With the rise of the digital age, and the changing landscape of our global environment, the ways that cemeteries are organized and envisioned have to meet the needs of today. As new and different methods of burial are becoming popularized, so too are new and innovative ways to create burial spaces. This endeavour is well represented by the UK-based project, The Future Cemetery, which seeks to develop new and relevant ways of caring for and memorializing the dead. Established in 2012, The Future Cemetery (FC) was borne out of the collaborative efforts of the University of Bath’s Centre for Death and Society and the Victorian Arnos Vale Cemetery.
The Future Cemetery
The idea that drove this collaboration was the desire to establish a large-scale project with the intention of experimenting with new approaches to designing cemetery spaces in a way that speaks to the contemporary world in which we live. This includes not only developing sustainable spaces, but also incorporating contemporary digital concepts that cater to the needs of an increasingly digitized society.
With the rise of the digital age, and the changing landscape of our global environment, the ways in which cemeteries are organized and envisioned is similarly developing.
The Future Cemetery began with an inaugural design competition for The Future Cemetery Design Award, entitled “Future Dead: Designing Disposal for Both Dead Bodies and Digital Data“. Since one of the main components of the Future Cemetery is its research projects, this competition asked participants to respond to current design challenges surrounding death, dying, and disposal; designing a new cemetery space using the Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol, England as inspiration. With a focus on sustainable design, the competition also asked that participants design a cemetery space with the needs and wants of the digital age in mind, imaging “a world where both human remains and a person’s digital footprint must be considered at the end of life”. In the age of social media and exponential technological development, these considerations are absolutely on point.
The winner of the 2016 award is the Sylvan Constellation, submitted by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, DeathLAB and LATENT Productions. The design project proposes a cemetery space unlike any you have ever seen, comprised of a network of memorial vessels that transform biomass into light. These vessels are situated throughout a woodland space, which would be explorable via winding foot trails.
The winning design incorporates sustainable technologies, while engaging with the interplay of the digital age and the natural world.
By winning the award, the Sylvan Constellation team will now be partaking in a month-long residency during the Summer of 2016. They will work together with the University of Bath’s Centre for Death and Society to make this design a reality. By incorporating sustainable technologies, and drawing upon the competition’s theme of the digital life within the natural world, this fascinating and beautiful design presents an exciting opportunity for the development of new and unique cemetery and memorial spaces!
Decomposing Bodies Power Ethereal Cemetery Lanterns
Sylvan Constellation envisions the cemetery as a series of woodland
paths through clusters of ‘memorial vessels,’ some at the level of the
path and some suspended on columns overhead. The vessels contain remains
and microbial fuel cells that hasten decomposition. As the body breaks
down, its energy is converted into electricity that causes the vessel to
glow, lighting the nearby paths, creating beautiful surroundings while
avoiding the environmental impacts of embalming or cremation.