The Cemetery: Inside and Outside

The workshop organized by the Genplan Institute of Moscow scored one of the two first places at the “Open City” festival. Its subject is reorganization of municipal cemeteries. Two action plans were proposed, diametrically opposite: one for the downtown and one for the suburbs.

17 November 2023
The project of the “Open City” workshop, created by a team working under the guidance of Genplan Institute of Moscow, was recently announced as one of the two winners of the festival. Its authors will be premiered with an expenses-paid participation in Kazanysh festival in Kazan.

I must say, the project is well developed, detailed and beautifully presented on its own web page. Therefore, it probably does not make much sense to republish it in its entirety – I will tell you only about the highlights.

“Open City” 2023
Copyright: Photograph © Julia Tarabarina, Archi.ru

First, the project is presented at the exhibition with a meditative installation in the form of a bed made of hay, where you can lie down, relax, and listen to music.

Second, the project itself begins with a research of the relevance of reforming cemeteries as such – their number, their specifics, and growth trends – among other things, we find out that in Moscow and New Moscow combined cemeteries occupy 2017 hectares, 641 of them lying within the Moscow Ring Road. We also learn that the nation’s capital buries an average of 345 people a day, which within a year adds up to a territory roughly equivalent to two Zaryadye parks. Another thing that we learn is that the cemetery design is chaotic to the point of being repulsive, and this is something that I 100% agree with – because once you come to a cemetery, the first thing you want is to get out of there. Another random fact: cremation cuts down the burial area by about a hundred times.

Still another random fact: the largest number of cremations falls on Norilsk, followed by Novosibirsk and Novomoskovsk; cremation and conventional burying are split by 50% in Ekaterinburg and St. Petersburg, Moscow clearly prefers the conservative method, and there is even a city with zero cremations – it is Rostov-on-Don.

Statistics on traditional burials and cremations by city. Quiet Neighbors Workshop
Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow

Meanwhile, the authors of the report not just provide stats, prove relevance, and showcase their projects – they also developed recommendations for optimizing the legal base: sanitary regulations, federal standards, and the operation of Ritual (“The Last Rites”) bureau. 

This means that the workshop “Lighting Inclusion” is not the only one who developed this manual. And, since we are talking about the Genplan Institute of Moscow here, then I can safely define the prospects of implementing the recommendations as optimistic ones. In a word, this is a great initiative.

“Quiet Neighbors” Workshop
Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow

Workshop participants: Luisa Karimova, Tatiana Magon (Genplan Institute of Moscow), Nikolai Potapenko, Anna Potapenko, Darius Nazarov, Iya Viktorova (MARKHI), Ekaterina Sokolova (HSE), Anna Belashova (MARCH), Maria Nakadovskaya (GUZ)
Workshop curators: Vitaly Lutz, Irina Lobanova (Genplan Institute of Moscow), Anna Antokhina (Lug Architects)

Another feature of the workshop “Quiet Neighbors” is that it consists of two projects: a cemetery for the outskirts and for the center of the historical city. The first one was developed on a specific site and looks like it is almost ready and real; it is largely based on the existing standard of the Okolomoskovsky cemetery, although it has ideas that, I suppose, not everyone will understand and approve of.

Becoming a Tree

Usually, a cemetery combines grave sites and a crematorium, with someone putting urns in a columbarium, and someone digging in a family plot. All this, as a rule, is overgrown with trees; they are dissected by asphalt roads, bright artificial and real flowers accumulating at their foot. One has a hard time trying to pass between the fences, both old metal and new granite; sometimes they close together and “catch” the person walking, forcing them to turn back and go around. In short, wandering around the cemetery, as the romantics bequeathed, is a little difficult for us. Except maybe for Donskoy and Novodevichy, where they conduct guided tours. 

Workshop participants suggest complementing the traditional structure, from which many people are, of course, not ready to part – with a cemetery-park, or an eco-cemetery.

The idea is to mix the crematorium ashes with soil, place them in a biodegradable urn, and plant a tree there. The trees are arranged in a meditative, quiet, and aesthetically appealing space that can be walked through. What is also important is that such areas do not conform to the sanitary norms of distancing from the cemetery territory. Consequently, the park part of the cemetery “extends outward” and saves space.

  • zooming
    1 / 6
    Eco-burial scheme: "ashes to ashes«. »Quiet Neighbors" Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow
  • zooming
    2 / 6
    Southeast Park Dendroplan. Quiet Neighbors Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow
  • zooming
    3 / 6
    Searching for the image of an eco-cemetery. Quiet Neighbors Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow
  • zooming
    4 / 6
    Transportation and Pedestrian Network. Quiet Neighbors Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow
  • zooming
    5 / 6
    The master plan. “Quiet Neighbors” Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow
  • zooming
    6 / 6
    The territory balance. “Quiet Neighbors” Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow

In addition to this original but, in my opinion, attractive solution, everything else is well thought out: a front square with a retail space, a plant nursery garden, and a rather charming, not gloomy, crematorium building. It subtly resembles the Montreal Pavilion, but perhaps, in this case, the rising spire can be associated with the soul’s journey to the sky.

