ST 2020 | Extension Crematorium ViennaCopyright: © Katharina Nitsche
Extension Vienna Crematorium
Master's Thesis by Katharina Nitsche
Since the first cremation in Germany in 1878, the separation between mourning and technology and the associated tabooing of technology during the funeral process have been in the foreground. It was not until the last years of the 20th century that the idea of combining technology and mourning emerged. However, the crematorium of the 20th century no longer meets the requirements of the 21st century in many respects. Our society today, on the other hand, is more open to a connection between mourning and technology and has a desire for an architecture with a lot of light, transparency, openness, clear structures and a connection to nature, for an architecture that succeeds in creating an atmosphere of security.
The existing building of the Vienna Crematorium, designed by Clemens Holzmeister, was built at the beginning of the 20th century and was intended to extend the Central Cemetery. Holzmeister chose the unused upper garden of Neugebäude Palace, which had been built in 1568 under Emperor Maximilian II, as the site. The upper garden complex, which once included the emperor's pleasure garden, served from then on as a crematorium complete with urn grove. Over the decades, the crematorium was extended several times, and in 2019 a competition was announced with the aim of extending the building once again. Katharina Nitsche's master's thesis takes this as an opportunity to present a proposal for an extension that is detached from this and thus her own.
The extension of the Vienna Crematorium she designed is located in the center of the overall complex. The elongated structure behind the existing building emphasizes the axis between the palace and the crematorium and can be perceived from the entire urn grove. In addition, the building cubature picks up on dimensions of the existing building, retains the existing symmetry and at the same time enhances the rear.
Inside the new crematory, the pathway through the building plays a special role, allowing mourners to fully explore the crematory. Thus, the main entrance of the existing building, its vestibule, and the adjacent historic waiting hall also serve as the main access to the extension. The "circular route" through the new part of the building starts from this location. Passing the Place of Remembrance, which is centrally located in the building complex and forms the resting place of all guests of the facility, one reaches the foyer of the new farewell room, the place of assembly. At this point the access is divided. On the one hand, it is possible to reach the basement on both sides via a ramp and from there leave the crematorium after the ceremonies in the direction of the urn grove; on the other hand, it is possible to walk to the head end of the extension. From there it is also possible to see into the furnace room. From the foyer, it is also possible to enter the new farewell room, the place of farewell. This place brings the furnace – the place of redemption – to the fore and allows the mourners to witness the last farewell – namely the one into the fire – in an appropriate environment. Depending on the mourners' ideas, this space can also be transformed from a bright, light-filled room with interaction with the outside into a farewell room of a more closed character, which shields the mourners from the outside world and also removes the focus from the stove.
Overall, the significant position of the stove removes the barrier between mourning and technology and makes the process of cremation more transparent. In this way, the stove, long considered taboo, takes on a new significance in the crematorium. In addition, the design also maps the development of the crematorium: from the taboo of burial to participation in the last moment. However, the two parts of the building do not stand on their own, but rather combine to form a single unit in order to provide all mourners with the form of farewell that is exactly right for them.