Blog of Design Studies

Cremation in Europe

Rising Tendency

Cremation is an important element for different cultures all over the world.
In India, Hindus usually have a ceremony with cremation of the death. The same applies to Buddhists.
Jews think different. Thea are used to bury their death in earth. And the Christians: Until 1963 the Vatikan postulated that only villains can be cremated. The others will not get a funeral ceremony of the church.
But the public pressure to allow cremation has been risen:

  • The requirement for more hygienic environment to avoid epidemics. Only think about Virchow and his exceptional activities.
  • Filled cemeteries wherever you have been.

Vincent Valentijn and Kim Verhoeven demonstrate in their book “Goodby Architecture” a good overview of the changing development of cremation in Europe with the beginning in the early 20th century. The numbers are based on the international cremation statistics of the ‘Cremations Society of Great Britain’ of 2016.

Figure: Cremation Development,
Vincent Valentijn, Kim Verhoeven, Goodby Architecture, 2018, Rotterdam,Page 11, nai010 publishers, ISBN 978-94-6208-424-7

Different Approach of Cremation – Center

A common understanding for these places is to communicate peace and dignity.

 

If we are looking a bit more into deep, the setup and design of crematory spread over Europe follow very different and sometimes controversial intentions:

There are ideas of:

  • Strict separation of rituals and and the logistics versus using the oven space for last farewell
  • Demonstrating the and light of the sky getting into entrance and ceremony rooms against the heaviness of earth
  • Integration of the building into the landscape form and local background using the given materials
  • Getting an impression of a translucent building
  • Kind of monumental impression for the ceremony versus a simple lightness
  • Integration of the cremation center into a cemetery versus a strict separation
  • Modern integration of catering and/or ecclesiastical ceremony.

I demonstrate some of the examples in separate posts. Please follow the category “Architecture”

 

Death in Classic Music

Frederic Chopin
Creator: Louis-Auguste Bisson
Public Domain

Saint-Saens
Author: Nadar
Public Domain

Gustav Mahler
Painter: Emil Orlik
Public domain

Dmitri Shostakovich
Author: Roger & Renate Rössing
> CC BY SA

Franz Schubert – Death and the Maiden

It is called on of the pillars of chamber music: The String Quartet No. 14 of Franz Schubert, created in a very critical phase of his life. He was ill from syphilis and depression and he tried at the same time to stablish himself in Vienna. We are in the year 1824. Schubert is 23 years old.
Schubert String Quartett No. 14 (Wikipedia)

The name “death and the maiden” is based on a poem of Mathias Claudius. The maiden is fearfully confronted by death. But the death introduces himself as a friend. (in German)

The Maiden:
Pass me by! Oh, pass me by!
Go, fierce man of bones!
I am still young! Go, dear,
And do not touch me.
And do not touch me.

Death:
Give me your hand, you beautiful and tender form!
I am a friend, and come not to punish.
Be of good cheer! I am not fierce,
Softly shall you sleep in my arms!

Wikipedia

 

Frederique Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2; Op. 35

It is the funeral march that illustrate the death in his creation. This march became very famous. It was used for a lot of state funerals like Leonid Breschnew, Josip Tito, John F. Kennedy, W. Churchill etc.

Metamorphosen by Richard Strauß

The last big work for orchestra of Richard Strauß named “Metamorphosen” was composed for 23 strings. Shortly before end of World War II in 1945 the composition tells about the end of his work period and the grief about the disastrous devastation caused by the system he believed to and cites some beats of the 3rd symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Finale from symphony No. 6 by Tchaikovsky – „Pathétique“

A gorgeous symphony and his last work telling about great feeling like love, confidence and finally the ultimate death.

String quartet No. 15 – Borodin by Shostakovich

The quartet was finished in 1974 shortly before his death: A pure meditation about death with the fifth movement called “Funeral March”.

Gustav Mahler – Kindertotenlieder

Rückert’s poem (1833-34) about grief of the illness and death of his daughter inspired Mahler for his composition. Mahler himself was familiar to death, because 7 of his siblings died during their childhood. Years after the composition was ready, his own daughter died in the age of four, too.

Danse macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns

It is written in 1874 and is based on an old French superstition: Every year at midnight on Halloween Death calls the dead from their graves to dance with him till dawn.

Richard Strauß
Screenshot
Public Domain

Franz Schubert
Original in Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien
Public Domain

Pjotr Iljitsch Tschaikowski
(1840-1893)
Author: Nikolai Kuznetsov
Public Domain

a text about suicide by steven levine

Hamlet wonders, “To be or not to be,” but that is not the question. The question is, “How to be?”

