Why Skyscraper Cemeteries Are On The Rise

August 13, 2019

Imagine a tower of the dead, looming over your downtown. Creepy? Or a good reminder that life is fleeting? Cheddar Explains why vertical cemeteries are on the rise.


FEMALE_1: Have you given any thought to what's

FEMALE_1: going to happen to you after you die?

FEMALE_1: Not in these spiritual,

FEMALE_1: metaphysical meet your maker since.

FEMALE_1: I'm talking about the final resting place

FEMALE_1: of your physical remains.

FEMALE_1: Because we've got a grave issue on our hands.

FEMALE_1: As the world's population

FEMALE_1: increases and becomes increasingly urban,

FEMALE_1: the cities of the world are

FEMALE_1: running out of room to bury their dead.

FEMALE_1: One space saving solution that's

FEMALE_1: gaining ground, vertical cemeteries.

FEMALE_1: This is Cavalry cemetery in Queens,

FEMALE_1: talk about a tomb with a view.

FEMALE_1: There are three million people buried

FEMALE_1: here on over 365 acres,

FEMALE_1: making it the largest cemetery in

FEMALE_1: the United States and it's fully developed.

FEMALE_1: It was built in the 1800s to

FEMALE_1: alleviate New York City's body problem.

FEMALE_1: The city was growing so fast that

FEMALE_1: church yards had no room to expand.

FEMALE_1: Bodies would get hastily piled

FEMALE_1: into shallow mass graves causing

FEMALE_1: unimaginable stench and officials

FEMALE_1: worried it could contribute to disease outbreaks.

FEMALE_1: The solution was to create

FEMALE_1: massive cemeteries on nearby rural land close enough that

FEMALE_1: people could come visit their loved ones but far

FEMALE_1: enough away from the city

FEMALE_1: that there would be plenty of room.

FEMALE_1: Spoiler alert, cities kept growing,

FEMALE_1: people kept dying and now in cities

FEMALE_1: around the world cemeteries are out of room.

FEMALE_1: By 2050, 68 percent of the world's population will

FEMALE_1: live in urban areas and

FEMALE_1: 100 percent of people will die one day.

FEMALE_1: Most people want their loved ones to be

FEMALE_1: interred relatively close to home,

FEMALE_1: but as we've established

FEMALE_1: there's less and less room for that.

FEMALE_1: In 2013, a danish architecture student in Norway,

FEMALE_1: proposed the design for a skyscraper cemetery.

FEMALE_1: Imagine, an airy white framework

FEMALE_1: rising in center city Copenhagen,

FEMALE_1: a crane is a permanent part of the structure,

FEMALE_1: it lifts coffins into place.

FEMALE_1: Year by year, the tower grows

FEMALE_1: taller as more plots are added on top.

FEMALE_1: Eventually it's the tallest building in the city.

FEMALE_1: Martin McSherry is design,

FEMALE_1: didn't win the competition

FEMALE_1: but it did get a special mention by

FEMALE_1: the judges and generated a lot of

FEMALE_1: controversy and conversation in the press,

FEMALE_1: but it's not exactly a new idea.

FEMALE_1: The Great Pyramid of Giza,

FEMALE_1: is a tomb and was

FEMALE_1: the tallest structure in the world for 3,800 years.

FEMALE_1: But the Great Pyramid was a tomb for a king.

FEMALE_1: What about vertical burial sites for the common masses?

FEMALE_1: London almost got one.

FEMALE_1: In the 1800s, it was the largest city in the world.

FEMALE_1: Its parish cemeteries were running out of room.

FEMALE_1: City officials turned to architects for solutions,

FEMALE_1: Thomas Wilson went really big.

FEMALE_1: He proposed a 94 story pyramid with

FEMALE_1: an 18 acre base and room for five million bodies.

FEMALE_1: Wilson had it all worked out,

FEMALE_1: the pyramid would have hydraulic lifts and

FEMALE_1: sloping ramps inside while on the outside,

FEMALE_1: flights of stairs would lead to an obelisk on top,

FEMALE_1: the pyramid, Wilson wrote,

FEMALE_1: will rise in majesty over lofty towers,

FEMALE_1: teaching the living to die and the dying to live forever.

FEMALE_1: Wilson got some positive feedback,

FEMALE_1: but people found the idea unsettling.

FEMALE_1: John Claudius Loudon, a forefather of

FEMALE_1: the field of landscape architecture told Wilson,

FEMALE_1: ''I hate the idea of interment in a vault,

FEMALE_1: or in any way which prevents the body from

FEMALE_1: speedily returning to its primitive elements.''

FEMALE_1: Another paper panned the pyramid.

FEMALE_1: This monstrous piece of folly.

FEMALE_1: The object of which is to have generations

FEMALE_1: rotting in one vast pyramid of death

FEMALE_1: instead of being quietly mingled with

FEMALE_1: their parent earth and forgotten is

FEMALE_1: perhaps the most ridiculous of

FEMALE_1: the schemes broached in our scheming age.

FEMALE_1: Instead of Wilson's pyramid,

FEMALE_1: London ultimately built a large garden cemetery

FEMALE_1: similar to one that had just been built in Paris.

FEMALE_1: This caught on stateside

FEMALE_1: too as the rural cemetery movement.

FEMALE_1: The problem is what used to

FEMALE_1: be out in the middle of nowhere is

FEMALE_1: now ringed by the city and

FEMALE_1: these old cemeteries have no space to grow,

FEMALE_1: which brings us back to the vertical solution.

FEMALE_1: The taller cemetery in the world

FEMALE_1: is this one in Santos Brazil.

FEMALE_1: It didn't originate as a skyscraper,

FEMALE_1: but demand for above ground tombs with a view

FEMALE_1: was steady enough that the owner

FEMALE_1: just kept adding new levels.

FEMALE_1: An even taller skyscraper cemetery

FEMALE_1: has been proposed for Mumbai.

FEMALE_1: The Moksha tower would accommodate

FEMALE_1: funeral rites from the world's major religions,

FEMALE_1: with space for garden burials, cremations,

FEMALE_1: river burials and even a tower of silence,

FEMALE_1: where bodies are broken down by

FEMALE_1: exposure to the elements and

FEMALE_1: scavenging birds in

FEMALE_1: the tradition of Parsis Zoroastrianism.

FEMALE_1: While burial isn't the only interment option,

FEMALE_1: cremation is the other big one

FEMALE_1: cremated remains take up space too.

FEMALE_1: In Hong Kong, families face waiting periods of

FEMALE_1: up to five years for space in a columbariam.

FEMALE_1: That's the building where funeral urns are stored usually

FEMALE_1: in a niche in the wall and

FEMALE_1: you can come and pay your respects.

FEMALE_1: Those are getting taller too.

FEMALE_1: The True Dragon Tower in Taiwan is

FEMALE_1: the world's biggest column barium at 20 stories high.

FEMALE_1: Imagine a tower of the dead looming over your downtown,

FEMALE_1: creepy or a good reminder that life is fleeting?

FEMALE_1: The thing is whether you end up in a box or an urn,

FEMALE_1: your loved ones are gonna wanna come to visit you.

FEMALE_1: In some religions, it's considered their

FEMALE_1: sacred duty to keep coming to visit you.

FEMALE_1: So while skyscrapers cemeteries might seem morbid,

FEMALE_1: they do answer the very human need for

FEMALE_1: a place to gather and remember our dead.