The Dead Rising: Skyscraper Cemetery Proposed

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Instead of six feet under, maybe it will be more like six hundred feet over. In Norway, where cemetery space is increasingly limited, a student designer is proposing a giant skyscraper for housing the dead.

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Martin McSherry, a Royal Danish School of Architecture student, came up with this unique design for a vertical graveyard and entered it into a competition last fall held by the Nordic Association for Graveyards and Crematoria, Richard Orange wrote in The Local. Sounds like an esoteric contest, but finding a place to bury the dead in Norway is a growing problem, Gizmodo’s Ashley Feinberg reported in October.

The design, detailed in this Norwegian PDF, calls for a modern, latticework-like metal tower with a graveyard on every floor. The floors could be customized for special religious needs like coffins or urns. A crane would be stationed permanently next to the tower in order to add new floors, Orange reported. The competition’s jury noted (Norwegian PDF) that it was hard to take the proposal too seriously: McSherry nicknames the tower a “stairway to heaven.”

Lots of other writers have noted that above-ground burial structures are nothing new. Gizmodo’s Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan pointed to the Roman-era Mountain of the Dead in Egypt, Italian necropolises and stacked plots in New Orleans. There’s also the existing high-rise Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica in Brazil. McSherry’s plan still manages to spark debate, though. On the one hand there’s the view and on the other, it’s a skyscraper inhabited by the dead.

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For all the attention his proposal received, McSherry didn’t actually win the Norwegian contest. The Local reported that his classmates Katrine Harving Holm and Henriette Schønheyder van Deurs picked up the prize instead. Their plan called for replacing individual tombstones with a shared memory wall and community area.

But I can picture a future where McSherry’s plan must get dusted off and actually built. Even a memory wall requires some real estate and whether we like it or not, the living don’t have an endless supply of that.

Credit: Martin McSherry (Norwegian PDF)

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