Date of Award
Master of Design (MDes) in Interior Studies / Exhibition + Narrative Environments
Burial and funeral culture have been shaped by human self-awareness and reflect an anthropocentric worldview. The modern funeral industry's multi-billion-dollar enterprise is based on the principle of protecting, sanitizing, and beautifying the corpse to promote the idea of human exceptionalism. However, this practice overlooks the natural process of decay and the potential beauty in returning the body to the earth, with which the body shares the same chemical basis as the earth itself. Modern science has provided Eco-friendly green burial methods, such as soil modification, ice burial, and water burial, making it suitable to contribute to natural ecology using human bodies.
China's explosive population growth resulting from urbanization has caused a shortage of cemeteries, making it challenging to access earthen burials and cremations. To address this issue, this thesis proposes an Ecological Architecture of Death by renovating Hong Kong's iconic Star Ferry Pier into a new cemetery typology that promotes green burial methods and creates an earth-friendly resting place for the deceased and a space for the living to reflect on our entanglement with the natural world. The proposal is divided into four parts: Spiritual Space, Facility, Theatre, and Memorial. Spiritual Space provides a ritual to participate in the farewell process and build a relationship with the deceased. Facility offers functional and technical support for burial, while Theatre dramatizes the moment after the farewell to prolong the process of memorialization and incorporates it into architectural spaces and narratives to facilitate the grieving process. Memorial keeps remembrance alive and welcomes members of the surrounding community. By embedding the cemetery within urban life and improving accessibility, mourning behaviors can become a part of daily life.
Ultimately, this thesis proposes a sustainable approach to death that challenges the conventional funeral industry's anthropocentric practices and promotes ecological harmony between humans and nature. Providing safe and open interactions with death and dead bodies, this architecture can help individuals unburden their grief and find a path towards healing.
Xie, Chang, "Beyond Burial - Transforming Death: A New Ritual of Farewell and the Ecological Return of the Body to Nature" (2023). Masters Theses. 1172.
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