Today, social media pervades our culture, setting the tone for the way we choose to experience life. So why not tailor technology to accommodate the ways we choose to experience death? Design for Death finalist Zhufei Zhufei is one of the pioneers of this concept. Zhufei’s design for a columbarium called, “Cloud of Stars” is completely forward-thinking in this respect. Indeed, the future of Chinese architecture may help us reconsider the way in which we view memorials and cremation vessels by creating a technology-based hybrid from the two.
A columbarium is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a structure of vaults lined with recesses for cinerary urns [or cremation vessels].” It’s not an inherently inviting image, which is exactly why Zhufei wanted his Design for Death concept to be interactive in a contemporary way. “It is not an ordinary dark and gloomy columbarium,” he says, “It is [a] cloud of stars, consist[ing] of hundreds of thousands of urns that constitute the most beautiful scenery in the city.”
The proposed design is a sort of sky-scraper columbarium that would tower over the city, with its connected hexagonal urns making up the ‘Cloud’ element of the building. Each cremation vessel will be “embedded in [the Cloud’s] metal frame,” and each urn would also contain a colorful LED light. Thousands of lights, each illuminated for the memory and spirit of a loved one, will “make the surface of [the Cloud] a giant screen” that can display uploaded pictures by friends and family.
“The cloud is composed of six spheres,” he says, “that [are] supported by 25 six-sided prisms.” The “base” of the cloud is imagined as a series of mirrored prisms that create “a glaring and dreamy visual effect” for visitors who want to reflect on memories of a loved one.
Of course, once can imagine the inevitable backlash on the building’s design – nicknames like “the mushroom cloud” or “the broccoli stalk” would roll of the tongue too easily. But such affectionate name-calling can always be expected when something new, especially architectural, enters a city-scape. After all, what was once the “Bed Pan” of Chicago is now a proud fixture of the downtown area.
Zhufei’s design brings modernity and engagement to the traditional columbarium, showing us that the potential for cremation vessels to evolve with our technology should be realized.
What do you think of Zhufei’s design? And would you opt to have your head in the clouds? We look forward to your comments below.