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“


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?

fabulous coffins of Ghana

In Ghana it’s believed that death is the beginning of a life afterwards: The best opportunity to celebrate the decease full of fantasy. A tradition emerged, to build a coffin that reflects anyhow the character of the death person.

documentary „Día de los Muertos“

The common ceremony every year at 1. Nov. in Mexico is as an cultural heritage, based on the spirit that every year the dead come back for one day at the end of the harvest season to celebrate with the living family members.
Many ritual elements belong to the celebration:

  • Ofrendas = traditional altars
  • Lot of flowers, candles and symbols of death  at home, at the streets, at the cemetery 
  • Dainties etc…

The following link shows a documentation (german).

Reise durch Mexiko: Tag der Toten Doku (2011)

3 Persons standing on the street
Author: Christian Newman

Los Muertes