The spaces of cremation therefore could be relevant as sacred landscapes that find the connection between the varied conceptions and in a culturally constructed geography or help develop a complex symbolism exploring the poetic, narrative and ritualistic aspect of architecture. This raises the argument about the appropriate role of these spaces in the current cultural geography of the Indian Metropolis and could there be a distinct typology that transforms this formerly invisible and marginal landscape of places that have a more visible cultural and secular role.
The argument led to the genesis of the Shadow Spaces, an architect’s vision of the change of perception of such spaces in the society. From learning and adapting from all the inadequacies in the present day crematoriums and translating the old Hindu rituals in the modern day context to provide a befitting space for the final honor to the departed soul. The project aims to reach out and bridge the gap between the present day crematoriums and what crematoriums can prove to be in the future. “The Shadow Spaces” observes and aims to tackles all the social and architectural issues at the macro and micro level in an Indian city.
Crematoriums in Delhi – A study
The city of Delhi works on the concept of zonal crematoriums (50-55 crematoriums) where, different zones have their own crematoriums. The analysis of these crematoriums show some interesting results with the omnipresence of nallahs and the greens surrounding to buffer them from the main cityscape .
One may argue the importance of a water body at the site as per the Hindu rituals but the ideology behind putting these spaces next to the nallahs by the urban planners indicates the way these spaces of death are perceived in our society. An in-depth analysis on the four main centers of crematoriums of Delhi namely Nigambodh Ghat (Northeast Delhi), GreenPark (South Delhi), Punjabi Bagh (West Delhi) and Lodhi Road (Central Delhi) reveals that the Green Park Crematorium is the most underutilized space in terms of the potential of the positioning of the site within the city.
Figure – The Existing Green Park Ext crematorium
Site Approach, Programmatic Adjacencies and Methodology
The architectural attempt to the vision of TheShadow Spaces is initiated by a simultaneous process of transition of scales. The Macro and Micro design strategies complement each other at every design stage to satisfy the existing site parameters and constraints in order to maintain a design based harmony with the spatial periphery.
The Program zoning diagrams framed below in accordance to the periphery treatment.
1.Slums, Housing for Priests and Workers at site.
2.Buffer- The Neighborhood | An architectural approach to the existing affluent neighborhood
3. Hospitals and Other Institutionals .
4. The Topography.
As the macro study keeps refining the peripheral design details by undergoing these different layers of architectural approaches , simultaneously the activity mapping of the ritualistic spatial hierarchy of a crematorium from the case study of Ashwin Kumar Crematorium,Surat by Matharoo Architects leads to alterations of the internal space allocation of the crematorium to counter those varying external changes.
The Ritualistic Spatial Hierarchy at a Hindu Crematorium and framing the Programs for the site.
1. Entrance to the crematorium
2. Parking area
3. A passage for the mourners and the family to enter with the deceased body
4. An idol of lord Shiva to worship
5. Holy water for the diseased
6. Passage to the shed of the funeral
7. Wood storage area
8. Funeral pyre shed
9. Electric crematorium (included)
10. Sitting area for the mourners
11. A prayer hall plus ashes room
12. Water tank for obligations before leaving.
Following the programmatic breakdown of spaces, the study of linkages of programs with their pattern is established to honor each and every space’s individual identity and merge it as a volume with the existing surrounding buildings like homeless shelter, old-age homes and an orphanage. These existing buildings act as potential hubs to be included in the already secluded space of cremation grounds and provide composure and strength to the deceased families on their way back to the city life, hence establishing an invisible connect with the design ideology of this sacred space.
On the basis of the above collated database , a series of sketches for the design process of the above mentioned spaces were initiated with importance given to the flow and transparency of spaces and so on till the point of design connect wasn’t established with each and every ritualistic step.The whole idea behind the architect’s vision has been to examine the journey of the crematoriums so far and how architecture canbring about a pradigmal shift in the perception of such invisible landsapes in the Indian metropolis.
The project tries to provide a design solution to an almost defunct, rundown and underutilised space and create a space worthy of a proper farewell to the loved ones. ‘The Shadow Spaces’ observes and remedies issues related to all stated inadequacies, taking instead a holistic approach that considers physical, metaphysical, emotional, and spiritual notions. Source and images by Renesa Architecture.