Worrying that you don’t think about death enough in your day-to-day life? Pratt student Charles Constantine is looking to change this and inject a bit of morbidity into the daily routine, with his new design for a coffee table coffin. On display in the Pratt Institute student design booth at BKLYN Designs, this ‘Coffin Table’ is a typical coffee table which packs a punch when it comes to storage. Not only can it store books and other knick-knacks like personal mementos, but its ultimate goal is to store YOU – or what remains of you – when you pass on to the next life.
Made from an intentional choice of materials, this “pine box” puts design in context of the user at different stages of life, and death. In life, Memento serves the user as a functional piece of furniture that stores the material possessions we choose to collect. When the inevitable occurs, this coffee table takes on a second life as a non-toxic burial vessel.
In a fairly simple form, Memento challenges cultural norms in regard to death, and how we deal with it. As a part of our intimate surroundings, the design absorbs life through use. The passage of time wears into the piece in the inevitable scratches and marks gained in its first life as a living room accessory. It also creates a presence of death, or at least a reminder that an end is necessary and unavoidable.
The design is careful to facilitate a pure, and environmentally friendly, final purpose. The open bottom “promotes growth into the casket, enabling Memento to become part of the environment.” At the same time, Memento puts death into a historical context. Constantine says that the four panels along the top of the vessel are meant to be a “graphic representation of wrapped cloth, reminiscent of Egyptian mummification.”
In addition to the thoughtful presentation of life and death quandaries in one design, Memento is an ecologically friendly choice for burial. As a coffin (and coffee table) the piece is non-toxic, made from natural pine with a natural soap finish. It is the antithesis of most “modern” burial processes that use harsh chemicals and a sterile mindset to lay bodies to rest. Memento will degrade within ten years, depending on environmental variables like temperature, leaving behind little or no environmental impact.
Constantine’s goal in developing the concept was “to promote a more personal way of dealing with death, and help us, as a culture, confront an issue that is universally denied.” With Memento, we think he has succeeded in this, and much more.