design for hong kong


Team: Crawford George, Andre Farstad, Jesme Zhang, 
Yuri Maharaj


million people in Hong Kong

one of the densest populated cities in the world, there is hardly enough room for the living, let alone the dead. Faced with strict cultural traditions and premium pricing of grave sites,

We began by reaching out to university experts, monasteries, and funeral homes online. To better understand current solutions we took trips to cemeteries, funeral homes, crematoriums, and gardens of remembrance.

Our most important resource was an interview with Winsome Lee, a local forensic anthropologist. She gave us critical insights to better understanding the issue from a cultural perspective. From here we had a renewed understanding of the context in which current solutions were failing. 

A necessary solution to the city’s overwhelming issue of space, population, and the reality of death


It became fairly clear to us that traditional burial practices were not going to work as there is not enough physical space. The government wants citizens to use sea burials, but they are widely disliked as common practices use slides and plastic bags to dispose of the ashes which as as one might expect, seems cheap and disrespectful. 


current practices



A hollow top shell is attached to its weighted counterpart to create a controlled descent through the water. The smooth texture on the top shell allows for personalization while the rougher base indicates where it is meant to be held as well as encouraging the respectful handling and releasing of the urn. Inside, the base of the urn holds the cremated ashes. In production, industrial bio-waste such as sugarcane and spent paper are recycled into a pulp before being compression molded. 

Current practices release the urn from a slide or tube. The  redesign encourages careful handling of the urn by sliding down their arms. It then is intended to hit the water with a small splash before gracefully and slowly descending. 

introducing the idea of mourning digitally

By converting the docks where sea burial ships depart from into memorial sites, the idea of tangibility is introduced to the ceremony by giving it a designated place to start and end. Glass OLED screens placed throughout the dock allow visitors to see an image of their loved ones in a way that mimics traditional resting places. 

a physical space

These digital tombstones blend seamlessly with their environment when inactive, and react directly to visitors who approach them. Cement walls within the dock create barriers of privacy to combat the stigmas associated with sharing a grieving space. This structure aims to encourage a positive attitude towards the idea of a communal monument. 

the dock has oled transparent screens that allow an infinite amount of families to visit

hardly enough room for the living, let alone the dead

One of the densest populated cities in the world there is

7 million people
in hong kong


50,000 families currently wait for somewhere to bury their loved one’s ashes

4 weeks of research

brainstorming a 
solution that is

culturally adoptable, sensitive and includes a physical space to return to 

Memorial areas carry important social functions by connecting the living to the dead through physical monuments. Columbariums and grave sites allow families to physically visit and mourn the dead. The emotional value in knowing the permanence of these memorials is comforting and preferable to the absence of location associated with sea burials. 

can a modern idea be introduced to a culture rooted in tradition?

d e s i g n . f o r . h o n g . k o n g

Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Award finalist 


Fast Company Magazine - March  2017- World Changing Ideas