A public columbarium has won a merit award in an architectural competition for its green design that seeks to tackle problems often associated with urns. The HK$105 million facility at Diamond Hill was designed by the Architectural Services Department with 'sensitivity in the urban context' and a 'skilful balance between functional requirements and spiritual ambience', a jury for the Institute of Architects said in announcing the merit award in the annual contest. The department also won another merit award for the Siu Sai Wan Complex, a municipal services building containing a 1,000-seat arena, a swimming pool and a library and public open space. The institute awarded merit prizes to a luxury development for the top management of Jardine Matheson on the Peak and the clubhouse of Valais, a private residential estate in Sheung Shui. The highest honour, Medal of the Year, was not awarded this year. The six-storey columbarium, with 18,500 niches, has been fully subscribed since it was completed in 2008. Government architect Michael Li Kiu-yin said yesterday the project was intended to be a place not just for worshipping ancestors during Ching Ming Festival but also for leisure. 'Traditionally, a columbarium is a gloomy place and doesn't look very welcoming. And it is often a smoky environment during Ching Ming, and traffic jams are serious. We want to make this a public place so people can come any time,' Li said. Unlike some commercial columbariums that are often enclosed, the structure comes with large openings on the walls to facilitate air ventilation. Climbers are planted on the rooftop and hang over the walls. There is a landscaped sitting-out area.