Choa Chu Kang Crematorium was predicated on the philosophy that the crematorium is not a place for the dead, but for the living. The crematorium is an especially poignant place as it is where the body, the physical representation of a person, is cremated. Regardless of religion, families want to believe that cremation is not the end of their loved ones but that their spirits still live on. It is the role of the crematorium to reinforce this notion, through its architecture and use of symbolic elements, to hint at the presence of a higher order and hopefully alleviate the cruel act of destroying the body.
The site is located along the curved elbow of Choa Chu Kang Road, hence the initial response to create a circular form to comfortably turn the corner. The defined circulation route from entrance foyer, to waiting area, to ash collection area and finally ash sorting rooms happens full cycle, in a loop without dead ends or reverse directions. This radial progression and placement of spaces within the circular form could be read as a reference to the cyclic continuity of life. On the approach, the thick, circular enclosing concrete wall heightens the awareness of “mass”, while at the end of the route, the ash sorting rooms appear as objects suspended over an open-to-sky reflecting pool, heightening the awareness of the “void”. This duality recalls the physical destruction of the “body”, the heavy, massive, physical representation of a person during cremation, freeing the “soul”, the weightless, formless entity. The journey to the crematorium ends at the centre, the inner sanctum, and heart of the crematorium where families proceed to sort the ashes of their loved ones in the middle of a reflecting pool. Water is employed here as a key design element as it is symbolic in many religions. Also, “heaven” or “tian yuan” in Mandarin literally translates to “round sky”. The reflection of the heavens in the pool within the open-to-sky circular void reinforces the vertical, heaven-earth connection and again evokes the general theme of death and liberation.