Wasted space? Cremation with water? No caskets? 58,000 deaths a year in LA County..
This thesis is about the practicality of the cemetery and its return to the city by altering the architectural uncanny of the unknown final condition of humans with the exploration of new technology. The potential of cemeteries as multipurpose spaces is not being pursued because of the social and economic resistance to innovative solutions. The cemetery has always been a reflection of the socio-economic values of its everlasting client. Throughout history this zeitgeist has left scars across the landscape. In some cities the space the dead use is greater than when they were alive, birthing the notion that the permanent space required for the deceased will consume the developable space of the living. Cemeteries have seldom been any serious concern in city-scape planning and are therefore becoming a critical factor due to their incompatibility with urban growth and renewal.
The anti-sustainability of the burial and traditional cremation practiced for so many years will be redefined and promote a new intellect in society about the management of the departed from a non secular perspective. The inevitable need for even more burial space will be directly correlated with the expanding population and urban growth. This crematorium will be located along the Los Angeles River on the property of the Metro Gold Line: Shops & Yards. The memorial will be the Los Angeles Historic State Park. The project will concentrate on the death rate in LA County, one of the highest populated counties in the country, and its fusion with urban context and land reuse. Issues such as memory, scale, land reuse, and privacy are confronted. This crematorium will be sited in a park scene, its efficiency and impact design will allow the landscape to acquire the responsibility of these issues. The project addresses other delicate concerns in society such as the controversy of transforming the cemetery into a cremation factory while withholding a memorial for the deceased, and wrapping this with an outdoor space that brings life back to its surroundings. It will change the perpetual continuity of our preconceived notions of death in our society to a communal understanding.
I am proposing the use of a new method of cremation called bio-cremation(Bio Cremation Partners), which is environmentally friendly and has introduced a new outlook on the process of decomposing the body. Cremation by definition is reducing the body to its basic elements of bone fragments through the use of heat. The Bio Cremation technology replaces the use of flame with the utilization of water, blended with an alkali solution of potassium hydroxide (KOH). The human body is placed into a pressurized stainless steel cremation chamber where water and alkali are automatically added and the temperature is raised to 350°F. Water, alkali, heat and pressure working in harmony are gently circulated over the body; causing a reaction that begins and completes the cremation process.
There is no attractive transition when discussing the thought of body to bones. It’s a journey all of us must take regardless of whether our end of life choice is burial, flame cremation or bio-cremation, the end result is the same. The difference between burial, flame cremation or bio-cremation is the ‘body to bones’ time line and the catalyst we choose that supports what is most appropriate for you. With burial, the transition may take 25 years and the catalyst to reduce the body to bones is soil and micro organisms. With flame cremation, the transition takes approximately 2-3 hours and the catalysts to reduce the body to bones are flame created by fuel (CH4 natural gas or C3H8 propane gas) mixed with oxygen. With bio-cremation, the transition takes approximately 2-3 hours and the catalysts to reduce the body to bones are water (95%) and potassium hydroxide (KOH)(Bio Cremation Partners). Any of these choices starts with a body and eventually ends with bones. With the introduction of bio-cremation, comes the residual effect our end of life decision has on the planet.
No acid is used in this gentle water based cremation process. The chemical used with water is an alkaline called potassium hydroxide (KOH) which is a colorless solid, inorganic compound. Its reaction in water is strongly exothermic, meaning the process gives off significant heat which contributes to the hydrolyzing or breakdown of the human tissue in the sealed cremation chamber. This technology creates a very controlled and sophisticated environment that uniquely combines water, alkali, heat and pressure that biochemically hydrolyzes the human body, leaving only bone fragments.
During a typical bio-cremation cycle, the body is reduced, bone fragments are rinsed and the remaining by-product is a sterile effluent. What makes this process so environmentally-friendly and even greener than flame based cremation is that there are almost zero air emissions (particulates, greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide, mercury, etc.) admitted into the atmosphere. The by-product from this process is sent to water recycling where it is filtered, purified and recycled back to In essence, our body is recycled without harm to the environment and remains through a ceremonial physical expression, helping to promote new life as nature intended it to occur.
The foundation of funeral service has always focused on helping us create a personal and meaningful event, gathering and/or memorial service that meet the emotional and spiritual needs of both family and friends. The popularity of cremation supports the foundation for traditional services but offers a unique flexibility in choosing a variety of different memorialization opportunities (i.e. Cemetery Burial, Niche, Columbarium, Scattering, Home Décor, etc). The attractiveness of a bio-crematorium supports a family’s desire for a wake, public visitation with/without a memorial service prior to cremation. Even though a traditional wood or cardboard casket can’t be consumed in the process (the process only accommodates protein base material), a silk cremation container has been designed with a stainless steel frame that is introduced into a standard “rental casket” for viewing. Once a service is complete, the silk cremation container and stainless steel frame (holding your loved one), can be removed from the rental casket and placed directly into the bio cremation equipment. The silk cremation container is consumed during the cremation cycle and the now sterile insert is removed and reused. It is a physical representation of how the dead population is still alive through nature and has become the memorial.
Throughout history and along a timeline which stretches circa 63,000 years back I started to study the trends and occurrences which altered the view of life and death all the way to today. The Western cemetery through time has evolved along with our society. Once in the centers of cities, they were in direct contact with the church. This sparked a segregation of space along the lines of religion, ethnicity, and gender. When space became scarce, the cemeteries surrounded the church with a graveyard, becoming visible to the transitory nature of society and therefore a constant reminder of the inevitable destiny for all. Remote cemeteries were placed on or near a major thoroughfare, making access easier for horse drawn hearses and mourners.
In the 19th century the miasmatic theory of disease became a force that drove the cemetery to be evicted to the outskirts of the city. This absence of the cemetery in plain sight, altered the American view on death, and slowly became an ignored lot bordering major freeways. But the tendencies followed in the past centuries have been being developed from thousands of years ago.
This thesis focuses on key parameters, such as frequency of visitors through generations, death rate, and the uncanny present in the combination of factory, memorial, and land reuse to develop into a resomator in the city while maintaining dignity and efficiency. It will bridge the surrounding community with the “dead landscape” by fusing parks and activity in the mix. The site will consist of the resomator, a term coined by the developers of the technology, and its park wide memorial to the past members of our community.