Hamlet wonders, “To be or not to be,” but that is not the question. The question is, “How to be?” In a world where so many longings are not met with satisfaction, where so often there is physical and mental pain, how does one survive without becoming deadened before one dies? A Greek philosopher said, “The tragedy of life, my friend, is not that it must end. But that so many times before our natural demise, we must wish for death.” I know very few people who have not at one time or another thought that death was preferable to their present predicament. Indeed, it seems that death becomes an ever-present option within a few years after birth. Each year, thousands of grade-school children kill themselves. Among teenagers, suicide is one of the leading causes of death. It is not difficult to see that when pain and confusion arise in the mind, they are met by a strong desire for the cessation of that suffering. Indeed, suicide may be an attempt at taking control of what otherwise seems an uncontrollable situation. The only alternative to complete defeat. Suicide often arises not from a hatred of life, but from a lust for it, a desire for things to be otherwise, for life to be full when it appears not to be. Suicide may be for many the manifestation of a thwarted “will to life.” For others it may be that the pain has made life not worth living. I have been with many people dying from degenerative diseases whose contemplation of suicide is the first instance of their having taken death within, having seriously contemplated the possibility of not existing as they know it. For those in such enormous physical pain, it must be remembered that their death, like their physical experience, is wholly their own and is not to be measured or judged by any other. It seems there are various states of being who enter death willingly. One whose heart is wide open, not holding to the body, melting into the next moment with a “don’t know” openness to the unknown. Another, whose mind is weary and whose heart is frightened, jumping into death to escape the seeming unworkableness of life. And yet another who trades life for the benefit of other sentient beings—the selfless, the unswervingly merciful, the all-compassionate—such as Socrates or Jesus or the emergency rescue person in a burning building. They are each us all, equally due respect and loving-kindness, the prayers and acceptance of those left behind. The other day I heard the father of a boy who had committed suicide, during a momentary depression, say, “Everyone has a skeleton in their closet. But the person who kills themselves leaves their skeleton in another’s closet.” The grief and guilt that arise in the wake of suicide often leave a legacy of guilt and confusion. Each loved one wracks the mind and tears the heart questioning, “What could I have done to prevent this?” To acknowledge that beings must act within the context of their own life allows compassion for those who kill themselves as well as those left behind. The mind in its queasy rumblings brings up all the insecurity and fear of a lifetime when confronted with the suicide of a friend or loved one. All the moments of thinking we should have been a better person, that we ought to have loved more, float to the surface. “What could I have done? How could I have made life fuller for my loved one?” A sense of failure arises in the mind, no matter how unfounded Indeed, those who grieve after a suicide often contemplate suicide themselves. The desperation of “What’s the use?” or “Why bother?” is transmitted to those left behind—perhaps the same questions that propelled the poison or pulled the trigger. A feeling of impotence in the face of life’s uncontrollable changes. I think it is skillful, in the wake of a suicide, to practice meditations on forgiveness. Sending forgiveness to loved ones on the other side so they will not be tormented by the pain they imagine they have caused. Encouraging them to forgive themselves so that they will not repeatedly die out of guilt. And forgiveness for oneself, for unknowing, forgiveness for the mind’s incessant judgment and self-doubting, which makes each feel responsible for the acts of another There is no arguing with the mind. There is only the encouragement to let go, to open around the pain so that we do not recreate another moment of the mental suffering that was reflected in the suicide Forgiveness of ourselves and others allows life to continue, allows the heart to go beyond the mind’s guilt and hellish recrimination Indeed, when we work with those whose occupations put them in the position of “suicide counselor,” we remind them again and again that if it is not acceptable that others kill themselves, then they are probably in the wrong business To truly be a suicide counselor, you must have room for every alternative in another’s mind Or you will just be someone else who cannot be trusted, someone trying to impose your will on them To allow beings to enter into your heart, you can eliminate no part of them. Our conditioning is that suicide is a heinous act, even a sin. We think we know better than people who contemplate suicide. Yet we never touch the pain in their mind, because we are so frightened of the pain in our own Our desire to stop people from killing themselves just creates more separation. How will we be there fully for them if we think they are wrong? But if we acknowledge how painful our minds can be at times, we will be able to tune in to the pain of another We will not withdraw love just because the act that another is contemplating conflicts with our models. We must remember that many wish to die because the love they feel within has never been fulfilled. They are not getting what they want. It is not indifference. They kill themselves out of pain and unsatisfied desires. Of the hundreds who jump from the Golden Gate Bridge each year, all but the Pacific Ocean. Even in suicide, their relationship to the world they wish to leave behind is greatest. We must touch the desperation in ourselves if we are to encourage another to open to life It could be said that suicide is not so much “wrong,” as unskillful. Another opportunity for surrender, for letting go of the pain in the mind, not seen nor taken. The long conditioned aversion to the unpleasant acted on and reinforced once again. It is ironic that many who kill themselves after long depressions in which they have many times contemplated, even rehearsed, suicide, but simply did not have the energy or will power to carry it through, do so on the upswing out of that depression. Just as the energy returns, just as the light is beginning to dawn. Many kill themselves when they feel they are at “hope’s end.” But hope is born of fear, of wanting. Only when we are without fear will we be able to live without hope. Those who passed beneath the arch in Dante’s Inferno read, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” This was not a curse but a blessing. It says that all holding to future possibilities creates a painful inability to enter the present. Hope causes us to kill ourselves again and again. This is easy to say but difficult to transmit to those who wish to kill themselves. But when you have come to live your life so fully that you can abandon hope, then you will be able to transmit that fearless spaciousness to others so that they may have room in their heart for their suffering When we have let go of attachment to our fear, then we will become the optimum environment for anyone contemplating suicide. Then we will be the space into which they can enter and let go of their suffering as they wish and take the next small step, the next soft entrance into the unknown. Our long conditioned condemnation of suicide is put to the test with the image of the Buddhist monk whose picture many saw on the front page of their newspaper in the mid-1960s after he poured gasoline over his body in the streets of Saigon and immolated himself. There is a belief in Vietnamese folklore, quite outside of orthodox Buddhist thought, that the conscious dying of a pure individual can save the lives of ten thousand others. For many, the first recognition of the suffering of the peoples of Vietnam came with the photograph of that being setting himself ablaze in great stillness. He was not backing out of life or lost in some self-conscious heroic gesture. He was attempting to ease the suffering of other beings by allowing his own body to fall away. Is this suicide? Marahaji said, “Jesus gave away everything, even his body.” The being who commits suicide as a means of escaping life is a manifestation of the pain of us all Suicide is not the answer. But neither is a life of coping and holding to a hope that things will be different or that survival must be maintained at any cost. Do not ask, “To be or not to be,” but only, “What is being?” Investigate the pain in the heart and let it be met by a commitment to serve others, for the cessation of the suffering of all. Suicide is the killing of the body. Awareness is the rebirth of the mind. Love is the actualization of the unnameable.

