Date of Award
Master of Industrial Design
Dr. Mimi Gellman
‘Beautiful Dirt’ is a project meant to help people think about death as a way to learn and grow, rather than a ‘never happening’ taboo. Contemporary research into western dialogues around death show a consistent anxiety towards being forgotten, as well as a fear of being a burden when passing away. The abject nature of the topic leaves people diminishing the weight of the things they leave behind, and the things they forget to. This perpetuates a cycle of denial in order to avoid stress, emburdening loved ones with an unplanned mass of personal items and piecemeal stories to assemble, culminating in an anxious end-of-life care experience, all due to the lack of any platform to process these inaccessible emotions.
In order to help break down the fears around death planning in aging populations, this project proposes the introduction of a new ‘tombstone’ archetype, alongside a prompted ‘on-boarding’ journaling method meant to be filled with life stories. The tombstone functions as a family memorial archive which houses all of a deceased person’s journal stories, alongside any physical mementos people choose to place when visiting. The purpose of creating these two active objects is to:
a) Help localize a person’s stories in a ritualized space, so they maintain meaning and allow family / close peoples to access intimate moments that would otherwise be lost.
b) Facilitate intergenerational understanding through publicly accessible personal histories.
c) Familiarize western people to a communal and reciprocal death dialogue, relieving stress in the death-planning process through habit-formed self-reflection..
d) Mitigate the common sense of purposelessness and anxiety found in elderly retirement communities.
e) Break away from the classist and traditionally hierarchical tropes of ‘lot-style’ cemeteries, shifting to a more space conscious and ecologically circular alternative.
Dangstorp, Jake, "Beautiful dirt : exploring the American taboo of death through the things we leave behind" (2020). Masters Theses. 564.
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