We were kindly received by the manager mr. Anděl who showed us the building and its dayly workings. This crematorium is truely impressive. Although the crematorium breathes monumentality this is pleasantly countercted by the social way the people of Prague have integrated it in everyday life.
The crematorium is a great example of British modernism – stone walls, flat roofs, free “organic” plans following the contours of the site and a distinct Scandinavian accent (this is clearest in the small chapel).
It was the last design of modernist architect Maxwell Fry who worked with Walter Gropius before the war. There is a clear and present manneristic vision at the root of this design, it is like the funeral process translated into architecture. The essence of experiencing a funeral is transposed into mass, space and tactile experience. This remarcable architecture was made complete with stained glass from the famous Swansea School of Art and this tradition is carried on with subtile additions being made in the present.
The crematorium, which is in use since 1959, was designed by Sir Dawber, Fox and Robinson and sits in a circular infrastructure. In 2011 plans were made for to add mercury abatement and extensions to the chapels. The X-plan, the style of the old building and restraints of the site called for an inventive architecture, this was delivered by CLAY architecture.
The new extensions keep the symmetry of the original design. Setting them to the side of the chapels avoided removing trees and cremated remains, also this plan managed to and sightlines within the extension to the apse and pulpit. Choosing to supplement the crematorium with a modern volume seems to have worked quite well since the design has been awarded the regional RIBA award
From the 27 of april until the 8th of may we are travelling to see a selection of crematoria in the UK and we will try to interview some interesting people along the way. We are planning the trip ‘as we speak’ so if you have any last minute tips please let us know.
This exhibition is not intended to emphasize the sadness of the moment but in a “World Between”.
Norway’s ever-inventive national television channel NRK has moved from ‘Slow TV’ to ‘TV Macabre’ with “The Coffin”, which follows a set of celebrities planning their own funerals.
Each show in the series, which producer Nils Gelting Andresen describes as “a feel-good program about death”, ends with a practice-run in which the celebrity, for example, watches the coffin they’ve chosen be cremated. “People will hopefully feel that they are better acquainted with the guests and discover aspects of them they had not known,” Andresen told NRK.
NRK has developed an international reputation for its series of ‘Slow TV’ programmes, starting in 2009 with centenary of the Bergen railway line. Rather than commission a conventional feature programme on the line, NRK instead decided to stick a camera on a train and broadcast the entire seven-hour trip from Oslo to Bergen, interweaving archive footage to liven up the programme.
Remarkably, it was a roaring success, with 1.2 million viewers, nearly a quarter of the population of Norway, tuning in for at least part of the trip. Since then, the network has broadcast a cruise journey, a fire being slowly built and burned, and more recently, the knitting of a jumper, starting with the original sheep.
The first programme features Bjarne Brøndbo, the lead singer for Norwegian rock band D.D.E, who is shown decorating the coffin he would like to be cremated in. “It is very strange to see the coffin here,” he says. “At the age of almost 50 years, you do start to think a little that life has an end.” “According to my wife, I think I’m immortal,” he says. “Actually, I’m terrified of dying, and that’s why I try to live.”
The singer decorates his coffin with the inscription “Rai Rai”, a reference to the band’s biggest hit, as well as the names of several members of his family, including his mother. “My wish is that people should not be so very sad at my funeral,” he says. “Afterwards, I hope that people meet to share stories over dinner, wine, coffee and brandy.” He wants the song “Where roses never die” to be played, as is traditional for his family.
The other celebrities taking part include the TV presenter Thomas Seltzer, and the adventurer and presenter Jarle Andhøy.
We have started an exploration of crematoria in Europe, the goal is to show the architecture of crematoria and the way they work. With this we also want to give an insight in cremation practices in the Netherlands and the rest of the European Union.
The way people think about death, funeral, cremation and ways to commemmorate depend heavily on their personal experiences and believes. We want to know in which way does the physical place for death and remembrance contribute. Places where emotions like grief, fear and anger but also peacefullness can exist. What influence does architecture, the interior and the landscape have in these emotional processes?
How have crematoria been designed, what are the relationships between the functional aspects of cremation and the personal, more spiritual funeral proces? What influences do social phenomenon and recent developments like the growing personification of the funeral have?
For our research we would like to speak with people from the funeral industry and designers who have been involved in designing places for death.