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Where the end touches the beginning

Death and nature, a poetic pairing that makes us reflect on where one ends and the other begins, a concept that was conceived and developed in the Roques Blanques metropolitan cemetery, in the realm of the Collserola Natural Park in El Papiol, Barcelona.  The challenge was to create an accessible space for the practice of funeral rites that would preserve the environmental values of the site and help promote the recovery of the biodiversity characteristic of the Natural Park. The new complex becomes a path that enters the forest accompanied by a green terrace, a lawn, as a reflection of Collserola’s agricultural past, and a butterfly garden as a containment system to minimise the impact on the existing topography.

Thus, a vertical garden is proposed based on Krainer’s wall technology, an innovative system based on bioengineering applied to the landscape. As a natural containment system, it generates a large green terrace, including a suitable and accessible space for new graves, allowing the integration of existing trees and adding new local species. Its design is conceived to be built quickly with natural materials from the immediate surroundings. It evolves over time, relating the decay of dead elements (trunks) to the roots and growth of living elements. A natural dynamic that evokes the cycle of life: an intrinsic concept that sees the cemetery as a meeting point between people and their ancestors over time. Moreover, the Krainer wall becomes the most appropriate place for the “butterfly garden”.

A new burial space housing several specific plant species creates an aromatic environment that provides a living space for a wide variety of pollinators, including butterflies. The ‘butterfly garden’ improves biodiversity by revitalising the use areas of the Collserola Nature Park, a learning resource for observing, identifying and studying the insects and plants of our environment. The project follows ‘Cradle to Cradle’ principles, promoting a circular economy: a zero carbon footprint intervention, generating no waste. It also regenerates the existing forest and reactivates life in the natural park. It is an intervention with a very specific use, good for a limited period of time – it is believed to have an ephemeral useful life of about 30 years, after which it would return to the original state of the forest. A place where peace and harmony reign, creating its own narrative with blurred boundaries between death and the beginning of another life. 

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Project: Forest path in the Roques Blanques Cemetery in the Collserola Natural Park
Architect: Batlleiroig Arquitectura
Year: 2020
Photo: Jordi Surroca