Dezeen Magazine

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Five student design and architecture projects that respond to death

Dezeen School Shows: we've picked five student projects that feature in Dezeen School Shows that examine themes relating to death, burial and the concept of an afterlife.

These undergraduate and postgraduate students have chosen to take cues from the concept of death in their projects, exploring both the emotional and practical considerations when tackling the idea.

Projects in this roundup include a burial process that harnesses the merits of mycelium fungus, a narrative told via a sequence of rooms that correspond to the stages of grief, and a crematorium built around the ruins of a 19th-century house.

These projects come from students enrolled on product design, architecture and interior design courses at international institutions including Vilnius Academy of Arts, Ravensbourne University LondonThe Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at The George Washington University and Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Life after life by Milda Pakarkltė

Product design student Milda Pakarkltė created a wall-mounted shrine that contains three elements symbolic of death and the afterlife – water, fire and earth.

A photo can be held inside the back panel and is only revealed when someone lights the candle in the ice candle holder, which melts and in turn waters the small tree.

"A second object is a special place for remembering the dead at home," said Pakarkltė. "Because of the balance mechanism inside, the photograph of the deceased person appears only when the candle is lit."

"The photograph closes slowly as the ice melts, creating a limited period of time for remembering. The water drops down, creating a calming sound."

Student: Milda Pakarkltė
School: Vilnius Academy of Arts
Course: BA Product Design

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Rethinking Ritual: A Sustainable Approach to Death by Nanchalee Rebecca Waite

As part of her architecture studies, student Nanchalee Rebecca Waite worked on a project that rethinks the process of burial through the use of mycelium fungal threads.

The building designed to accommodate this process centres on a table situated beneath a skylight, providing an easily accessible location for the body to be worked on.

"Rethinking Ritual confronts the relationship between the deceased and the living," said Waite.

"The project explores the importance and definition of rituals around death by offering a more sustainable alternative to burial systems through the use of a fungus called mycelium."

Student: Nanchalee Rebecca Waite
School: Ravensbourne University London
Course: BA (Hons) Architecture

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A space full of dark full of shadows

The Island of Grief by Lai Yu Nga Katie

Environment and interior design student Lai Yu Nga Katie created a narrative project that describes the journey of a girl through a series of rooms based on the stages of grief.

The rooms represent these stages by using natural light and how it moves over the course of the day.

"The Island of Grief is a story about a girl who is in mourning and escapes to an imaginary space in her dreams," said Katie. "Rooms are designed based on different stages of grief including denial, anger, depression and acceptance."

"Spaces emphasise the characteristics of each grief stage by manipulating and controlling light and shade."

Student: Lai Yu Nga Katie
School: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Course: BA (Hons) in Environment and Interior Design

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Crematorium complex with views of a forest

Remembrance Crematorium by Yi-Chen Chang

During their interior architecture course, student Yi-Chen Chang decided to pursue an adaptive reuse project turning the remains of a 19th-century house near Austin, Texas, into a crematorium complex.

The buildings use light and their proximity to nature to reinforce the site as a space for reflection on the impermanence of life.

"The symbolic omnipresence of death encourages us to cherish life and live deeply," said Yi-Chen Chang.

"References to death, burial, permanence/impermanence and the eternal are captured throughout the sequence of spaces providing quietude for reflection."

Student: Yi-Chen Chang
School: Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at The George Washington University
Course: Studio 5 – graduate

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5 Burning Hope by Sng Ei Jia

Burning Hope by Sng Ei Jia

Master of Architecture student Sng Ei Jia conducted a thesis that explores the traditional Singaporean custom of burning paper offerings for the dead.

The cultural practice is being made rarer by the rise of technology and the lack of artisans to create the paper items.

"The custom has played a significant cultural role at death until recently and is now unfortunately threatened with disappearance," said Sng Ei Jia. "By comparing the techniques and designs of traditional and contemporary paper effigies, Sng Ei Jia's M.Arch thesis aims to suggest a new method for creating ceremonial paper-house offerings for the deceased."

Student: Sng Ei Jia
School: Singapore University of Technology and Design
Course: Master of Architecture, Architecture and Sustainable Design studio

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Partnership content

These projects are presented in school shows from institutions that partner with Dezeen. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.