Hong Kong-based architectural firm BREAD studio has designed the “Floating Eternity” – Offshore cemetery. The proposal resolves the cemetery shortage problems the over dense city of Hong Kong is currently facing.
Death is an inevitable stage which everyone needs to go through. Yet, they become the two major social challenges now in Hong Kong. With the booming growth of aging population, shortage of cemetery space is an immediate problem to resolve.
Cemetery evolution, similar to housing, is determined by land supply. As time goes by, burial method of our loved ones evolves. In a small place like Hong Kong, the critical motivation of changes is the limited availability of land.
In the 80s, as the hillside cemeteries became saturated, columbarium became popular. In the beginning, columbarium was housed inside temples. Dedicated building complex was then developed to provide higher capacity. Similar to residential development, these columbarium buildings go higher for space. However, the proximity of multi-level columbarium to residents causes problems in our community. There is constant public opposition for the government’s allocation for land adjacent to the residential area for columbarium construction. On the other hand, illegal columbarium invades industrial buildings in old district. Other than psychological disturbances, noise and ashes from ceremony also causes health problems to the neighbourhood.
Location, location, location
Just like all other properties, location and orientation are always the keys to determine popularity and price. But what if it is a mobile one on the surface of the sea? It then solves many problems in site selection. Hong Kong is a city with some of the longest coastal lines among the surrounding region. Living on a boat is part of our history. Sea habitation utilizes Hong Kong’s geographical constraints. It is also far more sustainable than reclamation. Floating Eternity is a new typology of cemetery on the sea. Floating cemetery fits perfectly to the best spot in HK marina territory. It offers serenity and breath-taking scenery which inland could compete with.
Equal opportunity on Orientation
In conventional columbarium, the price for a lot (or literally a hole) on the wall which faces the front could be twice as that on the sidewalls. Columbarium walls on the floating cemetery sit on a rail track. The energy supply for the track is tidal power which allows the walls to move forward slowly. Walls travelling around the loop track provide each spot an equal chance for the best orientation. Walls are also positioned at an angle to the cruise deck. This gives all walls an open view to the beautiful scenery. The track also brings the wall to the central ceremony space for the visitors during ceremonies. There are viewing platforms at two ends like deck for holding bigger ceremonies.
Flexibility visiting time
Each year, weekends around Ching Ming and Chung Yeung festivals, crowds heading to cemetery congest the entire downtown traffic. For floating cemetery, there are two ways to pay a visit to our loved ones. Biannually, the floating deck sails back to town and docks at the piers. Parking at different piers on different days also assists in crowd diversion to different parts in the city. With the new Kai Tak cruise terminal comes into operation next year, there is a great variety of well-equipped piers to choose from for this event. In normal days between festivals, people could take ferry to the cemetery while it stops at the South China Sea. With the ancillary facilities provided on deck, it could be an enjoyable day out for the whole family. This is a great way of family bonding as well as passing on the Chinese tradition to the younger generation.
Enjoyable family event
Other than flowers and paper sacrifices, Chinese brings along loads of food during our cemetery visits. It is common ritual for people to consume some of the food on the spot afterwards. Unfortunately, there is no sufficient space for visitors to enjoy a picnic in most cemeteries in Hong Kong now. On the floating cemetery, people could enjoy their picnic on the grass deck or restaurant area on the lower deck. Food court in the restaurant also provides a great range of food for visitors with different religions, Buddhist Vegetarian for example.
Self Sustainable development
Some might believe that it is too costly to build a ship for cemetery. In fact, when we look at the current land value in town and the area required for accommodating the equivalent capacity, this is indeed an economic strategy in the long run. The first phase of the floating cemetery provides columbarium space of 370,000. With a norm price of HKD5,000 for a columbarium space in town (please also note that a lot with similar scenery could cost up to HKD100,000), the first phase intakes 18.5 billions for a full house. With the constant rise of aging population in the next few decades, floating cemetery is the perfect alternative solution to the problem of cemetery shortage. Having a board ship hull, the floating cemetery allows a few more storeys by simply stacking up other tracks on top. The cemetery could then sustain itself for another couple decades. As it is usually challenging to demolish and relocate existing cemetery for redevelopment, a self-sustainable mechanism plays a crucial role in the agenda of future cemetery design.
The proposal is a direct response to the problems we are facing in land cemetery development. Floating Eternity is a basic prototype of its kind. Hence, the design emphasizes on the strategy and mechanism rather than its visual appearance. Similar to cruise design, there could be millions of variations to suit different market demands. Columbarium has become the most acceptable choice for our last stop. Offshore cemetery is therefore the next alternative, comparable to the existing sea bury that occupies no space at all.
+ Project facts
Client: Private cemetery developer
Architect: BREAD studio
Design Period: 2012
Project Area: 20,000 sqm GFA