Typically we try and stay away from them, but about once a year we end up at a big box store for all that stuff you just can’t get at your favorite boutique grocery store.  So there we were, rounding the corner of bulk pet food, passing the film drop-off counter, approaching printers and home electronics when out of nowhere appeared the Universal Casket booth.


Casket models range from $800 to $1,100.  For another two-hundred bucks you can upgrade to the deluxe model which offers 18 gauge steel, a premium crepe interior and an adjustable bed mattress.  Across the top of the booth were sepia prints of the elderly being comforted with the terms: “NON-EMOTIONAL, NON-THREATING, INFORMED, AFFORDABLE”.

Each casket displays gratuitous curves and flutes at every opportunity.  Ornate faux-chrome swooping handles flank the sides of the high-gloss boxes.  Elaborate icons glob onto each corner, taking their design queues from a combination of religious emblems and gumball machine jewelry.


To put it mildly, we were terrified.  We could spend our entire productive lives dedicated to good design and architecture and still end up in one of these, without the right planning.  How convenient it would be for some distant relative, not even born yet, to pick out a custom casket for you while stocking up on paper towels and Otter-pops.  As the last expression of design in ones life we’re going to do everything in our power to avoid such a catastrophe.

So, to bring this back around to design we’re announcing the first BUILDblog design charette.  The Architecture of Death Design Charette is open to anyone and everyone.  You can send in your own design or simply point us in the direction of a design you admire.  The designs can be of caskets, urns, headstones, or whatever else seems like an appropriate way for the design-conscious to kick the bucket.  There is one requirement: the design solution has to be modern; it must be designed with materials and methods of our current time.  Send in a napkin sketch, a rendering, a written idea, a web link – whatever best illustrates the concept.  We’ll round-up all the ideas and post them for everyone to see in a couple weeks.  The author of the best concept (decided by team BUILD) will grab themselves a gift certificate at Peter Miller Books.