International Competitions in Architecture
A HOUSE FOR ANUBIS
Just days ago a giant fiberglass statue of Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead and embalming, floated down the Thames, in London... It was on its way to Trafalgar Square, and other locations, in an effort to promote the exhibition Tutankhamun and The Golden Age of the Pharaohs.
Another exhibiton dedicated, quite conveniently, to the ever exotic culture of the Ancient Egyptians. And the fiberglass representation of Anubis, 25 feet tall, was supposed - in the words of the organizers of this show - to protect the exhibition, inasmuch as the original Anubis was supposed to protect the dead in their way to the underworld.
But this seems to us like a chic exploitation of something that for the Old Egyptians was quite serious. Again and again, a de-sacralized modern world is playing with the most serious themes in the most un-serious ways. It is all about entertainement. A game. It is quite possible that by doing so the number of the visitors of this exhibition will increase, indeed, showing thus that the manipulations of capitalism do work, beyond all else... But with what price...! Will in this way our deep understanding of what Death is, and consequently our reverence for Life, increase...! Isn't this, in fact, just another shallow spectacle, milking the exoticism and otherness of the Ancients...!
In what ways did genuine culture was thus served and in what ways did the profound beliefs of the Ancients were thus respected and continued...
Yes, the black and yellow fiberglass Anubis did turn heads in London, just days ago, but did our understanding of that culture and our relation with Death gain in seriousness and depth...!
We doubt it.
So we ask you to design A House for Anubis. A serious house. We placed the word house between quotation marks because it might not be a house at all... But we ask you to reflect as seriously as possible on this ultimate subject, Death. And we ask you to reflect on your own mortality, beyond the temptation to be atracted by the literal seductiveness of the subject.
That death in our culture is trivialized, inasmuch as life is, is not a secret anymore.
Ingmar Bergman said that he didn't spend one day of his life without thinking about death. This is why, perhaps, his films are so intense, so obsessive in their attempt to come to terms with death, and thus transgress it, through the very act of creation. He said that each film that he made was his last one... in the sense that he tried to say as much as possible, as intensely as possible, in every film he made! And a writer like Cesare Zavattini wrote, many years go, that if he had the ability to remind people every day of their own mortality, he would have done so, quite gladly... Indeed, the more one reflects on death, in a serious, profound way, and not in a chic, glamorized way, the more one intensifies life, if one is able to avoid the danger of becoming morbid, or paralized by melancholia.
It is certain that the Egyptians, these experts in death, if we are to use the almost sacrilegious language of contemporaneity, didn't play games with death. We like to think that they would have never allowed themselves to descend at the very low levels of sheer prose that our fun mentality, even vis-a-vis death, makes possible.
For the Greeks Eros and Thanatos were insolubly connected.
Perhaps reflecting on death, with only a fragment of the seriousness the Egyptians had vis-a-vis this subject, would actually intensify life, as opposed to negating it.
We ask you to conceive A House for Anubis.
A House for the God of the Dead.
A House for The Guardian of the Veil, or The Lord of The Cleansing Room, as Anubis was called by the Egyptians.
Please try to do so with just a fragment of that reverence the Egyptians had towards death.
Conceive a house for the one who refuses to become the toy of irresponsible marketing policies, trying to transform even the gold of spirit into the gold of money.
Descend, dear architect, descend into the underworld, in the company of Anubis or an unknown unnamed yet god.
Try to discover a new expression for a possible house for this Jackal Headed God!
A House for a dead god (but perhaps still dormant in our soul) ... in the XXIth century...
Is such a thing really possible...!
Design a house for this Go-Between of Men and Gods, Anubis...!