A new crematorium for Lommel
This project concerns a new crematorium building on a site alongside the main cemetery in Lommel (BE). This cemetery is a pleasant and carefully designed public park. The design starts from the premise that the crematorium and the cemetery should be treated as a single site. The existing entrance building will be kept as the main access to the site, the crematorium branching from the existing primary axis.
At a cemetery that lacks explicit religious symbols, the universal power of nature replaces the sacral. Nature provides not only an equilibrium, as a biotope that is permanently in balance with itself, but also peace, by its self-evident and modest presence. The proposed landscape design is characterised by the search for an untouched "primordial landscape". A restoration project will be initiated, aimed at recreating the natural balance between pine woods, heathland and sandy landscape. The landscape enters into a dialogue with the human interventions in the form of footpaths, exterior spaces and the architecture.
One of the main themes in the design is 'the journey'. The ceremonial rite that is typical of saying farewell to a loved one. The crematorium is more than a building, it is a site that accompanies one on this journey. As if walking through an exhibition, going from one experience to another. Just like in the case of a farewell, there is no way back, only a continuing path to another chapter.
The ceremony actually commences in the park. A path cuts through the landscape and takes the visitors to another world, away from the secular. The lowered path changes the viewer's perspective. The relief and the landscape are experienced in a different way. This experience coerces the visitor into humbleness vis-à-vis nature.
We attach great importance to architecture in which nature takes a central place. A transparent building that is interwoven with and runs into the surrounding landscape. The choice was made to use simple materials that exude robustness and can stand the ravages of time without effort. Brickwork, concrete and wood extend from the interior to the exterior. Wafer-thin sheets of glass protect the interior. The building will have the appearance of a ruin that happens to have been turned into a crematorium.
An important characteristic of contemporary parting rituals is the highly personal nature of the ceremony. As anthropologist Eric Vebrux wrote, death has become a project that can be directed. Of course every ritual has its own 'direction', also those of the major ideologies. What we see today, however, is that there is not just one scenario that can be directed, but an almost endless variation of scenarios. This renders the crematorium architecturally related to the theatre, which also needs to be a place that offers directors the possibilities to implement any scenario.
The three main volumes of the site – the crematorium building, the ceremonial building and the catering building - are located around a central outdoor space. This outdoor space is regarded as a "Campo Santo", a sacred place. It is a place for peace and contemplation. Due to the low edge of the gallery around this atrium, visitors can only see the trunks of the trees and whatever is happening on the ground.