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Press Release - 12 September 2005

Architectural challenges of cemeteries and crematoria

Ambiguity and evasion: the architecture of British crematoria

The search for an appropriate architectural expression for a building in which complex human and cultural issues find confluence continues to tax the imagination and ingenuity of architects. The fact that crematoria lack a truly conceptual basis means that their architectural expression is equivocal at almost every level. They are at once functional and symbolic; secular and religious.

Architects are required to provide two very distinct spaces. The function, disposing of a dead body, remains unequivocal. However, the search for architectural forms invested with deeper meaning, symbolic of intense personal and psychological experience of the transition from life to death, has proved more problematical. Hilary will challenge the accepted view of the British crematorium - as a building no more significant than an airport waiting room - and lift the veil of anonymity surrounding this 'invisible' twentieth century building type.

Contact: Hilary Grainger (London College of Fashion)
Tel: +44 (0)207 5147670/1
Mobile: +44 (0)7981 323385

Cemetery landscapes

As one of the largest Victorian cemeteries in Britain, the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium is faced with the increasing problem of running out of grave space and there is an initiative to reclaim Victorian graves and use the grave space and memorials for contemporary burial. The cemetery management are also eradicating what they feel are hazardous or unsightly temporary artefacts that are left on graves.

Kate Woodthorpe proposes that these changes will profoundly affect the landscape and the use of creativity within the site to ‘identify’ the dead and the bereaved. Is the cemetery therefore becoming symptomatic of a post-modern desire for heightened individuality in the face of modern systems of control? Are temporary memorials acting as a substitute for an earlier and more homogeneous permanent memorial landscape, and if personal objects are being removed, how will the temporal and permanent landscape of the cemetery be affected?

How creativity is managed within the cemetery will be addressed and tensions that will have an impact on the temporary and permanent landscape will be highlighted by exploring the argument that we might be facing (r)evolution in the memorialisation of the dead.

Kate Woodthorpe (University of Sheffield)

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