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Taking Leave: Crematorium in Amiens

In France, increasing numbers of people are deciding in favour of cremation when the time comes. The old crematorium in the northeastern city of Amiens could no longer keep up with demand and, after 42 years, did not conform to modern emissions standards. The new construction on the northwestern edge of town was to be bigger, cleaner and surrounded by nature.

The new structure was designed by the PLAN01 architecture team, which is a collaboration of five different studios. It demonstratively turns its back on the city. Near the roundabout on Avenue de Grace, the largest and only two-storey building rises: it accommodates two combustion furnaces and the access for hearses. Parking is found on either side.

Paths, some raised on ramps, lead from the parking lots to the still-sparse grove of urns. When the trees have grown, they will form a green barrier between the burial grounds and parking lot; they will also delimit areas featuring varying degrees of intimacy. Two columbaria, each with 50 niches, have also been erected. 

Guests follow paths suited to their mood and mobility through the park to reach the main entrance, which is on the rear side of the building. The crematorium is designed so that it can accommodate two different groups of mourners at once. Around the common entrance and the central hall, two small antechambers and two funeral chapels of different sizes, which are formed of two circle segments have been arranged. After a funeral, the relatives of the deceased again follow different paths outside; this prevents any meetings between the groups as they arrive and depart. 

The material palette used in these spaces is bright and, despite the preponderance of concrete, warm. Circular skylights illuminate the large hall as well as the two chapels, although the chapels have been fitted with drywall ceilings for the sake of acoustics. The walls are of textured in-situ concrete mixed with pigments to take on a light yellow-gold tone. The window frames are almost tone on tone in gold-coloured aluminum. Translucent curtains protect the chapels from both the sun and from prying eyes. Tightly woven, white curtains can be used to divide the chapels in half; one side can be used for a church service, and the other for the reception.  

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