effect. the straight axis and bend axies typologies follow one another until reaching an open part, detached from the ground, connected to the sky. The space expands and closes, rises vertically along a long funeral procession in the middle of the burials. This megalith resumes an analytical work on the hypogees to create a new monumental ancient structure exacerbating its spiritual symbolism.

Plans of a few hypogea from the Theban Necropolis
Hypogees Plans
Funeral tower : plans and sections of the floors. Dynamic between full and empty spaces.
Hypogees Plans Hypogea Hypogeum
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Funeral Tower: vertical organization and funeral procession in the mass.
Hypogea Hypogeum
Hypogea Hypogeum
Hypogea Hypogeum
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