Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium: Between Heaven and Earth
by Colin Wu
Designed by CPG’s Studio T, the Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium provides a dignified, spiritual setting for the sombre rituals of death and remembrance. 8 years has passed since the complex was completed, but the calm tranquillity of the place, with its lush landscaping, reflecting pools and light-filled interior spaces, remains to this day.
Located on the higher grounds of the site, the Columbarium consists of heavy monolithic walls that define a strong sculptural form, representing the final resting place for the dead. Internally, the block comprises a series of chambers, each accommodating a small grouping of niches. This provides a scaled-down space with a more intimate setting for its visitors. The chambers are open and bright, with views out to its surroundings.
The Crematorium is located in a valley, and is prominently situated facing the main approach. Its four Service Halls, with its distinct roofscape, towers over the entire complex, signifying the main ritual space where religious ceremonies are held in remembrance of the dead. The soaring interior space of each hall points towards the heavens, accentuating the vertical dimensions of the space, while the skylights above fill the halls with natural light, connecting one with the sky beyond.
Following on are the Viewing Halls overlooking the Cremation Hall. Here, family members witness the coffin for the last time before it is placed into the cremators. At the Cremation Hall, the setting for the final scene of loved ones being sent en route to the celestial world is once again, designed to create a space that opens up towards the sky, and the world above.
Functionally, the design of the whole complex is orientated around the complex movement of both the visitors and the coffin. A one-way route circulates through the whole complex, such that one does not return to the same treaded path again, in accordance with funerary procedures. As such, the interior design of the spaces was conceptualised to engage the different emotions of the bereaved as they go through the journey of the cremation process.♦