The Embodiment of Consolation: unlocking the interaction between mourning, drawing and space.

Recent bereavement studies are observing a growing divide between the existing ‘deathscapes’ (Maddrell & Sidaway, 2010) and the transforming socio-cultural landscape of mourning within our secularizing western society. Memorial practices are moving away from the public domain towards the everyday and private environments of the bereaved, while the strive for closure is shifting towards a longing for continuing bonds with the deceased: an ‘open-ended process of ritualization’ (Hockey et al., 2010) which relies on the sensation of the deceased’s presence attached to a material object or a place.

This research approaches this issue from a new angle by addressing the following research question: (How) can architecture, i.e. the conception and the built form of (re)designed space, contribute to the development of innovative ways of space-making resonating with contemporary memorial practices?

Answering this question will expand existing knowledge on the interaction between place and mourning through creative expression by tying this theoretical research together with a study of both drawn and built architectural oeuvres. A design-driven research of a series of case studies, involving the implementation of these new insights into the mourning process of participants through a cyclical process of drawing, will realize two objectives:

Firstly, the development of a theoretical framework for (a) mapping, (b) engaging with and (c) transforming (in)tangible topographies of mourning through architectural drawing and built space. The resulting embodiment of consolation will help close the aforementioned divide while, secondly, unlocking architecture as a new medium within Art Therapy by (a) exploring the therapeutic potential of both the design process and the resulting (re)designed space and by (b) (re)defining the position of the architect within the patient-medium-therapist dynamic.

A PhD project by Eva Demuynck
Supervised by Jo Van Den Berghe
Co-supervised by Thierry Lagrange




  • Maddrell, A. (Ed.), Sidaway, J. (2010). Deathscapes: Spaces for Death, Dying, Mourning and Remembrance. London: Routledge.
  • Kellaher, L., Hockey, J., Prendergast, D. (2010). Wandering Lines and Cul-de-sacs: Trajectories of Ashes in the United Kingdom. In Hockey, J., Komaromy, C., Woodthorpe, K. (2010). The matter of death: Space, place and materiality. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 133-147.