The death industry is a challenging place for design. When the subject matter of a human’s passing is actually dealt with in a direct manner, the design around death is typically conservative, traditional and safe. Familiar forms and customary protocols prevail, whether or not they are applicable to the situation. All fine and well if this is what a person wants, that is, if a deliberate choice is being made. As architects who have spent our lives thinking and breathing design, as individuals trained to understand the form and function of our physical surroundings, we have a difficult time understanding why irrelevant forms and outdated customs play such a weighted role in the final marking of a life. In our opinion, the homogeneous polished granite and plastic urns lack a connection with the deceased and create an unhealthy relationship with death.

Recently we were contacted by Lundgren Monuments for an extraordinary project. The company’s founder, Greg Lundgren, was selecting a group of established west-coast architects to give a fresh perspective on modern design for the death industry. The project involved the design of an urn by each architect, followed by a group exhibit of the work. We were immediately fascinated and we admired not only the modern perspective on the nature of death, but also the transparency offered by the project. In his own words:

The architects are to approach the cremation urn as dwelling: the last, smallest house one will every buy and inhabit.

Brilliant, he had us at hello. Team build got straight to work on an urn design and a different way of thinking about this last, smallest house. The BUILD design uses the cremated remains as an aggregate within a concrete-like mixture, thereby creating a solid object. The object is cast with a hollow core and subsequently becomes a vessel to hold the cherished possessions of one’s life. These items could be anything from a favorite tie to a watch or a worn pair of glasses. In so doing, the urn reverses the relationship between the body and adornments.

The BUILD Urn Prototype is now on display with the gorgeous work of 25 additional architects.  This exhibit is significant in that it represents the very first time in history that a group of architects have focused their talents on the cremation urn as an architectural object. If you’re design conscious and are mortal, this is a must see show; “The Architect and the Urn” runs from June 3 to July 18 at the Lundgren Monument boutique on Capitol Hill at 1011 Boren Ave, exhibit hours are from 11.00am to 6.00pm Tuesday through Saturday.

A huge thanks to Greg and all of the participants of the show, it is a necessary and wonderful area of design and we are honored to have contributed.

For a behind the scenes look at the urn design click here.
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