Text description provided by the architects. Cemeteries have always been, and still are, reflections of society: they provide an insight into the relationship between the collective and the individual, the social environment of the time, the overall natural scene, the funerary culture and developments in the field of design and landscape architecture.
Karres and Brands created a design for the garden of remembrance of the Nieuwe Ooster cemetery in Amsterdam, the largest cemetery (in terms of numbers of graves) in the Netherlands. The Nieuwe Ooster was laid out in three phases: in 1889, 1915 and 1928. The first and second phases were designed by Leonard Springer. These sections have a clear spatial quality all of their own, but the third phase does not share this quality. It bears a resemblance to the style of Springer, but is not the same. Adaptations and expansions have left it devoid of structure and identity. The garden of remembrance lies within this phase.
Instead of spatially linking the three zones, we found it necessary to give each area its own separate identity. By increasing the contrasts, a clear triple division of the cemetery is brought about, so that the qualities of each individual zone are enhanced. A new identity has been created for the third phase. A robust but simple intervention was called for here. The basis is a zone with parallel strips of varying widths, each with its own design principle. Within this unambiguous structure, choices are made possible for individual wishes. Some of the strips include hedges that divide the zone into spatial compartments. The existing graveyards and the garden of remembrance are incorporated into the zone like rooms with green edges. Birch trees are loosely spread throughout the zone as a whole. An elongated pond and an urn wall form spatial accents, and a special destination for cremation ashes.
Karres and Brands also has designed a columbarium – a place for storing funeral urns – as a component of the crematorium garden of remem- brance at the Nieuwe Ooster cemetery in Amsterdam.
Like our changing society, the customs and rituals surrounding the burial of the dead continually endure change. The increasing demand for urn graves presented the opportunity to create a columbarium which forms an important spatial accent in the new structure of the crematorium’s garden of remembrance. The building forms one of the strips that structure the area, and provides places for 1,000 urns. The columbarium is an elongated volume dissected by pathways.
The separate elements of the building created in this way are linked by slanted lines in the exterior walls and roof. A number of rooms to house the urns are hollowed out within the volume. From the outside of the building - which is 120 metres long, 5 metres wide and 5 metres high - has the appearance of an introverted and robust zinc sculpture. From the inside, the rooms form enclosed, peaceful white interiors. Within the rooms visitors are sheltered from the surroundings, only the white terrazzo walls and the sky are visible. A pattern of single and double niches is hollowed out of the walls. At certain key points there are special niches where openings in the walls offer a glimpse of the surroundings and let in light.