Throughout history, structures have been conceived to memorialize the dead. Many of these buildings reflect the philosophical or religious belief systems of the times, from the great pyramids of Egypt to Boullee’s Cenotaph for Isaac Newton. Today, memorializing the end of life poses practical concerns related to sustainable land use, ecological questions regarding the disposal of human remains, and philosophical speculations on memorializing human life. Our proposal poses a new model for the interment of the dead and celebration of the living.
The Evergreenhouse is a mausoleum designed for a small community, where human remains become the growing medium for a botanic garden. The mausoleum is an alternative to ever-expanding cemeteries, unsustainable land use, and the pollutants of cremation. By utilizing a carbon-rich burial medium to ensure the decomposition of a body within 3 months, the body’s organic material is converted to fertile soil within a controlled environment.
The crystalline form of the Evergreenhouse is based on the tesseract, a mathematical model of 4-dimensional space that represents dimensions outside our understanding. Employed metaphorically in literature and explored by mathematicians and scientists, the tesseract is a geometric construct that inspires speculation.
The Evergreenhouse has a superstructure of wood and a steel-framed glass enclosure designed to provide cross-ventilation and an abundance of light. The greenhouse is scaled to contain a large central tree with gathering space for visitors and interment ceremonies, and a subterranean vault to accommodate the garden’s root systems and containers for the interred.
The Evergreenhouse is designed for 12 burial plots, with a decomposition and soil-generative process that can support a community of 600. The Evergreenhouse is a place in which to honor the dead and celebrate the living through the dichotomies of light and darkness, above and below, body and spirit, the tangible and the ineffable, the known and unknown.
This project was first exhibited at Art Omi, NY, in the show Exit Architecture, January 2019.
The Evergreenhouse is scaled to encompass a mature oak tree. Oaks trees symbolize strength, endurance and knowledge, and can live for over 300 years, or more than twelve human generations. When the tree nears the end of its life, its acorns can be planted to grow saplings, thus continuing the lineage of the family tree.
BELOW-GRADE CONCRETE VAULT
The vault serves as the foundation for the Evergreenhouse as well as an engineered natural environment for the burial vaults.
The lapped glass facade is ventilated to control the internal temperature of the Evergreenhouse. The greenhouse is unheated to allow the oak tree to go through its seasonal cycle of dropping its leaves over the winter and budding in the spring.
The form of the Evergreenhouse is derived from overlapping tesseracts. The tesseract, a mathematical representation of the 4th dimension based on the cube, alludes to the unknowability of life after death.
The overlapping tesseracts form a braced moment-frame wood structure to create a large interior volume for the garden and tree to grow in.
The technology of the Evergreenhouse is based on control and monitoring systems developed for ventilating landfills and agricultural college research into the high heat composting of large farm animals. The burial vault will decompose a human body
in 3 months.
Model on view at Art Omi, NY in the exhibition Exit Architecture, 2019