The crematorium at Schoonselhof cemetery in Wilrijk is in dire need of renovation after four decades of intensive use. The current building bears witness to a 'modern' handling of something necessary. It’s high up in the landscape, self-confidently with its face to the main road and its back to the park. The parceled and paved terrain was designed at the time to accommodate the car. There is no continuity in the landscape. The crematorium stands alone and the surrounding landscaping is limited to roads, paths, walls and parking lots around the buildings.
With the renewal of the Pontes Moretus project, we want to embed the ceremony back into our cultural tradition. Make it part of our lives... A living crematorium. With the construction of a new crematorium, the opportunity arises to better integrate the project with the Schoonselhof park cemetery and also to make the project climate adaptive and increase biodiversity. We have the opportunity to restore the park at an important pivotal point. On the one hand, this will be done by continuing the structure of the park and, on the other, by building on the DNA of the place. Here we are inspired by the enclosed garden (hortus conclusus). A serene typology that places not its architecture but the landscape at its heart. An architecture that does not take space, but gives space. The new volume therefore places itself at the edge of the park with its face towards the park. A new landscape room is created in which pedestrians and cars are separated and in which stillness and serenity, which are characteristic of the place, once again take centre stage.
The design builds on a climate-proof water system, attuned to the current natural structures of the Schoonselhof. The biodiversity of the water-rich landscape, characterised by its lilacs, marsh flowers, arrowhead and corydalis, is given maximum opportunity in this way, and at the same time serves as an infiltration zone for internal and surrounding areas. The new ceremony building will be placed in the landscape like a floating brick ship. The building is low and nature prevails. Inside the volume, the landscape slides into the space. Framed, like a "tableau vivante". Ceremony rooms are connected with patios so that the farewell can take place both 'in' and 'out' of the structure. The structure is made of natural materials that temper light and sound. The colours and textures of the wooden walls, the rough shuttered columns, the Maas cobblestones in the polished concrete floor create a subdued and warm environment.
With the renovation of the crematorium on the Schoonselhof, we want to continue our plea for a living crematorium. Architecture always responds to social conventions, either by following them or by challenging them. The architecture of death (cemeteries, tombs, crematoria...) has also always mirrored prevailing ideas about dying and death. We are now even more aware of the dynamics that lie behind these prevailing views and are happy to develop our vision on this further in the context of Schoonselhof, where this view can mature in a different landscape, urban and social context.