Lithuania's first crematorium opens
The recently completed concrete structure in Kėdainiai is the first crematorium to have been built in Lithuania, with the architects having many obstacles to overcome in order to realise the project. Traditionally Lithuanians have had to travel to Latvia and Poland for cremation services.
“To make a path for the first crematorium in Lithuania wasn’t easy. Despite the big enthusiasm, the catholic mind, political hypocrisy, the lack and imperfections of environmental and other laws were overcome only in 2011. The owners of Kėdainiai crematorium, doctors and environmentalists, showed the strength.”
Kėdainiai is an industrial town in the centre of Lithuania and the crematorium sits within an industrial park; not the most serene and idyllic location for funeral services, but the context really drove the aesthetic of the building. The architects took this industrial setting and pushed a ‘minimalistic and ascetic scenario’ for their building.
The result is a one-storey concrete structure with the materiality flowing from the external to the interior in order to maintain a unifying quality throughout. To distance itself from the industrial environment the building’s design focused on the idea of enclosure around a courtyard. The space draws influence from traditional Japanese courtyards and creates a very calm and intimate area for the occupants to inhabit before proceeding with the service inside, creating ‘an emotional filter’ to reduce the stress and pain of the experience.
Inside the building, elements of the process - such as the chimney - are hidden within the volume of the building to reduce the negative effects of them being visible. The architects used only four materials to finish the interior: concrete, wood veneer, glass and a white plaster. These neutral materials were picked to remove distraction from the purpose of the space to allow families to 'concentrate on the solemnly hour'. The architects have designed a very delicate environment for grieving families to say goodbye to loved ones and this careful selection of materials and the reaction to the contextual issues has helped for an evocative yet functional design.