Architects unveil plans for floating columbarium

Designers say vessel with 37,000 niches could solve land problem and dock during festivals

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 September, 2016, 12:07pm

A local architecture firm has come up with an ingenious way to alleviate the growing shortage of burial space - by turning a ship into a floating columbarium.

Bread Studio has developed the concept, which it calls Floating Eternity, with space for 370,000 niches.

The vessel would float in waters off Hong Kong and dock only during the annual Ching Ming and Chung Yeung festivals, when people traditionally pay respects to their loved ones.

On normal days throughout the year, visitors would be able to take a ferry to the columbarium anchored offshore.

Bread Studio co-founder Paul Mui believes the idea makes financial and practical sense.

"Some might say it's too expensive to renovate a ship into a floating columbarium, but this isn't true," Mui, 33, said.

"When you look at the current land values in town and the area required to build a columbarium of a similar size as this model, this is much more economical in the long run."

During the festivals, the ship could dock at different piers over several days to avoid traffic congestion. And when the new Kai Tak cruise terminal comes into operation next year, the columbarium operators could choose from an even greater variety of well-equipped piers, Bread Studio architects said.

The development is only just off the drawing board, however, and will need serious investment - as well as government approval - for it to become a reality.

But Mui is confident of Floating Eternity's appeal, considering the huge importance Hongkongers place on on good fung shui and their superstitions surrounding death.

"In Hong Kong there are three things that are essential today. These are hospitals, landfills and columbaria. The only issue is that no one wants one of these located beside them," Mui said.

"What better way of avoiding all this than by having a columbarium floating far out at sea and well away from anyone? It's definitely one way of solving the problem."