Governors Island, NYC

CREMATORIUM + 

COLLECTIVE MEMORIAL 

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Can architecture create ritual? 

Can we have equal access to public green space?
Can we commemorate cross-culturally and collectively?

Can every human die in dignity in New York City?  

Responding to the island’s two most pressing concerns— the upholding of its public agenda and its need to become financially independent— this project brings forth a difficult yet equalizing program by providing an affordable, accessible and humane way to die and peace of mind to all through its existence. The physical footprint is tiny with a larger sphere of affect by instigating the new ritual for collective memory and celebration the island.

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01. Rendering of the centrifugal space nestled into the existing hills on the southern tip of Governors Island. 

02. The view upon approach by ferry from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. 

03. Passengers arriving at the ferry dock shows the popularity of the island for both locals and visitors. 

04. View of Lower Manhattan from the highest point on Governors Island, from the lookout of the public park. 

05. Map highlighting Governors Island shaped like an ice cream cone and Hart Island further up in the East River. 

Images 02, 03, 04 are photographs by Andrei Harwell (studio critic). 

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Imagining a notion of ‘public’ informed by Susan Schulten and Jane Jacobs; a People’s Governors Island that is as colorful as the city’s five boroughs.  There are no openings in ground burial sites in Manhattan and prices in other NYC cemeteries are not affordable for most working individuals. As the largest publicly funded potter’s field in the world, Hart Island has historically been the resting place for the most vulnerable New York residents, those ill, alone, and homeless. 

 

A new ritual marks the humane and dignified passing into a world of collective memory on Governors Island. Anyone may elect to be commemorated and cremated at this peaceful location with panoramic views spanning from Manhattan, to Brooklyn, to Red Hook, to New Jersey foregrounded by the Statue of Liberty at sunset. 

06. Drawing on the work of Susan Schulten and Jane Jacobs in thinking about what terms such as city, civic, and public mean

07. One of the most gorgeous aspects of New York is the cultural diversity of its residents which this project seeks to extend onto Governors Island. 

08. Research into current practices of death are unfeasible and unsustainable both economically and environmentally. This scheme seeks to address and remedy these issues. 

09. Progress collages depict the new ritual of death for NYC residents in a humane and accessible manner. 

Governors Island is a mere three minute ferry ride from the southern tip of Manhattan, uniquely positioned where the Hudson and East River meet. It is especially tranquil and quiet here because cars are not permitted. Instead families grill, children cycle, couples walk and individuals read on the grass to the sound of the tides washing against the rock edge. 

It is a crucial open green space,

a much needed respite from noise, urgency, and density. 

Governors Island has the potential to more accurately represent the cultural and socio-economic diversity of NYC residents from all five boroughs.

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10. Hand sketches are a crucial aspect of my design process that allow me to test, play, think, explore, question, experiment and design consciously and subconsciously. These studies explore the plan and section, negotiating the forceful geometry of a circle, developing the perimeter descend into the space, the wing of cremation chambers, and the nesting site position. 

11. Plan of Governors Island in 2020, illustrating the heritage listed buildings and new public park. Highlighted is the commemorative hall built into the existing southern hill. 

12. This section sketch demonstrates most clearly the architectural moves and intentions, from the building into and with the landscape, through the concentric monumental main hall, to the roof that simultaneously focuses one inward and out to take in the views. 

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The program equalizes and respects all New York City residents

by providing for the most innate human needs in an accessible and affordable way.

The services are fully covered by government funding so that all residents may visit and benefit from Governors Island whether to recreate, to commemorate or to reflect. 

 

The design of the architecture is monumental yet constrained, 

the geometry of the roof orients one inward while also looking out onto the expansive view stretching from Red Hook to the Statue of Liberty.

 

The experience of the space

is simultaneously open and closed, providing shelter and aperture at once. 

13. A curved ramp gently descends one into the concentric memorial space with an eternal flame in its center. The cremation chambers with viewing rooms depart from this hall, along a linear hallway nestled underground. 

14. Two physical models helped explain the final scheme, (above left) a large scale sectional model showcases the tilted shell roof with its off-center oculus and (above right) a sectional model illustrates the entire structure and its relationship to the chosen site. 

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MENGLAN LI

NYC Burial Sites

Ground burial prices in NYC are not affordable to most people.