Designing the Cascade Mausoleum

Cascade Mausoleum represents some of the most meaningful work our firm has produced. The design, based on the client’s strong faith, has thought-provoking design moments throughout. Continue reading to learn how the design came to be and the significance it provides!

Working With the Client

Thomas Wall, Owner and Lead Architect of Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design, was given a remarkable commission from a returning client in 2016. They asked Wall to build the family’s mausoleum in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, MO. This would be the first mausoleum built there in over 70 years.
​​“Thomas has an amazing appreciation of art and beauty,” said the client, who wishes to remain anonymous. “He has the unique ability to extract, cultivate, and realize a vision that goes far beyond simple bricks and mortar. Mitchell Wall does not miss a detail.”

As you can imagine, Wall was overjoyed at the opportunity. In preparation, he researched, traveled, and sketched. Wall was given carte blanche in design and an unlimited budget, and the client made no changes to the design.

“In all my research, one idea kept occurring: mausoleums are, by and large, never built for the living. They are designed to encapsulate a crypt and provide a small space for family members to mourn. I wanted this mausoleum to be more,” said Wall. “I designed a building that is interactive for everyone. This is a space where people can celebrate life while remembering those who have passed.”

Design Moments Based on Christianity

Wall developed a 3×3 grid. The elements of man – mind, body, and spirit – run east to west. The Holy Trinity – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – run north to south. Where these lines intersect, design moments occur, inspiring the viewer to think profoundly and at length.

  • The mind – is represented by benches, which allow people to sit down and reflect. Each bench has a biblical quote inspiring thought of the Holy Trinity.
  • The body – is represented by three gates leading into the crypt, each with a reference to the Holy Trinity.
  • The spirit – is represented by three stained glass windows, each showing an element of the Holy Trinity. At sunset, they are illuminated, shining their colored light into the crypt.

A Metaphorical Journey

There is also a division from an elevation standpoint. By walking through the construct, the viewer is taken on a metaphorical journey through life, death, and the afterlife.

  • The viewer is in life – when they view the mausoleum from the outside, among the trees and plants.
  • The viewer is in death – when they climb the first set of stairs. They find themselves under an oppressive amount of stone that opens to a staircase inviting the viewer to ascend.
  • The viewer is in the afterlife – once they ascend the second flight of stairs. They are on the terrace, overlooking the cemetery, gifted with an expansive and glorious view otherwise hidden.

The Sundial and Time Capsule

December 20 is the client’s birthday, and Wall wanted to celebrate that date in the design of the building. To do so, he created a sundial, which is now registered with the North American Sundial Society as Sundial #1042.

It was calculated that, at noon, the sun would be at an angle of 27.9 degrees from the horizon. A 32,000-pound 9x9x2 ft wall of granite stands at the top of the staircase. In it, a cross was cut at this precise angle and functions as a sundial.

On the bottom landing, a cross was etched. Each year, the light coming through the wall and the etching of the cross align. Underneath the etching is a time capsule, where the family intends to store mementos of the departed for generations to come.

The Finishing Touches

While there is no name on the mausoleum, there is a sculpture of a lion standing at the front, a symbol the family uses to represent itself.

Cascade Mausoleum was completed with help from the following partners.

  • Tarlton Corporation was the general contractor.
  • Eureka Forge made the iron gates.
  • Emil Frei Art Glass made the stained glass windows.
  • Abraham Mohler made the lion sculpture.
  • Mason Made was the stone distributor.

Come to Us For Your Next Project!

Our work on the mausoleum was full-service in every sense of the word. We worked with the client to select the site, develop the design, collaborate with partners on all feature elements, maintain a presence throughout the construction, and oversee the entire process.

Whether you are interested in residential architecture, commercial architecture, interior design, or something more unusual, Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design is here for you. To learn more or get started, contact us today!

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