  • zooming
    1 / 5
    The crematorium. “Quiet Neighbors” Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow
  • zooming
    2 / 5
    Crematorium. Cross section view. Quiet Neighbors Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow
  • zooming
    3 / 5
    Crematorium Plan at 0 elevation. “Quiet Neighbors” Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow
  • zooming
    4 / 5
    Crematorium Plan at 4.0 elevation. “Quiet Neighbors” Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow
  • zooming
    5 / 5
    Columbarium Rooms. Quiet Neighbors Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow

Moving with Your Relative

The second proposal is more conceptual, falling into the category of “paper” projects and is intended for the densely built historical center.

It is called – by analogy with a well-known program – “My Columbarium”. The authors suggest creating a network of columbariums within the city program, one for each district. They place the columbariums underground: this way, space can be saved, and, at the very least, an original atmosphere can be created – at least an oculus among the images has already appeared. Naturally, the early Christian catacombs come to mind, although the authors do not seem to refer to them.

  • zooming
    "My Columbarium«. »Quiet Neighbors" Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow
  • zooming
    "My Columbarium«. »Quiet Neighbors" Workshop
    Copyright: Materials of the workshop of the “Open City Festival”, curated by the Genplan Institute of Moscow

The main idea, however, is to make the urns mobile. So, when moving to another district, a person can take the urn with them and place it in another columbarium within the network.

It turns out to be a counterpoise: cemeteries at the city borders are very stable in terms of location – a tree grows there, and it’s there forever, while cemeteries within the city are as mobile as city dwellers. And at the same time, there is a sense of attachment for a city center resident to their relative, as if they are not letting go, unlike the burial-tree. Well, urns with ashes on the mantelpieces from American movies also come to mind. Another question: all this is proposed for Moscow. What if a Muscovite decides to move to another city?

However, what is truly important here is the diversity of the proposed, not entirely traditional formats, not only for Muscovites but also for Russians, corresponding to the direction of society’s development. If columbariums have found acceptance, perhaps these will someday too. Personally, I wouldn’t mind continuing my eternal life as a tree.

