Katrina Spade – Urban Death Project

And again, this week we are losing the great author Michel Tournier, the talented photographer Laila Alaoui

I won’t do any homage here (these artists deserve much better written articles elsewhere!) but as death seems to be very ‘January 2016’, why not sharing the project from the architect Katrina Spade, called the Urban Death Project.

Death is part of our life, we simply cannot avoid it. But this is also a market, and an expensive one, with lots of energy spent for it: if we think about the millions of trees used for coffins, the chemicals for the same coffins but also for the bodies itself in order to make them presentable for the mourners… Plus, there is an issue in many cities about overcrowding cemeteries.
Therefore the idea to have a more eco-friendly attitude in this stage of our life (or simply being in concordance with the nature) and cost effective is far to be a stupid one!

Urban Death project wants to be a sustainable alternative to burying or cremating our loved ones.
Similar to the anaerobic digestion, the dead bodies wrapped in linen would naturally decomposed in a storage room and become soil.

This is only a project for now, and Katrina Spade is calling for the construction of such building, where the funerals would also takes place.  For her, the “Urban Death Project utilises the process of composting to safely and gently turn our deceased into soil-building material, creating a meaningful, equitable and ecological urban alternative to existing options for the disposition of the dead.
There is no embalmment as decomposition is an important part of the process and therefore the whole funeral process would need to be re-examined.

The designer received financial support from Echoing Green, a foundation that provides seed-stage funding for projects that promote social change, but she is continuing to raise funds to conduct research and build a prototype.
According to her : “750,000 gallons (2.8 million litres) of formaldehyde-laden embalming fluid are used annually in the US, more than 30 million board-feet of hardwood (nine million metres) and 90,000 tons (81,600 metric tons) of steel are used to make coffins (Again in the US only) and 17,000 tons (15,400 metric tons) of steel and copper and 1.6 million tons (1.4 million metric tons) of reinforced concrete are used for American burial vaults”.  Even cremation use approximately “600 million pounds of carbon dioxide (272 million kilograms) into the atmosphere annually, which is the equivalent of more than 70,000 cars driving the road for a year”.

This is why, her project is very ambitious as it touches one of the most sacred part of life, but it really worth to consider.


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