Aylesbury Vale Crematorium
An innovative crematorium in a tranquil landscape setting.
Civic Trust Awards 2021
A tranquil landscape setting
Set on the edge of Watermead Lake and bordered by the River Thame, Aylesbury Vale Crematorium is shaped by water and nature. The semi-circular building sympathetically nestles into the sloping site and looks out towards the lake and surrounding countryside.
A symbolic processional route
The entrance to the ceremony space symbolically carries the funeral cortege over the stream via a bridge, creating a distinct, private space for mourners to gather before the service.
A generous car park lies below, designed to hold just one funeral at a time to preserve the individuality of each occasion.
An emphasis on natural light and views
Inside, the ceremony space is light and open, finished in natural materials such as stone and timber. The materiality is deliberately soft to reflect the calmness of the surrounding countryside.
Curved north-east glazing and a rooflight above the catafalque flood the space with natural light.
The orientation of the glazing allows for stunning views across the lake through a screen of trees, bridging the gap between the building and surrounding landscape.
A comforting environment
The shape and dimensions of the ceremony space help to reduce the often exaggerated feeling of procession found in large, rectangular churches. Instead the more modest proportions offer a relaxed sense of occasion.
Rather than create a traditional central aisle, seating is purposefully grouped in one area to avoid any feelings of unease – which side do I sit?
Unlike most crematoria, the catafalque is positioned within the ceremony space which adds to a feeling of connection between the departed and their loved ones.
The building is designed to accompany movement through the various aspects of a funeral ceremony, allowing a supportive backdrop for emotion and reflection.
It’s one of those places that I’m happy to recommend to clients simply because of its location, staff and the layout and feeling of the chapel. It’s a very warm place to be, there’s a lot of atmosphere there.
Duncan Satterly, Funeral Director
The courtyard and garden of remembrance
Following the ceremony, mourners pass through a peaceful cloistered courtyard which provides an appropriate space to congregate and decompress.
Nestled into a wooded hillside, the gardens of remembrance wind around the hilltop to lower lawns beyond, offering long range views of the open countryside beyond.
Podcast: Aylesbury Vale Crematorium
Picture a church. What do you see? How about a cemetery? Or a crematorium?
Today, three quarters of people of all beliefs in Britain are cremated and, while more and more crematoria are being built, it’s only very recently that designs have begun to focus on people.
In this podcast, Architect, Dougal Anderson; Historian, Professor Hilary J Grainger OBE and Aylesbury Vale Crematorium Manager, Heather Dyson discuss the evolution of a building where form and function have to find resolution.