Crematorium and Architecture – Berlin

The crematorium Berlin Baumschulenweg has a long history and was rebuild in 1996. The building is mainly constructed with concrete as the symbol of the heaviness of the grave on the one hand. Indoor halls are light flooded on the other hand and enormous pillars with halo of light give the impression of connection to the sky.

Here you can find more detailed information about history, architecture and a video on the website of the official authority.

Crematorium of Berlin

Types of graves

History

Formal docs and tasks

  • As a family member you have the duty to organise the burial, independent of heritage.
  • First of all a certificate of death is needed, after somebody died. Otherwise you won’t be allowed to move the body. In some countries a second certificate is need before the body will be cremated.
  • Officially you need in addition the id card of the died person, certification of birth, evtl. certifications of marriage, divorce, or of already died partners.
  • If there is a documented “last will”, it’s needed and has to be send to probate court. You normally get an information of the court that it is now needed.
  • Call an undertaker to support you.
  • The death has to be reported to the register office, mostly it will be done by a funeral parlour.
  • The official death certificate from the register office is now the most important documents you need for further steps.
  • Report the death to assurances, employer, banks, etc.
  • Another important document is a “general power of attorney beyond the death”, that enables you to access the bank account and to act in place of the death person.

Types of burials

Nowadays we have different types of burials.

  • Burial in earth: It was preferred for a long time.
  • Cremation:
    • The wooden coffin with the dead body will be burned to ashes at 850°C.
    • After around 75 minutes the ashes will be collected and put into a specific ash capsule after separating medical implants if there were.
    • Based on that there are different subsequent procedures possible:
  • Urn burial:
    • Similar like a standard earth burial. It needs smaller area.
    • Burial into steles.
  • Burial at sea: Ashes will be dispersed from a boat into sea.
  • Tree burial: The urn can be buried in a special forest under trees.
  • Sky burial: Not allowed in every country: Ashes can be spread into the wind, sometimes on specific areas or in the sky from a plan etc.

Maggie’s Cancer Care Center

Maggie Keswick Jencks, a writer, artist and designer initiated the idea of „Maggie’s Center“: Infirmaries that provide patients with cancer an environment of support and advice in a protected area without replacing the conventional cancer therapy.
These buildings are relatively small, compared to clinical center, but excellent designed to feel welcome, protected and to get a connection to nature and spirituality. Here, death is common. The building and garden architecture supports the spiritual thoughts between life and death.

Additional information and a lot of more international spreaded center can be found here:

https://www.maggiescentres.org/our-centres/

TED talk “death and architecture”

Alison Killing thinks a lot about death … and specifically, how its ubiquitous, hidden presence shapes our cities. In Death in Venice, her June 2014 exhibition on the topic, Killing mapped London’s death-associated architectural features — hospitals, cemeteries, crematoria, and so on — making visible the invisible mechanics of death and dying. She asks us to consider: What might a good death experience mean today? And how can we design differently for the dying, as well as those caring for them?

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