The Shadow Spaces thesis analyses the metropolitan crematoriums and the holistic design approach to enhance them by Ar. Sanchit Arora of Renesa Architects

Architecture
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15The Hall of Remembrance
Project Credits:
Project Name: The Shadow Spaces
Location: New Delhi
Architects: Renesa Architects
Design Team: Sanchit Arora – Studio Head Architect, Sanjay Arora – Founder, Principal Architect, Shitij Dogra – Architect and Virender Singh – Architect

Death is the ever mysterious finality that binds all the life forms together. The rituals for the dead are held in high regard. These rituals and the spaces they are conducted in form a special bond with the living and the dead. These spaces become the delicate horizon where the living world connects with the departed; where one ponders over the obscurities of the other world and the absolute nature of the same. For a majority of the population, these spaces and rituals form a dichotomous equation with the living and the dead; they are very intimate yet are in a public setting.

In the culturally diverse landscape of our cities, the spaces of cremation can be appropriated as spiritual spaces that become an element of unison between varied conceptions. These spaces also help in the evolution of an allegory between the expressive, narrative and the sacramental attributes of architecture. Hence, the argument commences on the role of these otherwise marginalized spaces in our cultural geography. Can these landscapes be appropriately used, their cultural and social role more pronounced?

These arguments lead to the evolution of ‘Shadow Spaces’, an architect’s view of such spaces in today’s society. Ar. Sanchit Arora’s thesis on these spaces is based on learning and analysing the shortcomings of crematoriums and the formulation of solutions for these issues. It also renders the Hindu rituals and beliefs into today’s context, making an apt space for the paying the last respects to the departed. The thesis also enquires the social and architectural issues relating to these spaces at the micro and macro level in the Indian cities, as also designing solutions for the same.

The crematoriums in the national capital of New Delhi are distributed according to the different zones in the city. These areas are observed to be flanked by nallahs and greens which act as a buffer for them from the chaos of the city.

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The position of the water bodies along the site can be argued as per the Hindu rituals. However, their planning gives us an insight as to how the spaces of death are realized in our culture.

A detailed analysis of the four major crematoriums in New Delhi namely Nigambodh Ghat (North + East Delhi) ,Green Park (South Delhi), Punjabi Bagh (West Delhi) and Lodhi Road (Central Delhi), it is concluded that the Green Park Crematorium is the most underutilized space in terms of the potential with regard to its position in the city.

3The Existing Green Park Crematorium

The Green Park crematorium is located in the midst of the metropolis, in an affluent neighbourhood. Also, there are major healthcare centres (AIIMS, Safdarjung) around this crematorium. Albeit its prime location, it only receives a small fraction of deceased bodies per day (5-10 per day; expected- 25 and above). These startling numbers, coupled with a great potential to the site led to the Green Park Crematorium to be chosen for the study of Shadow Spaces.

The process of hierarchal transition formed the initiation of the architectural attempt of the Shadow Spaces, the Macro and Micro design strategies complementing each other at every step. Through this course they gratify the existing site parameters and constraints while maintaining an architectural coherence with the surrounding spaces.

The program zoning diagrams given below are in accordance to the periphery treatment:

1. Slums, Housing for Priests and Workers on site.

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2. Buffer- The Neighbourhood: An architectural approach to the existing affluent neighbourhood.

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3. Hospitals and other institutions

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4. The Topography

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The Macro study develops the peripheral design details by undergoing these different architectural approaches. Alongside, the activity mapping of the ritualistic spatial grading of a crematorium from a case study of Ashwin Kumar Crematorium, Surat by Matharoo Architects guides the internal distribution of spaces to suit the variable external scenarios.

The Ritualistic Spatial Hierarchy at a Hindu Crematorium and framing the Programs for the site.
1. Entrance to the crematorium.
2. Parking area.
3. A passage for the mourners and the family to enter with the deceased body.
4. An idol of lord Shiva to worship.
5. Holy water for the diseased.
6. Passage to the shed of the funeral.
7. Wood storage area.
8. Funeral pyre shed.
9. Electric crematorium (included).
10. Sitting area for the mourners.
11. A prayer hall plus ashes room.
12. Water tank for obligations before leaving.

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The programmatic breakdown of the spaces leads the connection of the programs with their pattern. These associations respect the uniqueness of every space and help in its assimilation with the surrounding buildings such as a homeless shelter, an old-age home and an orphanage. These existing buildings act as potential hubs in the existing, secluded areas of cremation grounds. They would also help in the easing the transition process of the family of the deceased back to their routines by proving the much needed composure and strength. Thus, an indiscernible link is formed with the design ideology of the sacred space.


After a study of the database acquired, a series of sketches formulating the design ideas of the aforementioned spaces was started, the flow and transparency of the same was stressed on. This process was continued till the design link was established with every ritual involved.

The architect’s aim for this study is to analyse the evolution of crematoriums in cities and to explore the various avenues through which architecture can help in bringing a distinct change in the perception of these obscure landscapes in the Indian metropolitan culture. The project intends to provide innovative design solutions to enhance the obsolete and underutilized space in order to make it worthy of a proper farewell to the loved ones.

The thesis of Shadow Spaces thus alleviates most of the issues associated with the inadequacies mentioned, adopting a holistic design approach that encompasses the physical, metaphysical, emotional and spiritual notions.

This thesis consisting of an in-depth study of the essential, yet obscure landscape of crematoriums in India’s metropolitan areas and the innovative design solutions crafted to tackle the many issues faced by them has created a positive impact on the capital’s design and planning authorities. It has now evolved into a government project, already in it’s initial phase, with an immense potential to
bring about constructive transformations to the Green Park Crematoriums, which could possibly extend to other sacred spaces as well.

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FA series of rough sketches depicting the physical manifestation of the emotions ,narrations and sanctity of the space.
 12Site Plan


final sections sheet 500
Sections
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The Zoning Layout
16The Entrance Path
13Purifying the Soul and Gathering Space
19The Experiential Path
 
18The Electric Crematorium
17The Funeral Space
22The Burial Plaza
14The Prayer Hall and Water Obligation
21The Hall of Prayers
20Bird’s Eye View of the Site
34Ar. Sanchit Arora
33Ar. Sanjay Arora

-Tanvi Naik, Volume Zero.

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