advertisement
advertisement

Dead in the Water: A Floating Cemetery for Hong Kong

A concept building in Hong Kong by the designer Tin Shun But gives a whole newmeaning to burial at sea. Instead of tossing ashes into the great blueyonder, you can stow them on a floating columbarium moored to the main land. Think of it as a cruise ship, of sorts, but for permanent vacationers.

Dead in the Water: A Floating Cemetery for Hong Kong

A concept building in Hong Kong by the designer Tin Shun But gives a whole newmeaning to burial at sea. Instead of tossing ashes into the great blueyonder, you can stow them on a floating columbarium moored to the main land. Think of it as a cruise ship, of sorts, but for permanent vacationers.

advertisement

It sounds absurd, until you realize how difficult it is to find a place in HongKong to spend eternity. In a city that packs more than 7 millionresidents into less than 500 square miles, burial grounds are in hotdemand, with private cemetery spaces going for $280,000HKD (about $36,000 USD) and families waiting up to 56 months for a reused plot in a public burial site, according to Bloomberg.Demand far outstrips supply, and as a result, the vast majority of bodies are cremated. The city expects some 400,000 new urns in thenext decade.

Just finding space for all those ashes is geographically fraught. HongKong is firmly rooted in Buddhist traditions, and showing deadancestors proper respect is a powerful cultural imperative — thatincludes grade-A resting places. (Views of other graveyards, bad; viewsof nature, good.) Apparently, a debate is raging over whether to buildthe city a multi-story columbarium or develop the land for mortal endeavors.

advertisement
advertisement

The problem is hardly confined to HongKong. From New York toSingapore, cemeteries are filling to the brim, forcing regions to adoptcurious burial rituals: exhumations, grave-sharing, etc. In eco-conscious Sweden, it’s now legal to freeze bodies in liquid nitrogen,then shatter them. (This is supposedly gentler on the environment thanburning bodies, if somewhat disturbing to family members.)

Hong Kong has considered other options. Last year, as Bloomberg reported, city officials dropped by a colombariumoutside Tokyo where families swipe a smart card to access ashes from anunderground vault, turning the somber act of remembrance into somethinglike an ATM withdrawal. Visitors can bring flowers and tchotchkes ifthey want, but they have to remove them as soon as they leave. And ifthey’re too lazy to make the trip, they can always pray in front of animage of the urn online.

So Tin Shun But’s idea is pretty damned smart. From the harbor, visitors pull up to the columbariumby boat, then set the ashes in a designated niche or sprinkle themoverboard into the murky depths. Seascape at every turn provides apicturesque environment in which to pay respects and a fitting cosmictribute to those who’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. The harborsidelocation doesn’t get in the way of urban development plans.

Weimagine some people might balk at the impermanence of it all. What’s tosay a storm doesn’t hurl a monster wave on deck, washing dear grannyinto the sea? It’s possible. Maybe even probable. But burial groundsthemselves are subject to the vagaries of weather, vandalism, and time.Just look to the tombs of ancient Egypt, or even of modern New Orleans.Hardly anyone rests in peace forever.

advertisement

[Check out more pics at Arch Daily]

advertisement

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

More