John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Worst. Cruise. Ever.
When people die, they're not truly gone – they just move into a different form of real estate. And lately, it's been getting crowded down there.
Finding enough room to storehouse the dead is becoming more and more of an urban problem, as cities grow in population and developers snatch up all the prime land. Some states in America, like Connecticut, have tried to mitigate this morbid overcrowding by burying people two-deep or beneath unused roads.
In Hong Kong, designers at BREAD Studio have taken a different, more nautical approach to the post-mortem pickle. They've drafted an ambitious plan for a cemetery that floats on the South China Sea like a cruise liner, a literal "ship of lost souls." A stone columbarium lining the upper deck of the Floating Eternity could hold up to 370,000 funereal urns, and the power of the tides would move it slowly around on a rail track so the dead get an eternally shifting view of the gorgeous ocean scenery.
While this concept might seem bizarre at first, it starts to make sense when you consider the history of Hong Kong's graveyards. In the 1940s, the dead were stored in "normal" cemeteries near villages, often in altitudinous regions to maximize feng shui. These country sites were idyllic but often hard for folks to travel to, so in the '60s the trend became hillside crypts stacked up like stairways. These structures unfortunately happened to resemble ugly concrete retaining walls, and with room inside them rapidly running out, folks in the '80s switched to putting human remains in multistoried buildings right next to residential areas. The problem here is noise and ash from funeral ceremonies leaking out, which BREAD Studio says "causes health problems to the neighbourhood."
So a cruise liner for cremains doesn't sound so ridiculous. And consider the amenities on this five-star Golgotha: A food court, with Buddhist and vegetarian options! A bamboo garden for families to enjoy that food! A ferry service to the vessel for families who want to visit it on the open ocean, and a cruise schedule that takes it to major ports of call during important ancestor days like the Chung Yeung Festival!
The brains at BREAD make their case by highlighting the maritime mortuary's "Location, location and location":
Just like all other properties, location and orientation are always the keys to determine popularity and price. But what if it is a mobile one on the surface of the sea? It then solves many problems in site selection. Hong Kong is a city with some of the longest coastal lines among the surrounding region. Living on a boat is part of our history. Sea habitation utilizes Hong Kong’s geographical constraints. It is also far more sustainable than reclamation.... Floating cemetery fits perfectly to the best spot in HK marina territory. It offers serenity and breath-taking scenery which inland could compete with.
Put a shuffleboard on deck, and the good ship Floating Eternity would seem to have it all. Here are a few concept sketches from BREAD (is that raven a tribute to Poe?):
All images courtesy of BREAD Studio.