This cemetery concept addresses shortage of space without compromising respect, spirituality, and the overall experience of death and dying.
The danger of reducing space in a cemetery is also reducing the essential sense of importance and respect in the process. The following sketches illustrate a direction that may be able to overcome this. With a shared place for visitation messages and remembrance, this memorial design makes the visitation experience feel significant, but also saves space through sustainable burial practices.
Space is limited, not only for the living but also for the dead. Many are trying to solve this problem already, but death is a multifaceted experience. With so many different aspects to address (logistics, religion, finances, grief, medicine), death is further complicated by the diminishing real estate.
The memorial consists of two bodies of water: a concrete waterfall, and a stream that frames it.
The water from the sculpture falls into the stream and glides over an array of tombstones, each containing one person’s remains. Each of these blocks are engraved with a name, and a place for flowers.
Visitors can say a few words or learn more about the departed under the sculpture, where their phones or keys trigger a projection of their loved one’s portrait and obituary.
Visitors may also choose to visit the actual burial site, along the stream framing the sculpture. The physical tombstones containing remains could light up when adorned with flowers or interacted with.
IDEAS TO EXPLORE
The waterfall could potentially record visitation messages, creating an ancestral record of the memories and messages from visitors. Each person’s legacy would develop through the memories of them left behind by loved ones.
Many elements could be customized to fit preferences/identity of the departed (e.g. the color of lights emitted, the light pattern, engravings on the tombstones, materials of the tombstones)
Is there a way to further maximize the amount of tombstones contained by the stream? Could there be a conveyer belt? Or modular units to extend storage capacity while preserving a sense of importance?
As life becomes more digital, we must consider how to mesh analog and digital worlds in the after-life. Emerging technology could enhance many aspects of the experience of death and dying, including visitation.
Through VR, visitors could learn about the departed immersively. Our legacy is in places and things we leave behind; VR technology could allow visitors to see Grandpa’s old college garage back in the day, or hear him tell the story behind their lucky pair of dice from when he used to play street craps.
By researching different stakeholders around this universal experience, we may be able to improve the holistic experience for both those approaching death, their loved ones, and the institutions that support them. This would ideally be an adaptable solution, fit for any cultural, religious, and social context.
Similar to the tree burial, this memorial concept consolidates multiple visitation sites into one location (the waterfall), affording visitors a beautiful, meaningful experience that perhaps feels more significant than what they could afford through traditional methods. However, there are still aspects of this concept that could benefit from research insights and further development:
Democratic: This memorial could address unfair/arbitrary pricing in the funeral industry. This system could reward larger financial investments with extensive services, as opposed to expansive real estate & expensive features. This could mean services such as: antemortem packages for end-of-life preparation (almost like tax preparers), extended storage memory for visitation recordings, etc.
Social: One thing I’ve always learned in the presence of death is how love forms around pain. This memorial could capitalize on that by creating a supportive community around the memorial to help those in mourning.
Sustainable: In addition to saving space, this format could potentially normalize alkaline hydrolysis, a much more sustainable option than cremation. The aquatic theme could ameliorate some of the hesitation behind liquid burial.