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Building In The Landscape, Crematorium Design

Part 1 Project 2002
Lynne Fenton
University of Dundee, UK

The building is conceived at both distant and intimate levels. From afar, the monumentality of the wall relates to the water (river Tay) and the sky, while close up, the chapel is regarded as part building, part furniture. The building supports the event rather than dominates – subliminal at its best.

The relationship of the chapel (object) to the wall is exploited to create a particular plan for commital viewing (special process for different religions) heightening the tension between the massive monumental wall and the delicate chapel.

The view from afar, shows the horizontality of the wall that wraps around the building. Providing a counter point to its context, which is the distinct vertical presence of the lighthouse. The walk/procession up to the building, and views from within, through the niches created in the condolence space, allows the context to be framed, with views towards the lighthouse, Broughty Ferry and out to sea.


The choice and arrangement of the materials is based on the attitudes towards the ground. The wall, which is embedded in the ground and the chapel, which is isolated from the ground by its frame. The stacked slate ‘beds’ forming the wall evokes the strata of the earth and a sense of permanence. Against which the delicacy and refinement of the timber-clad chapel is contrasted. The timber is selected for its ‘warmth’ that is intended to support a highly charged event.

For ease of assembly the chapel is held within an in-situ concrete frame, this retracts the need for transportation and erection of large-scale elements to a relatively inaccessible site – conversely, where appropriate the prefabricated curved section in the chapel is intentional.

Materially the chapel interior focuses on surfaces and texture rather than the articulation of the materials and their assembly – therefore the source of light, surface texture, colour and hue of materials were found an essential factor.


The concrete frame is regarded as a ‘cradle’ that holds the chapel contrasting with the massive ‘Neolithic’ slate wall. The distinct difference between the lightness of the frame and the massiveness of the wall helps each to emphasize the quality of the other. The separation of the two elements is an essential idea – the elements never touch, always employing an intermediate material in any connection.


The heating system used within the chapel will be underfloor heating, which will take heat from the cremators over a heat exchanger. This will be intermittent so there will be the need for a backup boiler to heat water when the cremators are not in use.

The timber being used is taken from replenished forests, which are present in the surrounding area local to site.

The space is naturally ventilated, through vents at the bottom of the windows and from the mechanical opening of the clerestorey. The space will be ventilated for the main part by the opening of the main doors as the chapel is entered and exited as this is fairly frequent.

Lynne Fenton

The programme was designed to allow the students the opportunity to engage with an integrated design programme, from scheme design through to a detailed technical investigation in terms of structure materials and environment. Lynne chose to design a crematorium on a steeply sloping site, the south bank of the Tay. The site itself provided a great challenge in terms of organisation of the complex functions of the building. The scheme was chosen firstly because of the creative response to the site. It appears deceptively simple, yet it is a clever solution to the problem of separating the functional and spiritual aspects of the brief through the use of levels. Mourners are subtly aware of the cremator held in the drum beneath, but are also contained within the light glass chapel, pulled away from the “Neolithic “ wall of the drum. Secondly the idea has been rigorously pursued through the detail design stage. The structure, materials and details are treated as an integral part of the development of the scheme creating an exceptionally mature response from a year 3 student. The submission for the project was primarily in model form, with some supporting drawings. The students are asked to move between a variety of scales which examine different issues, from 1.500, through to 1.20.

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