The Cenotafio


The studio was devised to challenge the norm of tall buildings today having singular silhouettes. Through a  rigorous methodology of formal studies, the project was to investigate the role of stacked profiles to generate multiple silhouettes to transform the tower typology. The Cenotafio questions the universal language of modern sky scrapers and interrogates architects’ role in today’s architectural design.

Project Narrative

On day one ,he observes the most impressive of all architecture in our cities, skyscrapers. Operations of extruding and stacking are trace able in most of these modern artifacts.

Day two, to extrude, he selects what he deemed as the prefect spatial schemes in his memory, variations of Palladio’s villas fort hey are based on the same compositional logic that could be played out in the later stage.

Day three, he draws the spatial scheme of the villa on the ground and extrudes the rationality of it.

Day four, he stacks four extrusions on top of each other.The stacking creates disruptions but also continuity inherited from Palladio’s compositionalsystem.

Day five, he brands the tower by carving out the profiles of a superimposed order of classic columns, an antique remnant, whose form was never revolutionised by history and it continues to play a significant role in architectural discoursetoday.

On day six, he sends his creation from above onto earth and orients it to an absolute direction.

On day seven, the tower grows into the ground and humans build up a structure at the bottom of the tower, in an identical style,to worship god’s new monument. The ground floor is thus for me do resemble the plan of a Greek temple or a Romanbasilica.

… and then

commemoration and celebration last for another 7 days.


Who influences you graphically?

During the development of this project, Denis Villeneuve’s movie Blade Runner 2049happened to be in theatre, which stunned me with its epic visual effects. The film definitely plays an essential part as a visual reference in the production of the drawings. I was also into digital art at the time, so browsing through various 3D artists’ Instagram pages to grasp that futuristic sensation was quite influential in conceiving the graphics of this project. Illustrations and graphic designs by Ash Thorp have tremendous impacts on the making of these images.

The thesis of the project also demands the ceremonial and nostalgic ambiance the drawings deliver. Therefore, aside from digital art, I also intended to incorporate an obsolete quality in the representation. Japanese artist, Minoru Nomata’s paintings of monumental structures is a big influence for me to render the sublimity and solemnness of the tower. Piranesi’s etchings were another important source of reproducing that atmosphere. Looking at Hugh Ferriss’s renderings of skyscrapers in New York City also provided me with a vision into the final effect.

What is your take on colour, what role does it play within this project?

I have obsessions with Renaissance and Baroque oil paintings, so the color palette of this project somehow took off from there, which happens to have an ancient origin overlapping with the rudiments of this project. The drawing should present a de-familiarized space of our built environment and fabricate an exotic reality through the application of colors along with other drawing techniques. The render parameters were adjusted to an artistic standard rather than a mere reflection of the actual physical condition. As a result, the images produce something both realistic and abstract, most importantly alien.

What defined the ‘abstract’ language of representation of the speculation?

The representation unfolds the project from an omniscient perspective. The narrative is deliberately staged in an environment much like a workshop or studio setting, the manipulation of which suggests the presence of a ‘maker’. His/her biased personality is then manifested through the subjectivity embedded within the abstract language in the representation of the project. The abstract quality of the drawings reinforces the arbitrariness and fictionality and it negates the emergence of the form as a familiar entity. It produces a sense of strangeness rendered with digital precisions that ultimately presents the project in an in-between dimension of realism and abstraction.

How important is the narrative in revealing the project in relation to the introductory text?

The project attempts to yield a monumental memorial that could bridge the past with the present. The idea of memorial, specially monument, is often associated with historic events, folk stories, or mythical legends. The narrative is to create a fiction that depicts the tower as a giant form with mythological/cultural origins.

In the narrative lies the irony that interrogates architects’ role in architectural form-making today. The hypothesis rethinks the authorship of architecture by suggesting a superior being that has no scientific evidence of presence. It ought to offer a critical perspective into today’s tower designs that challenges the current approach prioritizing prestige and iconicity.

Within the contemporary state of urban growth, what role do you think the skyscraper will play?

Skyscrapers are inherently promising in terms of its interior dynamism and its vertical anti-urban composition. The effects these monstrous creations produce are certainly fascinating. Ironically, these fantasies appear to be the byproducts in the pursuit of something else. Skyscrapers have been exploited and harnessed by corporate interests aiming for constant financial growth. Slowly, these wonders of the ancient world are becoming a propaganda instrument for the continuation of the capitalist economy. Their presence should remind us of the impotence of architects in the broader discourse of politics and society. The key task is if we as city developers are able to maneuver the power of high-rises in today’s socio-economic context; otherwise, towers would be hijacked by the overwhelming force of economy and transformed into everyday merchandise in the form of architecture.

Where and how can we see it developing?

Skyscrapers are highly efficient in the mass-production of working and living space in a hyper-dense environment. The consolidation of space and activities demonstrates the potency of skyscrapers in the negotiations between architecture and urban space. It is crucial, as architects, to understand and be able to tackle how the skyscraper interacts and further transforms its surroundings.

The singular silhouettes of modern high-rise buildings suggest a systemic approach that induces results expressing wholeness and modern aesthetics. The singularity of these monolithic mega-forms conceals or even rejects their internal dynamism, therefore revealing the exclusiveness. This project offers an iconoclastic point of view challenging that singularity by proliferating the skyscraper’s formal richness to obscure its identity. It suggests a possibility to re-focus the potential of the skyscraper on its active relationship with urban life and culture, which might promote an urban condition of agonistic multiplicity.

What sources/case studies did you look to when developing the project?

The project is inspired by Adolf Loos’s entry into the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition. Villas designed by Palladio is the major source for the abstraction. Reading Colin Rowe’s and Rudolf Wittkower’s contemplations on the spatial compositions of Palladio’s villas and the comparison of which with modernist designs helps me determine how forms are abstracted and extruded. Peter Eisenman’s exhibition at Yale School of Architecture, in which he presents a series of in-depth analysis of the internal logic of Palladio’s villas, is the primary reference for the abstraction of villas. Precedents from Margaret Griffin’s previous studios at SCI-Arc and the University of Texas at Austin provide me with valuable insight into the development of the project.

Did you ever think of formatting the project as a book/animation- what drew you to the medium of the drawing?

The representation of the narrative took lessons from cinematography, which perhaps gives the impression that the format was conceived as animation. In fact, the initial intention for the format is to produce large posters. One can still see the reminiscence of that in some of the images, though modified for viewing on screen. How the drawings are displayed tries to emulate a gallery experience which I hope could facilitate emotional responses.


Furui Sun is a Bachelor of Architecture candidate at Syracuse University School of Architecture. He has previously worked in professional architecture offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and New York City. Visit to see more works from Sun.