Crematorium Xalapa

Reallocation of an old train station into a crematorium in Xalapa, Mexico
2008 – Msc Architecture
Faculty of Architecture, Technical University Delft / Universidad Veracruzana Xalapa

Xalapa is the capital of Veracruz, a coastal province of Mexico. The city used to be an important link on the Mexico City – Veracruz railway line.  Since the streams of tourists have dried out, the unique modernist railway station is left abandoned. The empty railway track left a scar on the cities face, dividing the old city to the west from the unplanned new peripheries to the east. A new function for the empty railway station should reconnect the surrounding areas.

Death is an important and highly visible element in the daily life of the Mexicans. In death, everyone is equal, rich or poor. This makes the proposed crematorium the ideal function to start the cities healing process.

The actual cremation is surrounded by rituals: gathering in the waiting room, the way to the auditorium, the actual cremation, placing the urn in the urn wall, going to the church. These rituals are very important to the Mexicans, since they form the beginning of what comes in the after life. The architecture of the crematorium guides and enforces these rituals.

The train track will be deepened and functions as a landscape in the routing. Along this strip the most intimate functions of the crematorium are organized. The light, modern character of the old building is in strong contrast with the deep dark spaces in the strip. All stages of the process of death are integrated in the complex; buying the coffin, flowers, funeral art and expositions, visiting the death, going to the ceremony and later on visiting the urn and the chapel. The strip is connected with the world above; at some points visually and at other points directly through stairs or ramps. Ascending and descending, suspense between light and dark heighten the experience of departure.