Death has been at the forefront of... well... life for over a year now, changing the way many of us see, process, and interact with loss. While the COVID-19 pandemic will (hopefully) recede into the history books sooner than later, its societal and familial reverberations will certainly be felt for our conceivable future. Recently, a group of collaborators began work on an endeavor that aims to shift our approach to death by focusing on meditative remembrance which blurs the line between physical and digital spaces — Pyramid City, a prospective desert necropolis and immerse online mausoleum celebrating our own mortality.
Pyramid City is a new project from the members of the Brooklyn-based engineering and design studio, Fictive Kin, aiming to merge the “individual with the collective” by creating and fostering a hybridized physical-digital secular memorial space for mourners.
According to the endeavor’s new site, an initial 500-plot desert location “will allow for elements of individualization among a community of shared remembrance, with room to store sustainably-cremated remains, along with any items of emotional significance.”
In layperson's terms: they’d like you to consider buying a Pyramid in the desert in lieu of a tombstone.
“The future is (hopefully) one where memorials are as varied and unique as people are,” the Pyramid City Team explained via email. To the team, the future of mourning and memorial will be increasingly rooted in digital spaces as opposed to singular, physical locations.
“We liken it a bit to remote work. Geographic proximity is less important these days. We feel the same will be true of memorials,” they write. “Allowing people to take part in the ongoing activity of memorializing a loved one shouldn’t be restricted to geographic proximity or ability to afford travel. The digital experience offers people a chance to tap into that connection from wherever they are at a given moment.”
Pyramid City’s pointed decision — In choosing pyramids as the memorial’s structural motif, the Pyramid City Team hoped to utilize an “iconic form that could withstand the elements and feel timeless for centuries to come — both visually and physically.” In addition, the pyramid’s shape is ubiquitous throughout so many cultures that they aimed for their burgeoning necropolis to “create a similarly immersive experience while coming from a broad enough history to be appealing to many kinds of people as a possible memorial location.”
Documenting death (and life) digitally — In keeping so many of our own reexaminations over the past year of physical and digital distance, Pyramid City aims to make its intangible commemorations as resonant as the actual namesake monuments.
“The virtual funerals we attended in the past year inspired us to think about what a remote version of an end-of-life celebration would look like in the future, in a way that prioritizes personalization, storytelling, and shared memories,” reads Pyramid City’s website.
For Pyramid City’s virtual memorial space, the Pyramid City Team envisions an “immersive and spatial” experience “more closely tied to the type of identity generation built in Roblox or Minecraft” than what is generally offered to people at the moment. “Existing memorial sites closely resemble the look and feel of social profiles. We think that limits the potential for expression in this unique, meaningful context. We think the spatial nature is essential for creating a sense of reverence.”
Each memorial is planned as a collaborative effort between the person whose cremated remains would theoretically someday reside in one of the mausoleums, and their friends and family members. Pyramid City’s initial phase is aiming for 500 markers in its first physical space, with plans to expand to upwards of 3,000 memorials depending on funding and interest in the project.
Death details to come — Right now, the Pyramid City planners don’t have a lock on an exact location for its memorials and are trying to determine a space that balances solitude with logistical feasibility.
“While we’d like Pyramid City to integrate with the natural landscape rather than present as an actual city, we still want it to be close enough to an urban center that a community can form,” the team says. “We’d like supporters of the project, locals, and culture-seekers alike to all venture to Pyramid City as a place of beauty, stimulation, and meaning.”
Details on pricing and full funding are also somewhat vague at the moment, but the project’s creators hope to release more information later this year, including various pricing options including individual and shared memorial pyramid spaces. Pyramid City will begin accepting $99, fully refundable reservations for its first spaces beginning today, with an eye to complete the project’s first phase by early next year.
In terms of who exactly will be laid to rest there, a few spots are already for certain — the creators themselves. “For us, it’s powerful to start thinking about our final resting place, and perhaps even more exciting to be a part of a permanent installation and community in the desert. But, we’ll try not to fill up all 500 spots with our family and friends.”