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Ceremonial building

The ceremonial functions, together with the reception and the coffee room , are kept apart from the actual crematorium. As a consequence, the site is not charged with one massive building but rather with two more humble entities.

The ceremonial building is implemented in the strip between the paths leading to the cemetery and the sports fields. The crematorium is to be erected in the sculpture garden, not far from the street. This volume is partly dug into the ground and wrapped by a dense group of trees. It is visible though encapsulated volume. During the elaboration of the design, attention was paid to ambushing this ‘laden’ building in the landscape, in order to safeguard the open view from the road to the lower valley.

The whitewashed concrete ceremonial building stretches out between the red brick wall running along the sports fields and the hedge enclosing the cemetery. On the south-west side of the building, along the hedge, a covered gallery follows the contours of the building closely. The roof folds over the entrance of the building, as a continuation of the existing sloping lawn.

The gallery appears like a sheltered street, where visitors are led to the ceremonial spaces in a silenced atmosphere. The roofs, clad with blackened planks on top and underside, are supported by black wooden columns and are sloping towards the hedge, thus aiming the perspective of the spaces towards the earth. The roofing refers to the covered outdoor spaces in Japanese houses and sanctuaries. The rain runs straightly down from the roof on the hedge, thus becoming a curtain between the gallery and the landscape.

A retaining wall intercepts the differences in height between the hedge and the gently sloping path from the gallery and functions at the same time as the backrest of the benches incorporated in it. The landscape shows through in the gallery. The sloping, embracing roof and the dense vegetation in the hedge keep noises away and form a buffer between the building and the graveyard.

The gallery gives access to an antechamber, which long side borders an enclosed garden, planted with oak trees. The family rooms lead to high enclosed patio’s, in the smallest of which two cypresses grow. The antechamber has, similar to the gallery, a roof that slopes towards the garden and as such turns the space inside itself, redirecting the view to the ground. The darkness here contrasts with the light in the auditorium. The clair-obscur of the sequence of low and high spaces attributes to the building’s spiritual character.


The volume of the crematorium anchors itself in the sloping lawn through the wrapping wall of wooden lattice work. Just like the castle nearby, the building is enclosed by a dense series of oak trees.

One level of the crematorium is dug into the ground, where it connects with the service road. The top floor, where visitors are being received, rises above the ground. From the reception room, a staircase in a spacious void leads to the actual cremation room. From the entrance, one can look across the reception room towards the back of the building and the landscape behind.

Program: Competition for a crematorium, not selected
Location: Kortrijk, Belgium
Timeline: 2005
Project Team: Marie-José Van Hee (architect), Maarten Vanbelle, Dietlinde Verhaeghe, Wim Voorspoels, Tinne Verwerft, Pieter Vansteeger
Structural Engineer: UTIL, Rolf Vansteenwegen
Accoustics: Daidalos Peutz, Paul Mees
Landscaping: Paul Deroose