Towers of Silence

In the centre of Mumbai, a large tract of forest land remains where the Zoroastrian community has carried out its burial practices since the fifteenth century. The people of Zoroastrian faith, known as the Parsis, place the bodies in a ritual space called a Dakhma, or Tower of Silence, where they are exposed to the elements and consumed by vultures.

However, due to the introduction of the painkiller Diclofenac, given to cattle and ultimately toxically consumed by the vultures, there has been a dramatic decline in the vulture population and the Parsis can no longer rely on them to consume the bodies of their dead. This problem has been compounded by the high rise buildings which now encircle the site, allowing people to peer down on the Towers of Silence, and the decomposing corpses within. As pressure to redevelop the site began to mount, the Parsi community asked the studio to look for ways to make an aviary around and over the Towers of Silence as a sanctuary in which to nurture a new vulture population and solve the problem of overlooking. 

As one of the largest aviaries in the world the studio was interested that the structure would need to be a major sacred space but also simultaneously be as discreet as possible for the Parsis.

The aviary that the studio designed focusses solely on the relationship between the deceased body and the sky. Formed from a geometrically complex structure of tension cables and netting supported by simple columns, its shape is derived from the layout of the Towers of Silence, its volume from the numbers of vultures it has to support, and its height from the space needed to allow the birds to fly above the treetops. Climbing plants and trees then protect the sides from prying eyes of surrounding tower buildings.


Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BBP)


Mumbai, India



Project Leader

Peter Ayres

Studio team

Craig Miller


Adams Kara Taylor,
Rider Levett Bucknall