The news: Countries around the world are ending up with what might be one of the most depressing problems ever: running out of room to bury their dead.
But Norway might have the answer. Martin McSherry, a cheerily named architecture student from Oslo, submitted a "vertical skyscraper" design to the Oslo Conference for Nordic Cemeteries and Graveyards as a potential fix to the country's body issues.
The giant white skyscraper would stand as tall as it needs to, with a permanently attached crane to raise and lower coffins to their plots and assemble additional floors. The tower of the dead would have a central column with green, tree-lined plots on terraces. Somewhat predictably, the idea was controversial. Here's a cutaway:
And here's another part of McSherry's design. I don't speak Norwegian, so presumably this says your corpse will be Instagrammed or something:
Looks pretty space age.
The background: In the ominously titled "America's Looming Burial Crisis," urban planning Professor Chris Coutts notes that the 76 million Americans who are scheduled to die between 2024 and 2042 will require 130 square miles of land to bury — an area equivalent to the size of Las Vegas. Other solutions include chemical reduction of bodies to ash, freezing corpses with liquid nitrogen and shattering them, liquifaction, and mechanized columbaria, which would essentially be an Amazon warehouse of urns that families can visit.
A lot of people don't like the idea of being buried in a skyscraper, though. In a piece titled "Please don't bury me in a skyscraper," The Independent's Memphis Baker argued that "the poetry of it isn't quite right":
There is nothing elegiac about a skyscraper: they're ambitious, lean, and busy. Many of us spend an entire life hustling from high rise to high rise; without wanting to sound too much like Alain de Botton, a change of scene is surely one of the more appealing aspects of crossing over. (It's apt that the memorial at Ground Zero is a pool, not a tower).
Cremation is increasingly popular, but only about 30% elect to have their bodies burnt. But with space rapidly running out, we might have to abandon the supposed romanticism of an old-fashioned grave plot.
And count me in on the new wave of burial techniques. Frankly, there's nothing particularly charming about the idea of rotting under the earth, and some of our greatest landmarks are sweeping memorials to the dead:
We are all, every single one of us, going to die sometime. We might as well reach for the sky.