New Necropolis, 2016
After humans die, it’s only a matter of time. Possessions are dispersed, memories fade, a life’s work forgotten. Eventually, the final people who remember the deceased die themselves. What remains? For those with the resources, it is often a memorial of size and permanence. Tombs, obelisks, statues, and crosses have been built, but the most intriguing is perhaps the mausoleum. The last 300 years have seen the construction of hundreds of private mausoleums dedicated to the wealthy class of individuals and families in Western society. Essentially, it is a house for the dead, and its popularity during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries led to the erection of silent cities. Like many cultural trends in Europe, the tradition of mausoleum commemoration found its way to America where it flourished in unique directions. The romantically designed natural landscape followed as well, leading to the creation of today’s large municipal cemeteries.
The following photographs document this trend as it exists in the Pittsburgh area. The region was flush with industry during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, thus able to support a wealthy class of cultured individuals. Their addresses have now extended into the afterlife in houses of stone, adorned with ionic columns and funereal symbols. Unlike houses for the living, the mausoleums abide by that virtually universal reverence for hallow ground, nearly impervious to future prospects of demolition. They are destined to stand amid green hills and groves of trees, the modern megaliths of half-forgotten lives.