Penn Station and MSG get reimagined as a landscaped cemetery

November 8, 2017

MSG reimagined as a cemetery (L); Memorial walls in the subway stations (R). Via DeathLab

The rant that traveling via Penn Station is enough to kill you just took on a whole new meaning. Untapped Cities shared this vision from Columbia University’s DeathLab (yes, this is a group dedicated to dealing with death in the city) that reimagines Penn Station and Madison Square Garden as a giant cemetery and public space. The general idea is to be more eco-friendly and accessible. Not only will the human remains be used to fertilize the gardens, but family members and the general public will be able to record digital memories to be stored on a central server.

DeathLab is a trans-disciplinary research and design group that’s part of the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Their mission is to look at new ways to deal with this increasing “population” in NYC. As 6sqft previously reported, “Each decade in the New York metropolitan area about 500,000 people are buried in cemetery plots, taking up a dwindling amount of land and outputting cremation smog into the air.” Last year, they proposed a suspended cemetery of twinkling burial pods under the Manhattan Bridge.

Gardens above the subway stations

Like “Constellation Park” (the Bridge proposal), their latest idea “#RIP: Encoding Memory” reinterprets the historic function of cemeteries as public parks. Here, however, instead of traditional burial methods, the students behind the project–Mai Abusalih, Eric Giragosian, and Min He–employ the ecological process known as promession, basically, a “green cremation” that integrates one’s organic remains with fertilizer soil, thus reducing climate change and adding carbon back to the Earth. This soil would then create a series of interior gardens and public spaces for both family members of the deceased and commuters.

A public gathering area

Why Penn Station? According to the students who worked on the project, “the current state leaves remembrance and memorialization uprooted from the island, disconnecting the sites where memories were originally created and celebrated.” With this location, they hope to “celebrate traces and reverberations, returning memorialization and the power of place to New York City… [bridging] the disintegration between where memories were made and where they are translated after death.”

The data storage site

To this end, the actual subway stations will factor in as “hotspot nodes” that will record and encode memories and track specific hashtags, which people can then view on an app to “fertilize” the gardens with their deceased family members. Data servers to store these memories would live in an atrium and serve double duty as heating and cooling devices for the gardens. The proposal points out that one computer server is roughly the same size as one casket, however, the server “can store 39 million memorials.”

[Via Untapped Cities]


All renderings courtesy of Mai Abusalih, Eric Giragosian, and Min He for DeathLab

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