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Burial vault for the Bishops of Rottenburg by Cukrowicz Nachbaur Architekten with Martin Rauch

This burial vault in the basement of an existing church in Rottenburg seems to be carved from the earth

This case study is part of a longer retrospective on Martin Rauch – click here to read the full piece

This project is a crypt for a late-Gothic church in Sülchen, Rottenburg. The use of compacted earth for a subterranean burial chamber is a fitting, if obvious, reference to the nature of a permanent resting place – underground, hidden, a return to soil. Sequences of rooms appear as if carved out, convincing in their evocation of early rock-cut tombs, and the inner earthen lining presents its layered character like natural sedimentary rock. There is a clear spatial order, and the church’s axial symmetry is used fluently in the newly designed spaces. Movement is gently directed by two parallel stairs which descend to the level of the oratory. The central room has a lofty height and the episcopal tombs with their slate grave slabs are stacked on two levels on either side, a reminder that there is ultimately a practical purpose at the core of a crypt. The minimal altar block, the focal point of the oratory, is made from travertine. Its simple form complements the precision of the rest of the crypt.

During the process of excavation for the addition of the burial chamber, pre-Romanesque foundations were discovered beneath the church, as well as elements of construction from the sixth or seventh century. These are enclosed for display in a room under the apse, and a compacted earthen wall of the new burial chamber addresses one side. Exhibition cases displaying smaller objects of funeral culture are tucked either side of the stairs. There is a neatness to the solidity of the spaces, and the qualities of the loam walls and floors – cool, soft, faint, muted – invoke a calmness that is commensurate to the inner contemplation implicit in a sacred space designed to remind us of our mortality.

Burial vault bishobs rottenburg cukrowicz nachbaur architekten architectural review drawing

Burial vault bishobs rottenburg cukrowicz nachbaur architekten architectural review drawing

Click to download

This case study is part of a longer retrospective on Martin Rauch – click here to read the full piece