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A proposal for a new chapel and refurbishment of an existing crematorium that connects visitors to the beautiful landscape within which it sits.
The existing crematorium is set within 10 acres of parkland landscape with many areas created for quiet and private contemplation. The facility and grounds deal not only with the immediacy with lost loved ones but act as a vessel for memory. A road carves through the centre of the site and splits it in two, separating the crematorium from much of the landscape. In addition, more roads and car parking prevent funeral guests from engaging with the landscape. In turn, the road encourages relatives of those previously deceased not to engage with the crematorium facilities as a whole and as a facility it is detached from its site, serving only a function rather than fulfilling its potential as a valuable community asset.
By raising the chapel up, into the canopies of the trees and above the infrastructure and goings on at ground level, the chapel can enjoy extensive views in all directions under a veil of carefully controlled natural light. Lower levels are solemn and experiential and allow for Reflection with carefully controlled views and light. This dichotomy provides an experience that reflects the various emotions and feelings of the event and offers spatial quality befitting of the event of celebrating the passing of life.
The chapel sits within the centre of and overlooks a raised plinth, reinforcing the gravitas of this space which is further exemplified with the roof that encloses the chapel and frames views along the plinth to the landscape beyond. The plinth becomes the foreground and the landscape becomes the background. The scenery sets a quiet and calming background for the intense and retrospective moment of the service. To avoid a condition of darkness within and lightness beyond, the ceiling is punctuated to create an ethereal environment. Unlike the sombre monumental spaces within the plinth and below the chapel, this space would be like sitting under a tree, with diffused light and an innate connection to the landscape.
The proposal consists of a simple material palette that creates a quality of austerity that is appropriate to its function and does not compete with the landscape, creating spaces of peaceful reflection. Concrete within the plinth is untreated and surfaces are left as they were formed; thus walls and ceilings around the reflection pool and waiting areas give a subtle but palpable sign of the construction process. The presence of brick subsumes detail and becomes an enveloping surface on which we walk, which covers us, which surrounds us and therefore achieves a seamless web in which material and shape result in spatial character.