'Posthumus' - A Funeral Home and Cemetery to Embrace Decay
My project is an exploration of human attitudes to death, decay and our relationships to other species. 'Posthumus' as a funeral home offers sustainable alternatives to current practices of body handling after death.
Through a rejection of embalming (a process of chemically keeping the body from appearing 'dead') the project encourages a change in our relationship with death, fear of decay and grief - accepting decomposition as a natural part of us authentically being and dying in the world.
'Posthumus' and its ethos is theoretically grounded in Donna Harraway's philosophy of becoming-with. The eco-feminist philosopher argues that for earthly survival in the face of the climate crisis, we, as a species, must undergo a change in subjectivity and begin to perceive ourselves as one with non-humans, as part of the compost. 'Posthumus' encourages this not only by celebrating natural decomposition but by, in the case of burial, planting a tree on the grave, therefore entangling the human and non-human processes of death and life. For the mourners, a tree filled cemetery creates new associations with death and decay, moving towards this new subjectivity.
The architecture of the funeral home reflects these notions by embracing the complicated relationships between humans and non-humans in the former Manchester Abbatoir. Not only is the funeral home built on the literal foundations of the disused brutalist slaughterhouse, its concrete column grid becomes a symbol of the project, omnipresent throughout the building and spreading into the cemetery landscape. The demolished concrete is re-used in gabion structures and cladding, reflecting how nature recycles that which is in decay through compost. The spaces are presented on the basis of an active funeral - a procession and view journey that the end-users would experience.