Prompt: Design vertical housing which is occupied by both the living and the dead.

The world’s population is the highest it’s ever been. As a consequence of the unprecedented scale of our population, societal traits and cultural tendencies require large infrastructures to support our needs. More people are alive today than ever before, and we’re running out of places to put the bodies. Contemporary burial practices are very space-intensive. Each year, we pour millions of pounds of cement in the ground.

In contemporary burial practices, the coffin is encased in a concrete shell. The remains rot anaerobically for hundreds of years. It's an enormous waste of raw material. Cremation is often cited as an alternative, and indeed it is less space-intensive, but it uses large quantities of energy and releases pollutants from our bodies into the atmosphere. This project proposes an alternative called "resomation" and imagines the architecture and culture that would stem from its adoption. Resomation uses 1/10th the energy of cremation and releases no pollution. Remains are collected in the form of a liquid and can be reintroduced directly into ecosystems, as they carry essential amino acids, sugars, and salts found in high quality plant fertilizers.

The project design incorporates housing for the living and dead in a single unifying gesture: the living trees are nourished by the liquid remains of the dead. The dead are thereby housed within the living body of the trees. Supplying life for the trees puts a unique set of constraints on the building. For example, woody trees must have a cold cycle during the winter, or else they'll die. As a result, the skin of the building becomes porous so the climate outside can seep in. Additionally, trees have specific light requirements, and a necessary sleep cycle. Because the site doesn't receive enough natural light to sustain the trees, artificial light must be used. The light cycles are then flipped so that the trees are awake at night yet asleep during the day. Sunlight is used to provide an extremely muted sense of light which is enough to navigate the space yet not enough to wake the trees.

Bodies are resomated on the very bottom floor, and relatives can collect the remains on the main floor, and ascend through the tree spaces in a processional ambulatory. If they want, the liquid remains can be given to any trees in the space. The trees become collective graves, physical reincarnations of the deceased. This kind of burial provides no indication of status or privilege due to wealth, as is the current status quo in the cemetery real estate market. Death is viewed as the great equalizer, and as the giver of life.

Professor: Catie Newell
Site: 610 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL