To me, the most gratifying moment in the entire process of designing a new building is my first visit following completion, when I can watch how people use the new structure. As a natural observer and as a designer of mausoleums and garden crypt buildings, I find it both profound and poignant to see individuals, many of whom are going through a period of tremendous emotional turmoil, interacting with a building whose purpose is to impart sympathy, comfort, and hope to its visitors. Certainly, one of the most distressing moments in a person’s life is the death and burial of a loved one. As a prime setting for this event, the mausoleum building is a sacred environment where the journey from grief to healing can occur.
In a recent visit to a project I’ve been working on for the past three years, the new Immaculate Heart of Mary Garden Crypt Complex at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, IL, it occurred to me that the success of a mausoleum building can be measured as much by the small things – a comfortable place to sit, a ray of light shining down a corridor,, the trickle of water from a nearby fountain – as by the larger, economic issues of price points, market demand, and maintainability. In fact, as I have come to believe over the course of my career, the two are inextricably linked in a mausoleum, as it is truly a building type that supports the notion that “it’s not just about architecture; it’s about people.”