Within the Minatitlan Municipal cemetery, located in the state of Veracruz in southeastern Mexico, a new private funeral building has been designed and built by Vargas Tejeda Arquitectos and Pilar Cruz to honor the life of the head of a Zapotec family. The principal goals were to allow for a dignified farewell and burial.
This chapel, conceived for the descendants of a Zapotec family, has a rectangular floor plan; the use of bearing walls and supporting columns was minimized to avoid disturbance to neighboring graves. One of the main goals: to pay last respects to the memory of one person while maintaining a good sense of community in a site cluttered with tombs from all styles and ages.
The basic design is based on the experience of a timeless "open chapel" ("capilla abierta"), considered to be one of the most distinct Mexican construction forms, with the intention of allowing a significant number of family members to congregate in front of a single altar while performing the zapotec burial rituals. It was key to have the altar visible to all throughout the ceremony.
As a result, no hard boundaries between interior and exterior spaces were created. A triangular column and a single double wall provide support. A unique perforated roof emulating a traditional zapotec "huipil" seems to be floating in space above the rest of the graves with an almost uninterrupted view of the surroundings of the site.
The hand-drawn perforated roof pattern incorporates stained glass skylights which send down golden light on sunny days. This symbolism of "light from heaven" further dignifies the space and serves as a tribute to this vibrant female-dominated culture, as well as to the death of a greatly beloved matriarch.