17 November 2023

Headlines now
The Mirror of Your Soul
We continue to publish projects from the competition for the design of the Russian Pavilion at EXPO in Osaka 2025. We are reminding you that the results of the competition have not been announced, and hardly will ever be. The pavilion designed by ASADOV Architects combines a forest log cabin, the image of a hyper transition, and sculptures made of glowing threads – it focuses primarily on the scenography of the exhibition, which the pavilion builds sequentially like a string of impressions, dedicating it to the paradoxes of the Russian soul.
Part of the Ideal
In 2025, another World Expo will take place in Osaka, Japan, in which Russia will not participate. However, a competition for the Russian pavilion was indeed held, with six projects participating. The results were never announced as Russia’s participation was canceled; the competition has no winners. Nevertheless, Expo pavilion projects are typically designed for a bold and interesting architectural statement, so we’ve gathered all the six projects and will be publishing articles about them in random order. The first one is the project by Vladimir Plotkin and Reserve Union, which is distinguished by the clarity of its stereometric shape, the boldness of its structure, and the multiplicity of possible interpretations.
The Fortress by the River
ASADOV Architects have developed a concept for a new residential district in the center of Kemerovo. To combat the harsh climate and monotonous everyday life, the architects proposed a block type of development with dominant towers, good insolation, facades detailed at eye level, and event programming.
In the Rhombus Grid
Construction has begun on the building of the OMK (United Metallurgical Company) Corporate University in Nizhny Novgorod’s town of Vyksa, designed by Ostozhenka Architects. The most interesting aspect of the project is how the architects immersed it in the context: “extracting” a diagonal motif from the planning grid of Vyksa, they aligned the building, the square, and the park to match it. A truly masterful work with urban planning context on several different levels of perception has long since become the signature technique of Ostozhenka.
​Generational Connection
Another modern estate, designed by Roman Leonidov, is located in the Moscow region and brings together three generations of one family under one roof. To fit on a narrow plot without depriving anyone of personal space, the architects opted for a zigzag plan. The main volume in the house structure is accentuated by mezzanines with a reverse-sloped roof and ceilings featuring exposed beams.
Three Dimensions of the City
We began to delve into the project by Sergey Skuratov, the residential complex “Depo” in Minsk, located at Victory Square, and it fascinated us completely. The project has at least several dimensions to it: historical – at some point, the developer decided to discontinue further collaboration with Sergey Skuratov Architects, but the concept was approved, and its implementation continues, mostly in accordance with the proposed ideas. The spatial and urban planning dimension – the architects both argue with the city and play along with it, deciphering nuances, and finding axes. And, finally, the tactile dimension – the constructed buildings also have their own intriguing features. Thus, this article also has two parts: it dwells on what has been built and what was conceived
New “Flight”
Architects from “Mezonproject” have developed a project for the reconstruction of the regional youth center “Polyot”(“Flight”) in the city of Oryol. The summer youth center, built back in the late 1970s, will now become year-round and acquire many additional functions.
The Yauza Towers
In Moscow, there aren’t that many buildings or projects designed by Nikita Yavein and Studio 44. In this article, we present to you the concept of a large multifunctional complex on the Yauza River, located between two parks, featuring a promenade, a crossroads of two pedestrian streets, a highly developed public space, and an original architectural solution. This solution combines a sophisticated, asymmetric façade grid, reminiscent of a game of fifteen puzzle, and bold protrusions of the upper parts of the buildings, completely masking the technical floors and sculpting the complex’s silhouette.
Architecture and Leisure Park
For the suburban hotel complex, which envisages various formats of leisure, the architectural company T+T Architects proposed several types of accommodation, ranging from the classic “standard” in a common building to a “cave in the hill” and a “house in a tree”. An additional challenge consisted in integrating a few classic-style residences already existing on this territory into the “architectural forest park”.
The U-House
The Jois complex combines height with terraces, bringing the most expensive apartments from penthouses down to the bottom floors. The powerful iconic image of the U-shaped building is the result of the creative search for a new standard of living in high-rise buildings by the architects of “Genpro”.
Black and White
In this article, we specifically discuss the interiors of the ATOM Pavilion at VDNKh. Interior design is a crucial component of the overall concept in this case, and precision and meticulous execution were highly important for the architects. Julia Tryaskina, head of UNK interiors, shares some of the developments.
The “Snake” Mountain
The competition project for the seaside resort complex “Serpentine” combines several typologies: apartments of different classes, villas, and hotel rooms. For each of these typologies, the KPLN architects employ one of the images that are drawn from the natural environment – a serpentine road, a mountain stream, and rolling waves.
Opal from Anna Mons’ Ring
The project of a small business center located near Tupolev Plaza and Radio Street proclaims the necessity of modern architecture in a specific area of Moscow commonly known as “Nemetskaya Sloboda” or “German settlement”. It substantiates its thesis with the thoroughness of details, a multitude of proposed and rejected form variants, and even a detailed description of the surrounding area. The project is interesting indeed, and it is even more interesting to see what will come of it.
Feed ’Em All
A “House of Russian Cuisine” was designed and built by KROST Group at VDNKh for the “Rossiya” exhibition in record-breaking time. The pavilion is masterfully constructed in terms of the standards of modern public catering industry multiplied by the bustling cultural program of the exhibition, and it interprets the stylistically diverse character of VDNKh just as successfully. At the same time, much of its interior design can be traced back to the prototypes of the 1960s – so much so that even scenes from iconic Soviet movies of those years persistently come to mind.
The Ensemble at the Mosque
OSA prepared a master plan for a district in the southern part of Derbent. The main task of the master plan is to initiate the formation of a modern comfortable environment in this city. The organization of residential areas is subordinated to the city’s spiritual center: depending on the location relative to the cathedral mosque, the houses are distinguished by façade and plastique solutions. The program also includes a “hospitality center”, administrative buildings, an educational cluster, and even an air bridge.
