Architecture: An eye for a resting place

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
'CEMETERIES today,' says Bob Borzello, Italian-American head of the London greetings card company Camden Graphics, 'are dead places,' writes Jonathan Glancey.

'When I was a child the whole family used to go to the cemetery at least twice a year to cut the grass and to polish and decorate the graves. We would take wine and salami sandwiches and eat them outside the gates when we were through paying our respects.

'I find it shocking that English cemeteries are left to rot. For the first few years after a burial the family takes flowers, but then they forget. Within 70 years no one remembers the ordinary dead. So I decided to sponsor a competition for the design of a family tomb. I had been toying with the idea of a stone slab set in the grass. Someone steps on it and I appear as a hologram saying: 'Hi, thanks for dropping by. My name was Bob Borzello. Let me tell you my story.'

'Silly? I'm a very egotistical person. The competition was judged by a team of architects including Piers Gough and organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects. It produced some weird ideas, including those of the winners, two students, Dominic Williams and Stephen McGrath.

'They designed a glass slab set into the grass through which you could stare into a giant eye staring back at you inside the vault below. I like the idea - it's very architectural, but also pretty impractical. It would be covered in grime, leaves and dog shit within hours and you'd need a gallon of Windolene to get to see me and the rest of the Borzellos.

'I've been fascinated by cemeteries since I was a child. I'm a trustee of a great Victorian cemetery, Abney Park at Stoke Newington. A mausoleum - the Victorians were so good at these - set above ground is a much better idea than a vault. The family can come in, sit down and think about old man Borzello. It's their final resting place, too, so they ought to take good care of it.

'I don't believe in an afterlife - I gave up religion when I was 18. I was in confession. I told the priest I was having lascivious thoughts. He told me to say a Hail Mary and to cut down on red meat. I thought hell, we don't need a Pope any more, we need a dietician, and gave up.

'The competition was great, and I was glad to have sponsored it. I do want to build a modern mausoleum, but I want to be above ground when I'm dead, not six feet below.'

(Photograph omitted)