Toward the north end of Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery, around Lake Willowmere, lies a cluster of graves belonging to the city’s most famous architects, among them Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Fazlur Khan. Henry Kuehn discovered this so-called cemetery of architects while serving as director of the Graceland Cemetery tour, and it sparked a quest to research and catalogue architects’ gravesites all around the country. At the heart of his pursuit was a desire to understand how these monument builders are remembered in death. The results, recorded in Kuehn’s new book, Architects’ Gravesites: A Serendipitous Guide, are as varied as the built structures those men and women left behind. Below is a selection, together with an excerpt from Paul Goldberger’s afterword. —Nicole Rudick
To come to the end of this book is to conclude a journey across the United States, across architectural history, and into human character. I am not sure that the final resting places of celebrated and accomplished architects tell us all that much about their work—after all, few of them designed their own burial sites or grave markers, and the graves that most closely resemble the architecture of their occupants were quite often designed by others, sometimes many years later, and some have the forced quality of all-too-earnest homage. But if the design of architects’ gravesites sheds only minimal light on their work, their graves do tell us rather more than we might have expected about these architects as people. Some of them are grand and imposing, others so modest as to be no more than small stone plaques set flat upon the ground. Many architects chose to be buried with their families, and their grave markers confer equal billing to spouses and sometimes other family members.
Of course, what most of us want—what most of us turn the pages of Architects’ Gravesites hoping to find—is some kind of echo of the architect’s voice, however many of the architects themselves shied away from expressing it. Clearly the instinct toward modesty arises more often for architects in death than it does in life, since it is hard not to be surprised at how many of these final resting places are small and understated. A successful architect, after all, need not fear that he or she leaves nothing behind: the smallest building is usually larger than the most elaborate grave, and most of these architects have left plenty of buildings, most of which are not at all small, for us to remember them by.
—Paul Goldberger Read More