Pargolovo Protestantism
A Protestant church is being built in St. Petersburg by the project of SLOI architects. One of the main features of the building is a wooden roof with 25-meter spans, which, among other things, forms the interior of the prayer hall. Also, there are other interesting details – we are telling you more about them.
The Shape of the Inconceivable
The ATOM Pavilion at VDNKh brings to mind a famous maxim of all architects and critics: “You’ve come up with it? Now build it!” You rarely see such a selfless immersion in implementation of the project, and the formidable structural and engineering tasks set by UNK architects to themselves are presented here as an integral and important part of the architectural idea. The challenge matches the obliging status of the place – after all, it is an “exhibition of achievements”, and the pavilion is dedicated to the nuclear energy industry. Let’s take a closer look: from the outside, from the inside, and from the underside too.
​Rays of the Desert
A school for 1750 students is going to be built in Dubai, designed by IND Architects. The architects took into account the local specifics, and proposed a radial layout and spaces, in which the children will be comfortable throughout the day.
The Dairy Theme
The concept of an office of a cheese-making company, designed for the enclosed area of a dairy factory, at least partially refers to industrial architecture. Perhaps that is why this concept is very simple, which seems the appropriate thing to do here. The building is enlivened by literally a couple of “master strokes”: the turning of the corner accentuates the entrance, and the shade of glass responds to the theme of “milk rivers” from Russian fairy tales.
The Road to the Temple
Under a grant from the Small Towns Competition, the main street and temple area of the village of Nikolo-Berezovka near Neftekamsk has been improved. A consortium of APRELarchitects and Novaya Zemlya is turning the village into an open-air museum and integrating ruined buildings into public life.
​Towers Leaning Towards the Sun
The three towers of the residential complex “Novodanilovskaya 8” are new and the tallest neighbors of the Danilovsky Manufactory, “Fort”, and “Plaza”, complementing a whole cluster of modern buildings designed by renowned masters. At the same time, the towers are unique for this setting – they are residential, they are the tallest ones here, and they are located on a challenging site. In this article, we explore how architects Andrey Romanov and Ekaterina Kuznetsova tackled this far-from-trivial task.
In the spirit of ROSTA posters
The new Rostselmash tractor factory, conceptualized by ASADOV Architects, is currently being completed in Rostov-on-Don. References to the Soviet architecture of the 1920’s and 1960’s resonate with the mission and strategic importance of the enterprise, and are also in line with the client’s wish: to pay homage to Rostov’s constructivism.
The Northern Thebaid
The central part of Ferapontovo village, adjacent to the famous monastery with frescoes by Dionisy, has been improved according to the project by APRELarchitects. Now the place offers basic services for tourists, as well as a place for the villagers’ leisure.
Brilliant Production
The architects from London-based MOST Architecture have designed the space for the high-tech production of Charge Cars, a high-performance production facility for high-speed electric cars that are assembled in the shell of legendary Ford Mustangs. The founders of both the company and the car assembly startup are Russians who were educated in their home country.
Three-Part Task: St. Petersburg’s Mytny Dvor
The so-called “Mytny Dvor” area lying just behind Moscow Railway Station – the market rows with a complex history – will be transformed into a premium residential complex by Studio 44. The project consists of three parts: the restoration of historical buildings, the reconstruction of the lost part of the historical contour, and new houses. All of them are harmonized with each other and with the city; axes and “beams of light” were found, cozy corners and scenic viewpoints were carefully thought out. We had a chat with the authors of the historical buildings’ restoration project, and we are telling you about all the different tasks that have been solved here.
The Color of the City, or Reflections on the Slope of an Urban Settlement
In 2022, Ostozhenka Architects won a competition, and in 2023, they developed and received all the necessary approvals for a master plan for the development of Chernigovskaya Street for the developer GloraX. The project takes into account a 10-year history of previous developments; it was done in collaboration with architects from Nizhny Novgorod, and it continues to evolve now. We carefully examined it, talked to everyone, and learned a lot of interesting things.
A Single-Industry Town
Kola MMC and Nornickel are building a residential neighborhood in Monchegorsk for their future employees. It is based on a project by an international team that won the 2021 competition. The project offers a number of solutions meant to combat the main “demons” of any northern city: wind, grayness and boredom.
A New Age Portico
At the beginning of the year, Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport opened Terminal C. The large-scale and transparent entrance hall with luminous columns inside successfully combines laconism with a bright and photogenic WOW-effect. The terminal is both the new façade of the whole complex and the starting point of the planned reconstruction, upon completion of which Tolmachevo will become the largest regional airport in Russia. In this article, we are examining the building in the context of modernist prototypes of both Novosibirsk and Leningrad: like puzzle pieces, they come together to form their individual history, not devoid of curious nuances and details.
A New Starting Point
We’ve been wanting to examine the RuArts Foundation space, designed by ATRIUM for quite a long time, and we finally got round to it. This building looks appropriate and impressive; it amazingly combines tradition – represented in our case by galleries – and innovation. In this article, we delve into details and study the building’s historical background as well.
Molding Perspectives
Stepan Liphart introduces “schematic Art Deco” on the outskirts of Kazan – his houses are executed in green color, with a glassy “iced” finish on the facades. The main merits of the project lie in his meticulous arrangement of viewing angles – the architect is striving to create in a challenging environment the embryo of a city not only in terms of pedestrian accessibility but also in a sculptural sense. He works with silhouettes, proposing intriguing triangular terraces. The entire project is structured like a crystal, following two grids, orthogonal and diagonal. In this article, we are examining what worked, and what eventually didn’t.