Photos: HK Buildings Department.
Hong Kong – With a population of 7 million and an area of 426 square miles it is a bit squashed, in fact with a population density 25 times greater than that of the UK I think you could say space is of a premium.
Couple this with the fact that the Chinese tradition of ancestral veneration means relatives need a physical place to visit, makes matters worse. Graves cost a fortune, options to bury further a field are often impractical.
Unsurprising then there has been a big effort from the authorities in dealing with the 50,000 citizens who pass away every year. I think this is the reason why Hong Kong seems to be at the cutting edge of columbarium design with one example of a municipal structure that is superb (above).
This facility operated by the Hong Kong Authority has niches for 43,000 sets of remains, it well designed and is affordable, apparently the hope is it will bring expensive private sector columbarium down in price to compete.
But what will be next? one grand plan is for a floating columbarium Island! One company has proposed the idea turning a ship into a floating columbarium. The concept, which it calls Floating Eternity, with space for 370,000 niches.
Usually it would float in waters off Hong Kong and dock in the port only during the annual Ching Ming and Chung Yeung festivals, when people traditionally pay respects to their loved ones. Although access is via boat for the rest of the year
On normal days throughout the year, visitors would be able to take a ferry to the columbarium anchored offshore.
Paul Mui behind the idea believes the idea makes financial and practical sense.
“Some might say it’s too expensive to renovate a ship into a floating columbarium, but this isn’t true,” he said.
“When you look at the current land values in town and the area required to build a columbarium of a similar size as this model, this is much more economical in the long run.”
“During the festivals, the ship could dock at different piers over several days to avoid traffic congestion. And when the new Kai Tak cruise terminal comes into operation next year, the columbarium operators could choose from an even greater variety of well-equipped piers”
“In Hong Kong there are three things that are essential today. These are hospitals, landfills and columbaria. The only issue is that no one wants one of these located beside them,” Mui said.
“What better way of avoiding all this than by having a columbarium floating far out at sea and well away from anyone? It’s definitely one way of solving the problem.”
Artist’s impression of Floating Eternity berthed at the new Kai Tak cruise terminal. Photo: SCMP