Offshore Cemetery

Floating Eternity (Boå)
Publication in HKIA Journal

Size: 370,000 Columbarium Space
Location: Offshore, Hong Kong

Death is inevitable. It is also one of the major social challenges we now face in Hong Kong. With the booming growth of aging population, the shortage of cemetery space is an immediate problem that needs to be resolved.  
Cemetery evolution, similar to housing, is determined by land supply. As time goes by, burial method of our loved ones gradually alters. In a small place like Hong Kong, the critical motivation of changes is the limited availability of land.

In the 40s, besides “Yi Chong”, another common type of cemetery is Graveyard. In consideration of Feng Shui, some graves are located high up on the hillside near villages. The landscape is often beautiful but it might lack convenience in terms of location.

Hillside Cemetery
In the 60s, the demand of cemetery increased rapidly as the population escalated with the industrial growth of the city. Large-scale cemeteries began to take shape along hillside. This also coincides with Chinese belief of “faces the sea, backed by the hills.” being criteria of a good location. However, construction on the slope is more costly. The surrounding space of each grave provided was then shrunken due to market needs. Area for trees and plants was forgone to build more graves. As a result, it became a concrete hillside retaining wall. Without natural tree shade, this type of cemetery is not the most desirable to visit.  

Multi-storey Columbarium
In the 80s, as the hillside cemeteries became saturated, columbarium became popular. In the beginning, columbarium was housed inside temples. Dedicated building complex was then developed to provide higher capacity. Similar to residential development, these columbarium buildings go higher for space. However, the proximity of multi-level columbarium to residents causes problems in our community. There is constant public opposition for the government’s allocation for land adjacent to the residential area for columbarium construction. On the other hand, illegal columbarium invades industrial buildings in old district. Other than psychological disturbances, noise and ashes from ceremony also causes health problems to the neighbourhood.
Location, location and location
Just like all other properties, location and orientation are always the keys to determine popularity and price. But what if it is a mobile one on the surface of the sea? It then solves many problems in site selection. Hong Kong is a city with some of the longest coastal lines among the surrounding region. Living on a boat is part of our history. Sea habitation utilizes Hong Kong’s geographical constraints. It is also far more sustainable than reclamation. Floating Eternity is a new typology of cemetery on the sea. Floating cemetery fits perfectly to the best spot in HK marina territory. It offers serenity and breath-taking scenery which inland could compete with.

Equal opportunity on Orientation
In conventional columbarium, the price for a lot (or literally a hole) on the wall which faces the front could be twice as that on the sidewalls. Columbarium walls on the floating cemetery sit on a rail track. The energy supply for the track is tidal power which allows the walls to move forward slowly. Walls travelling around the loop track provide each spot an equal chance for the best orientation. Walls are also positioned at an angle to the cruise deck. This gives all walls an open view to the beautiful scenery. The track also brings the wall to the central ceremony space for the visitors during ceremonies. There are viewing platforms at two ends like deck for holding bigger ceremonies.  

Flexibility visiting times
Each year, weekends around Ching Ming and Chung Yeung festivals, crowds heading to cemetery congest the entire downtown traffic. For floating cemetery, there are two ways to pay a visit to our loved ones. Biannually, the floating deck sails back to town and docks at the piers. Parking at different piers on different days also assists in crowd diversion to different parts in the city. With the new Kai Tak cruise terminal comes into operation next year, there will be a great variety of well-equipped piers to choose from for this event. On normal days between festivals, people could take ferry to the cemetery while it stops at the South China Sea. With the ancillary facilities provided on deck, it will be an enjoyable day out for the whole family. This is a great way of family bonding as well as passing on the Chinese tradition to the younger generation.

Enjoyable Family Event
Other than flowers and paper sacrifices, Chinese brings along loads of food during our cemetery visits. It is Chinese ritual to bring along their food to be consumed at the end of cemetery visits. Unfortunately, there is no sufficient space for visitors to enjoy a picnic at most cemeteries in Hong Kong. On the floating cemetery, people could enjoy their picnic on the grass deck or restaurant area on the lower deck. Food court in the restaurant also provides a great range of food for visitors with different religions, Buddhist Vegetarian for example.

Self-sustainable Development  
Some might believe that it is too costly to build a ship for cemetery. In fact, when we look at the current land value in town and the area required for accommodating the equivalent capacity, this is indeed an economical strategy in the long run. The first phase of the floating cemetery provides columbarium space of 370,000. With a norm price of HKD5,000 for a columbarium space in town (land price could cost up to HKD100,000 with similar scenery), the first phase intakes 18.5 billions for a full house. With the constant rise of aging population in the next few decades, floating cemetery will be the perfect solution to the problem of cemetery shortage. Having a board ship hull, the floating cemetery allows additional storeys by simply stacking up other tracks on top. The cemetery could then sustain itself for several more decades. As it is usually challenging to demolish and relocate existing cemetery for redevelopment, a self-sustainable mechanism plays a crucial role in the agenda of future cemetery design.

The proposal is directly addressing the problems we are currently facing in land cemetery development. Floating Eternity is a basic prototype of its kind. Hence, the design emphasizes on the strategy and mechanism rather than its visual appearance. Similar to cruise design, there could be millions of variations to suit different market demands. Columbarium is by far the most acceptable choice for our last stop. Offshore cemetery will therefore become the next alternative, comparable to the existing sea bury that occupies no space at all.


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