Vertical Cemetery – Graves in High Rise Towers

With the growth of population and urban expansion, today many countries are facing the problem of scarcity of available land. It's not just a problem for the living, but also the dead, some countries like England, Norway, Greece are running out of available burial plots. In other countries where available land is abundant, shortage of available burial plots is still a problem in some large cities.

Calvary Cemetery in New York City
The Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York City

To address the shortage of available grave plots, authorities are encouraging citizen to choose cremation instead of burial, as cremated ashes require much smaller space.
However, cremation is discouraged and even opposed by some religions, it conflicts with the believers' faith of resurrection. In Greece, a country in which Orthodox is the prevalent religion, cremation was not allowed. The situation changed several years ago when the local authority lifted the restriction on options of disposal of dead, allowing dead bodies to be cremated, so that the shortage of burial space can be solved. The Church of Orthodox accused the decision of the authorities, and suggests placing coffins vertically to minimize the space needed for each dead body.
Is there any other ways to address the problem of scarcity of available land? When a city is getting very dense, skyscrapers will be built to offer more spaces for the living, but can skyscrapers be used to accommodate dead? If a believer doesn't mind of being cremated or vertically buried, then he or she may not mind of being buried in a skyscraper, in which the grave plots are closer to heaven compared to graveyards on the ground, and the views are better. Some architects and cemetery operators have already come up with the idea of vertical cemetery. Below are some interesting proposals of vertical cemeteries.

Highrise Cemetery in Oslo

In 2013 at the Oslo Conference for Nordic Cemeteries and Graveyards, a local architecture student named Martin McSherry proposed a high rise cemetery to be built in Oslo. The purpose is to save the precious land in the city for the living.

The vertical cemetery designed by Martin McSherry
The vertical cemetery designed by Martin McSherry

According to the design he presented, the high rise cemetery is comprised of a series of graveyards with square floor plates, each of these graveyards is stacked over a lower one. The vertical cemetery is structurally supported by exoskeleton instead of traditional columns, this maximizes the floor space of those graveyards. Without traditional columns, the graveyards in the building appear more like traditional graveyards.

The square graveyards on floors in the vertical cemetery designed by Martin McSherry
The square graveyards on floors in the vertical cemetery designed by Martin McSherry

Another significant feature of the design is a crane adjoined to the building. The crane is designed to be permanently set there, its function is to lift coffins into slots inside the structure, and over time, more floors of grave plots will be added to the building with help of the crane. Of course the building will stop rising once it reached an ultimate height, but it would definitely become the tallest building in the city.

The vertical cemetery will continuously grow higher
The vertical cemetery will continuously be built higher, until reaching a maximum height

Currently Martin McSherry's design remains a vision, there's no plans to put the design into practice. However, eventually there will be one day it becomes a serious proposal, as land scarcity is already a serious issue in Norway and many other countries. In many countries like Norway, every grave spot are not permanently preserved for one body, but will be recycled to be reused for other bodies after twenty years when the body is decomposed to bones. Then the family of the dead will either relocate the bones to a smaller space or pay to preserve the grave spot for longer. Even with this measure the grave spots are still being quickly run out.

Moksha Tower in Mumbai

Moksha Tower is a vertical cemetery proposed to be built in Mumbai, one of the most populous cities in the world. Finding an available grave plot in such a dense city is never a easy thing, this is why the idea of Moksha Tower is proposed, the tower will create a temporary place to accommodate dead bodies.

Moksha Tower
Moksha Tower
Looking up at Moksha Tower
Looking up at Moksha Tower

Compared to traditional cemeteries, Moksha Tower saves a large amount of ground space, since the space for graves is piled within the same area, not to be expanded to the surrounding areas.
Moksha Tower provides burial space for four major religions in Mumbai, which are Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Parsis. As these religions practice different funerals and methods of disposal for dead, the tower is designed to meet the needs of all these religions. For Hindus, facilities for cremation is equipped, and new technologies is adopted to decrease the pollution caused by activities like open burning of bodies; For Muslim and Christian, the tower provides areas for burial and garden burial and funerals; For Parsis, a structure called Tower of Silence is located on the roof of the tower, used for bodies to be exposed to vultures.

Rooftop of Moksha Tower
Rooftop of Moksha Tower, where a Tower of Silence is located

Besides the basic facilities for burial process, Moksha Tower also features public green spaces throughout entire building, allowing families of dead to pray, worship and meditate, these green spaces also help reduce pollution of the city, improving the environment of the city.
As mentioned earlier, the tower is a temporary place for disposal of dead, it only provides storage of the dead for up to 10 years, in this way the tower can offer the service for most people in the city.

Memorial Necropole Ecumenica III in Santos

This proposal of vertical cemetery is the most serious one in this page, the high-rise tower is a part of a cemetery complex in Santos, Brazil, called Memorial Necropole Ecumenica.

Rendering of Memorial Necropole Ecumenica III
Rendering of Memorial Necropole Ecumenica III

Many other articles on the web claim this tower is completed, in fact it's not really built yet in 2018, if you look carefully at the picture you'll find it's just a render while the two lower buildings are real. However the tower has been approved to be built, completion is only a matter of time. And the two existing buildings of the complex are already the tallest cemetery in the world.
As seen in the picture, Memorial Necropole Ecumenica III will become the tallest tower of the complex, planned to be built to a height of 108 meters(354 ft) and become the new tallest cemetery in the world. The lower two buildings are 37 meters and 46 meters respectively, they are built in 1984.

Memorial Necropole Ecumenica at night

The planned Memorial Necropole Ecumenica III will have 32 floors, capable of holding about 25,000 dead bodies, each floor contains 150 tombs that are offered with an aerial view of the city, and each tomb can accommodate six bodies.

The view seen from Memorial Necropole Ecumenica
The view seen from Memorial Necropole Ecumenica

Aside from tombs, the tower also contains a chapel and a restaurant on the top, and there's a garden and a lagoon outside the buildings, the cemetery is also a popular tourist attraction in Santos.

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