Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today



Thanatopolis: A New Look and Feel for Final Resting Places

Artists will design personalized memorials

Other memorials are more conceptual. One stretches three pieces of fabric between trees, forming an abstract bird intended to symbolize the ability of mourners to free themselves from grief by recalling pleasant memories of the deceased.

Music for the soul

None of the temporary installations appears designed for the actual storage of remains — the kind of "memorial totems" that were one of two options for artists. I-Park plans to construct a new type of outdoor columbarium, or repository for cremated remains, possibly within a garden setting.

Other nontraditional memorial parks exist around the world, but none does as much individualizing of memorials as is being contemplated for Thanatopolis.

Comparable models circulated during a July symposium at I-Park, including Igualada Cemetery in Spain, created in the 1980s, which features a curving, sunken path carved into a hillside, with concrete burial chambers on the embankment. A similar hilltop design has been made for a cemetery in Urbino, Italy. The Oakland Columbarium in California, established in 1909, has always been exclusively for the interment of cremated remains.

The Lien Foundation, a philanthropy in Singapore, has sponsored an international competition to design personalized "Happy Coffins" for hospice residents. Ghana in West Africa has a long tradition of customizing coffins to reflect a person's characteristics or interests.

Thanatopolis is likely to incorporate music and performance in ways traditional cemeteries do not. In addition to memorial designs, there were competitions for musical compositions and mime performances.

Music reflects a personal interest of Crispino, the visionary behind Thanatopolis. When his close friend died in 1983, he defied tradition by playing a saxophone in the funeral home where the friend's body lay in a casket for viewing.

Kenneth J. Cooper is a writer in Boston.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Resource Center

Find tools, work sheets and tips on how to plan, prepare and succeed as a caregiver. Select a Caregiving Resource Center topic from the drop-down menu below.


Discounts & Benefits

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Cruise Line offers 5% off on select cruises, plus other special offers.

Tanger Outlets

Members receive a free Tanger Coupon Book including up to 20% discount offers.

Life insurance: you are covered rain or shine

Members can convert their assets into guaranteed income for life with AARP Lifetime Income Program from New York Life.

Member Benefits

Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. Join Today

Being Social


Grief and Loss

We all have different degrees of pain and pleasure. Let us hear your experience and how you cope. Discuss


What do you wish you knew when you first started caring for a loved one? Discuss