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Tipner Crematorium

Part 2 Project 2003
Simon Bishop
Rachel Harding
University of Portsmouth, UK
This thesis project involved the design of a crematorium, which was used to test two propositions: firstly, the suitability of locating a crematorium within an urban context, and secondly, the appropriateness of ‘standard’ crematoria design. Consequently, the site chosen was Tipner, a fringe of land on the western side of Portsmouth, trapped between the sea and the M275 motorway, with an underpass link to a densely populated residential area. Also, the design of the building itself, and the way it is situated within its context, proposed a new typology for crematoria design.

The project tackled three scales: urban, site, building. Urban integration was proposed by the development of an existing park, and bringing it under the M275 so that a spatial connection was made between the residential area and the crematorium complex. The site of the crematorium was defined as an area within the public park. The crematorium complex, in its layout, took on the analogy to a Roman city: accessible via four separate gateways, containing four specific quarters with a focal city square at the centre. The four quarters symbolized fire, earth, water, and air, and these quarters corresponded to certain elements of the crematorium process and hence also to different parts of the building. Finally, the design of the building itself synthesized the thesis. Both in its layout, as well as its architectonic expression, the building articulated, and made complete, the psychological journey of a mourner.

Simon Bishop
Rachel Harding

Simon’s thesis project can be noted for, firstly, clarity of thought, and, secondly, expansiveness of poetic intent. The first attribute is a result of thorough investigation into the subject, which entailed a series of visits to different crematoria within Europe, most notably Malmö Cemetery, Sweden by Sigurd Lewerentz. The knowledge gained thereby was filtered and organised to form a very clear thesis proposition. The second attribute is a result of the ability to move beyond the tangible language of architecture into a realm where all can be said to carry a symbolic meaning – in this project forms are ideas, not merely shapes.

The thesis moves successfully between the scale of the urban park, the site of the crematorium complex and that of the building itself – it does so within a coherent narrative, that of the journey of the mourner.

The ambition of the thesis was to challenge the current trend of thinking in crematoria design, to provide a new typology for crematoria and to aid in the experiences involved in the process of cremation. The ambition was also to bring the city of the dead back into the city of the living. The project went a long way to satisfy both of these ambitions.


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