Celebrating Life
Designing the 21st Century Crematorium

— Researching the Role of Interior Design in Mourning and Celebrating Death

Context & Location.

Avenues for Design Research.

Core Feature of User Experience.

> As part of Croydon’s ambitious redevelopment plans, this project looked for rethinking the purpose of crematoriums in the 21st century — exploring the future of cremations through modular and digital spaces, unique set of experiences and services suitable for multi-faith commemorations inside a 1920’s Church.

> Cremations have become increasingly popular and according to the Cremation Society of Great Britain 75% of all deaths in the UK are cremated annually. Cremation is the normal method of funeral for Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Zoroastrian faiths, and is also widely used by Christian denominations and those with no faith. The UK government believes it is important that there are good quality crematoria that respect cultural and religious traditions and are sensitive to the needs of all users and faiths.

> Moreover, with consistent increase in aging population and increased popularity of cremation over burial, the traditions and activities related to death are being probed – with latest attitudes towards “celebration of death” and “being happy around it” rather than mourning. Croydon Council is leading an example and decided to re-imagine the existing Croydon Crematorium.

> To address this growing social problem, this research project explored the role of interior design in relation to the subject of celebrating death through cremation — with consideration to different budget (£400k, £700k, and £900k) and interesting use of technology (visual, sound, sensory, interactive experiences to enhance user/visitor experience).

This research project is based on the Inductive & Intuitive model to enable a co-creating process that involves the designer to learn alongside the client to develop solutions suited for client as well as end-user needs.

Shared views of the designer and the industry partner helped with envisioning the future based on mutual insights of the world and key understanding of the subject matter.

> Using the Inductive & Intuitive model, a design proposal originated from this research entitled Celebrating Life (Sarah Agill and Shpend Pashtriku), which proposes the future of cremations through modular and digital spaces, and a more interactive and engaged experience.

Key words:   Digital cremation;
                       Celebrating life

Rethinking the User Experience (Possibilities with £400k)

The West Chapel Plan.

> Bringing the chapel to its minimal form and creating surfaces for projection by plastering over the existing brick interior walls — and in the process subtracting features of the building to make it neutral. The use of soft wood for furniture and polished concrete for the floor allows for a calmer and lighter mood.

Digital Chapel with Interior Projection.

Interior Experiences.

Subtracted Existing Features.

The Remembrance Hall Plan.

> Large movable surfaces form a canvas to display personalised look and feel, allowing cultural and religious activities to take place in an ephemeral manner. Light and moveable furniture enable rapid transformation of the space.

Digitally & Physically Transformative Remembrance Hall.

Rest Rooms Plan.

> Stationed near the main remembrance halls, the rest rooms are places of calmness that sense the mood of the mourner and triggers an interactive emotional experience through change of colour, softer light and controlled sound.

Interactive Emotional Rest Rooms.

Rethinking the User Experience and Space Reconfiguration (Possibilities with £700k)

The Waiting Hall, Columbarium, and Brid Cage Plan.

> The waiting hall with its lowered ceiling allows the penetration of light from the courtyard across the space, whilst the use of neutral and soft materials creates a feeling of calmness and reflection. The columbarium is formed of interactive boxes dedicated to the families of the deceased and a place of private reflection. The bird cage acts as a distraction for the mourners who are able to interact with the birds, whilst their singing echoes the sound of paradise throughout the ceremony.

The Waiting Hall.

The Waiting Hall and the Columbarium.

The Bird Cage.

Rethinking the User Experience, Space Reconfiguration, and New Build (Possibilities with £900k)

The Walk of Remembrance Plan.

> Walking passed the central courtyard, the perforated structure wrapped around the spiral staircase creates empty spaces where personalised boxes containing the ashes of the deceased are stored — each one connected to the families of the deceased via the crematorium’s application, which sends them reminders and notifications in advance of a special day or event.

View Across the Courtyard.

Experiencing the Walk of Remembrance.

Personalised Digital Ash Box.

The Oval Plan.

> The ashes of the deceased are taken up the spiral staircase, indicating the process of the soul after it leaves the body - and celebrating the day on the rooftop amongst friends and family overlooking the lush green surroundings and natural landscape.

Experiencing the Oval.

Aerial View.
Roof Top.


Organisation + [Credits]
Ravensbourne University London, [©Idrees Rasouli]

Role + [Team Size]
Principal Investigator, [8]

Date + [Duration of Involvement]
2018, [3 months]

Partner + [Project Location]
Croydon Council, [London, UK]

Status + [Project Type]
Research, [Design-led Solutions]

Brief + [Challenge]
Reimagining Cremation and Crematorium, [Design for Community]

Collaborators [Research & Design]
Project Collaborators (Peter Dean, Corydon Council); Project Team (Sarah Agill, Shpend Pashtriku); Project Consultants (Kevin Pilkington, Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management)

Collaborators [Insights]
Councillor Oliver Lewis, Cabinet member of culture, leisure and sport

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