KAAN Architecten www.kaanarchitecten.com has designed the new Crematorium Siesegem on the outskirts of Aalst (Belgium), as an entry for an international competition that the Dutch firm won in 2012. The building is a comforting sequence of spaces in symbiotic relationship with its tranquil surroundings.
Located in the countryside bordering the western ring road of the Belgian city, the crematorium, with its 74 x 74 metre footprint, merges with trees and shrubs that line the perimeter of the surrounding park, which was conceived by landscape architect Erik Dhont. Approaching the entrance at Blauwenbergstraat, a sense of calm pervades the site and upon arrival, visitors are subtly persuaded to slow down by the undulating gentle green mounds. To the north, a pond serves as a reservoir for rainwater, while small adjacent hills are dedicated to scattered ashes and to an urn garden. At the eastern end, there is a service road for the hearses that is entirely hidden from view so that families are not disturbed during the mourning ceremony, and so that privacy is respected.
Architecture accompanies the transition from a busy outside world into a metaphorical and physical interior imbued with calm and restraint. The south-western corner of the building opens onto a patio and serves as a transitional zone, welcoming visitors and leading them towards the indoor spaces. As crematoria are typically characterized by complex logistics, KAAN Architecten has designed a building that is self-explanatory and feels natural to use.
Upon entering the crematorium, a sequence of spaces shapes the visitor’s physical experience, preventing spatial confusion. At 6.4 metres tall, the remarkable floor-to-ceiling height of the interior enhances the sense of vastness, paired by the warm abundance of daylight. A large concrete canopy stretches into a generously proportioned hall from which the reception desk is immediately visible. The reception hall is infused with light by two large windows overlooking a landscaped garden, and houses a discreet passageway to the cafeteria, which features a large-scale painting by Belgian artist Rinus Van de Velde.