A new facility in the US is paving the way for a burgeoning after-death option that involves a ‘recompose’ process as a natural alternative to traditional burials and cremations that also supports plant life.
American firm Olson Kundig has unveiled renders for an after-death facility in Seattle, which will compost human bodies and turn them into soil. Occupying 18,500-square-feet, the facility will orchestrate the ‘recompose’ process, an alternative to traditional burials and cremations created by Katrina Spade.
The facility was designed in collaboration between Olson Kundig and Katrina Spade, founder and CEO of the Recompose public benefit corporation. The new facility will offer a service called “natural organic reduction”, which gently converts human remains into soil over a period of 30 days.
The process is centred around individual natural organic reduction vessels that transform human remains into clean, usable soil. The Recompose Seattle project follows Washington becoming the first US state to legalise the process for the disposition of human remains in April 2019. It is slated for completion in 2021, and is expected to be the first of its kind to offer human composting on a large scale.
At the core of the Recompose centre is a modular system containing approximately 75 of these vessels, stacked and arranged to demarcate a central gathering space. There are also spaces for the storage and preparation of bodies, administrative back-of-house areas, and an interpretive public lobby that outlines the recompose process. Porous connections between indoor and outdoor spaces further blur the boundary between the human experience and natural processes.
“We asked ourselves how we could use nature – which has perfected the life/death cycle – as a model for human death care,” says Spade. “We saw an opportunity for this profound moment to both give back to the earth and reconnect us with these natural cycles.”
“This facility hosts the recompose vessels, but it is also an important space for ritual and public gathering,” says Alan Maskin, principal and owner of Seattle-based Olson Kundig. “The project will ultimately foster a more direct, participatory experience and dialogue around death and the celebration of life.”
“As a studio, Olson Kundig has always thrived on close collaboration with some of the world’s most imaginative and innovative problem-solvers, like Katrina and her team,” he adds. “We’re honoured to be involved with this project, and excited for the first recompose facility in the world to open its doors in Seattle.”