Peaceful, Symbolic and Spiritual
Architecture
Architectural Services Department, Food and Environmental
Hygiene Department

Exemplary Services@Gov
2013
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(Cantonese with English subtitles)

There has been growing demand for public crematorium and columbarium facilities in recent years. Yet, it is a challenge for the Government to find suitable locations to build thesefacilities. The Architectural Services Department (ArchSD) and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) have adopted a new design approach to give the public a new image for these facilities.

Addressing users' emotional needs and feelings as design priority

Crematoria and columbaria usually give people an image of coldness. The new facilities, situated in a natural valley, are designed to be a place of dignity and peace by integrating contemporary, spiritual and symbolic architectural elements into the design. The use of fairface concrete and timber façade and provision of large greenery areas create an environment harmonious with nature. The reflecting pools at the site entrances, the Pond of Life and other water features provide a peaceful environment for meditation.

The process of delivering the casket to the cremator has been re-designed. Instead of having the coffin delivered to the back through hanging curtains in the traditional way, the new process sinks the coffin to the floor below. This recalls the tradition of burying the coffins underground.

Engaging and partnering for success

Keys to the success of this project were actively engaging stakeholders and the close partnership among government departments. Brainstorming sessions and value management workshops were held among departments and district councillors to refine the project objectives and designs. Besides, continuous communication with residents and organisations in the nearby community was carried out to better understand their concerns and inform them of the project's progress.

During the Ching Ming and Chung Yeung Festivals, columbaria are usually very crowded and smoky. To ease crowd circulation, the ArchSD has adopted a new design for exit stairways without compromising fire safety standards. Furthermore, measures such as classifying the majority of the niches as smoke-free, arranging designated burning troughs outside the niche bays, and re-locating the joss paper burner to a centralised provision in the low block have created a low-smoke and cleaner worshipping environment.

This project provides an exemplary model for similar projects. Besides bringing a new experience to users, the project's success has also helped increase community's acceptance of these facilities.

Timber strips have been used on the external wall to minimise view into niches from the outside. The screen shields the niches from direct sun exposure and helps to lower the indoor temperature while allowing natural lighting and better ventilation.
The Pond of Life has a shallow water platform in the form of an abstract lily leaf. Bubbles rise slowly and quietly from the bottom of the pond, symbolising hope and rebirth.
Ample outdoor greenery and seating areas provide space for reflection and rest.