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. With this growing issue in mind, a trans-disciplinary research and design group at Columbia University known as DeathLab has been working for the past five years to reconceive “how we live with death in the metropolis.” One of their proposals is Constellation Park, a system of hundreds of burial pods suspended under the Manhattan Bridge that together create a twinkling public park. Atlas Obscura shared the design, which, if built, could reportedly accommodate around 10 percent of city deaths a year.
The idea for Constellation Park came from environmental engineer Kartik Chandran, “who has been working on an anaerobic microbial digestion for corpses in which microorganisms consume bodies without the need for oxygen, reducing them to light.” Not only is this responsible for the shiny nature of the pods, but it’s a way to keep the body’s energy alive even after death.
An article in Columbia Magazine explains how the team feels the idea encompasses all their goals: it’s accessible (you can even see a loved one from miles away); it has no additional footprint, as it’s integrated into existing infrastructure; and it’s renewable. Since the bodies will naturally decompose “through microbial digestion,” loved ones will be able to take a small amount of their remains, and the pod will then be ready for a new body (if you’re wondering about traditional cremation, DeathLab says that is actually quite un-evironmentally friendly since the process uses a great deal of energy and non-renewable fuels and releases sometimes-toxic gases).
The park is made up of a tensile steel and recycled plastic matrix that supports the pods. Throughout is a series of plazas and staircases for people to pay their respects.