By Ar. Sinora Penkar
With a population of over a billion people and a country steeped in culture and tradition, India needs to build for her people clean, tranquil and private spaces where they can complete the last rites of their loved ones. Ar. Sinora Penkar’s winning design for a funerary…
The last farewells to the dearly departed should ideally be a deeply spiritual journey for the mourners. Funerary Architecture thus has to make sure that crematoriums and cemeteries are places that provide solace to the distraught, irrespective of their religion.
The architectural challenge that came via a recent design competition for a Multi-Faith Funerary Centre granted me the opportunity to research and highlight the inadequacy of contemporary crematoriums and emphasize the need for alternative methods of Cremation and Burial; to mitigate the prevailing environmental pollution and promote integral sustainability issues within this realm.
Responding to the brief that the funerary must represent the various religions of our country and our culture and traditions and yet have a definite identity; and that any town or city within the country should be able to replicate it easily and efficiently and yet retain its sense of place; our design is based on the symbol of the Eight-Point Star - a universal symbol in many faiths.
Concept site plan - has a strong axis, passing through the entrance gateway, through the waterfall feature, and the central court ending with the Hindu module wall, directly sitting onto the axis.
Site Plan - Each module is an enclosed space, one side overlooking the landscaped surroundings
Using the Eight-Point Star as the common architectural element, we chose simple modular planning, allowing flexibility in orientation, grouping and placement that can be replicated easily. Modules of different faiths are placed around a strong nodal axis with a contemplation space simulating the ancient step-well or kund around it. This constitutes a space where one comes to reflect and hopefully purify & calm oneself.
Design Approach: Eight-Point Star - A secular concept, open to all, irrespective of religious beliefs.
Man’s visual system is receptive to patterns. The Eight-Point Star appears in cultures around the world and carries various meanings associated with each culture that utilizes it. Our project being "Multi-Faith", different religious modules adapt to this symbol to ensure that although the faiths are amalgamated into one central Eight -Point Star core, each faith has the prerogative of performing the funeral rites according to their respective cultural identity.
Hindu Module – contains the furnace chamber enclosed by solid walls, secluding the family from the others. It also contains a ritual table viewed by the attendees / mourners from the surrounding built-in seats.
The design is more an experience than a process and therefore, landscape has been used to create a deep spiritual journey for mourners.
Entrance Screen Wall - has narrow slit openings with Verses from Koran, Bible & Shlokas from Vedas engraved in stone cladding. Nothing of inside is visible due to the screen wall & the waterfall feature in front
Since the burial process is defined by biomass and solar cremation and a green burial process called Promession, the remains return to the loam in the ground in 6-12 months, necessitating only one plot (a 3rd of the traditional plot size) to be sustainably used in the family for generations to come - resulting in a true ‘Family Tree’
Remains are returned in a form that gives life, (i.e. one can plant a flower or tree with the remains) and in doing so complete the ‘Circle of Life’ preferred by many religions.
The project is still hypothetical with an ‘awarded’ status; I am hoping to receive the go-ahead for its execution and realization.