Technology has transformed society rather dramatically over the

course of the past 120 years, and yet the cemetery has changed little in the last 1,000 years. However, if we look toward the not so distant future it is easy to imagine that technology will render the traditional concept of the cemetery, and burial, obsolete.

In many cities where overcrowding has rendered traditional burial and cemeteries a luxury few can afford, cremation is preferred and urns are kept in “columbaria”, buildings where niches adorn the walls. These facilities, however, also require space and in Hong Kong space is a costly commodity. Bread Studio, a Hong King based company, has proposed an innovative solution, Floating Eternity. In essence Floating Eternity is a a floating columbarium “island” anchored offshore in the South China Sea accessed by ferry. During annual ancestor worship holidays the island would dock in Hong Kong.

Off the coast of Miami, Florida another innovative ideas is being tested. The Neptune Memorial Reef, an underwater mausoleum, is one of the largest man made reefs in the world. An environmentally friendly solution to traditional burial, the reef has become home to an array of sea life including threatened species. Several companies are looking to build similar facilities in the near future.

A finalist in the French 2011 eVolo Skyscraper Competition was the vertical cemetery from designers Fillette Romaric and Chandrasegar Velmourougane. In this design a spiral walkway around the building allows for family visitation as well as stunning views of Paris. A skylight at the center would allow for the reflection of light from a pond at the base. Similar cemeteries of the future already exist in several cities. In Brazil the Memorial Necropole Ecumencia is 32-stories in height. In Portland, Oregon, the Portland Memorial Mausoleum is eight stories tall.

One of the most thought provoking ideas was recently proposed by Columbia University designers in a contest sponsored by the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath in England.  Utilizing “biomass”, the gas from decaying bodies, a concept referred to as “Sylvan Constellation” would illuminate lanterns that cast ever shifting light beams throughout the cemetery creating a garden of light. Tentative plans call for testing the project at the historic Arnos Vale Cemetery in England.

In 1998, promoted as an alternative to traditional burials, natural burials moved toward becoming mainstream with the establishment of Ramsey Creek, “an all natural cemetery” in Westminster, South Carolina. In actuality there is little new about this practice. In fact, it is a return to more historic burial practices as the funeral forgoes embalming, concrete vaults, and non biodegradable caskets. There are now more than fifty of these cemeteries in the United States, and numerous traditional cemeteries have sections set aside for natural graves.

Death and final arrangements for loved ones is never easy to discuss, even when looking toward the future. The compassionate and knowledgeable staff at Arizona Affordable Funeral Home and Crematory is always available to assist and to alleviate the stress involved with the making of these arrangements.

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