Would you want your final resting place to be a beautiful sea of lights rather than a crowded cemetery? A unique new proposal introduced by Columbia University’s DeathLab offers up an alternative way to honor the deceased by transforming the undercarriage of the Manhattan Bridge into a twinkling graveyard, where human remains decompose in biomass pods and emit lights that mimic the stars above. Dubbed Constellation Park, the project is one possible solution for laying the city’s dead to rest when available land is scarce. While many think this proposal is simply too outlandish to gain traction, others insist it’s high time to devise more sustainable burial practices.
DeathLab’s proposal centers around the notion that traditional in-ground cemeteries are wasteful at best and destructive at worst. Through exploring other non-land-based methods of dealing with the inevitable, the center’s researchers developed the concept for Constellation Park, an innovative and energy-efficient alternative to land-hogging cemeteries. The proposal suggests taking advantage of underutilized infrastructure by grafting the burial park onto the underside of the Manhattan Bridge.
The park itself would be composed of multiple pedestrian levels, where departed loved ones would be honored at short-term shrines while their physical bodies decompose slowly in a biomass pod that emits white light. At night, the pods would reference the sky’s stars, appearing as a sea of twinkling lights. Skipping a traditional burial might be a shocking idea to some, but with half a million people dying in New York each decade, cemeteries are already facing overcrowding and there just isn’t enough land to set aside for more.
“Remaining titled earthen burial plots are extremely limited and relatively expensive in New York City and in dense urban environments across the globe,” said Karla Rothstein, the director of DeathLab and an architecture professor at Columbia, in an interview with Atlas Obscura. “Engaging the corpse on its biological basis, DeathLab’s projects incorporate mortuary processes which are far less energy intensive, elegant, and scalable.”
DeathLab’s bridge proposal hasn’t been formally reviewed by the City Council, but it’s fairly obvious the idea will be controversial—especially among those who benefit from death-related services, such as funeral homes. Meanwhile in Britain, DeathLab has another project already underway, in which the same biomass pods will turn human remains into pure light and wonder at the Arnos Vale cemetery in Bristol, England—so perhaps the idea isn’t too crazy after all.
Via Atlas Obscura
Images via DeathLab