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Finalist in the International Tokyo Vertical Cemetery Competition (2016)




Tokyo, Japan





Project year







Competition finalist



In the face of an aging population and an increasing lack of burial space in the city, the Death and the City competition called for the design of a vertical cemetery for the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. Exploring innovative and space efficient ways of accommodating and experiencing a cemetery within this densely-knit urban area, our design – City of Light and Dark ­– offers a place to reflect upon those who are no longer alive and to contemplate the very nature of life and death.

Our design responds to the ever-changing flux between light and dark, night and day, someone and everyone, individual existence and universal consciousness, matter and energy, personal and public space, artificial and natural materiality, and the elements of air, light, water and earth. With experiential qualities at the heart of the proposal, we have considered the sensory impacts of light, colour, sound and materiality, whereby each space within the complex has been choreographed to engage and indeed heighten particular senses.

The design is composed of two major parts: the columbarium, a thirty-two-metre subterranean cylindric form containing 15,000 cremation niches topped by a cantilevered horizontal form at street level; and the tower, a lustrous black narrow form that is half buried and half above ground, which houses a series of reflection spaces. These two forms are linked via a processional walk through a series of chambers, lit with increasing intensity to become brighter as the outside world is approached.


At the top of the tower sits a rooftop terrarium - a tiny oasis floating in a bubble in the middle of the madness of Tokyo. Within each level is a private contemplation room, visually and acoustically disengaged from the busy city. These reflection spaces reduce and declutter sensory information to intensify the experience of our inner world.



Hindley & Co

Design Team

Anne Hindley

Chooi Si Chok

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