Human body composting, yep, that’s what I said. American firm Olson Kundig Architects has revealed plans for an after-death facility in Seattle where human bodies will be composted and turned into soil.
The Seattle studio designed the centre for Recompose, a company founded by Katrina Spade to offer an alternative to cremation and burial. The Recompose Seattle project follows Washington becoming the first US state to legalise human composting in 2018.
Slated for completion in 2021, the facility is expected to be the first of its kind to offer human composting on a large scale.
According to Recompose, it will also be “the first facility in the world to provide a sustainable option for after-death care”. The company highlights a number of ways that human composting is more sustainable and environmentally friendly in comparison to other options.
Ir says the process generates around a cubic yard of nutrient-rich soil from the human body, which can then be used for growing plants.
It also requires an eighth of the energy needed for cremation, and saves one metric ton of carbon dioxide per person in comparison. The process uses less space in comparison to burying bodies as well.
Led by Olson Kundig principal Alan Maskin, who also forms part of Recompose’s team, the Seattle building design will accommodate Recompose’s “patent-pending” process that involves placing bodies in a controlled, modular and reusable vessel, where they are covered in wood chips and aerated to promote break down.
Renderings show the facility will have a large, open space with an arched, wooden ceiling dotted with skylights. White walls running on either side will feature hexagon-shaped portals with circular doors that open into the vessels where dead bodies decompose.
The open area will be used to hold ceremonies following death. “The core of the new facility’s space is a modular system containing approximately 75 of these vessels, stacked and arranged to demarcate space for rituals and memorial ceremonies,” said Recompose.
So what happens to the soil? I’m glad you asked. For those who do not want to own the resulting human-based soil, Recompose will dispatch the product to help reforest a 700-acre area of previously mismanaged, formerly-logged land in southern Washington in partnership with a non-profit conservation organisation.