What do you think of when you’re driving down the road and you pass a massive graveyard? I have a few thoughts that immediately run through my head. The sadness of lost loved ones and the massive gloomy field lined with cold headstones. While a graveyard can be very beautiful, it is typically because of the huge trees and beautiful scenery that encompass the cemetery. Well imagine instead, a huge lush forest. A memorial forest with each tree marking the life of someone somebody loves. Two Italian designers by the names of Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel have made this idea into a reality. They have created an entirely new concept that could change the way we have buried our loved ones for centuries. The idea is bold, absolutely beautiful, and incredibly eco-friendly.
The two paired up to resolve a problem that will soon have a large impact our future. Traditional burials and cemeteries use a lot of energy, a lot of resources, and take up a lot of natural land. Coffins can cost a small fortune and take the life of a living tree just to be buried inside a contained box usually. Cremations use a lot of energy as well. The amount of energy used during cremation is the same amount a living person would have used in one month of their life. Cemeteries can take up a lot of land that require a very large amount of water and maintenance. While the headstones can be beautiful, just imagine a forest of living trees that fills the same area. Each tree would be the gravestone, representing the life of the person buried below it.
Citelli and Pretzel have created a large biodegradable burial pod, called Capsula Mundi, that is made from starch plastic. The starch plastic is refined from using seasonal plants such as potatoes and corn. While the person who plans to be buried in the burial pod is alive, they will choose their favorite tree. The tree that they choose will be planted directly above the biodegradable burial pod. The burial pod will be placed into the earth just like a seed. As Capsula Mundi decomposes the nutrients will feed the growth of the tree planted directly above. The roots will engulf the pod and sustain life from its decomposition. The growth of a tree will easily last 10-40 years where as a coffin is typically only used for 3 days.
Diagram of the concept
“The body will be laid down in the Capsula in a fetal position before rigor mortis set in or after it passes,” said Capsula Mundi.
“Rigor mortis arises at different times for each individual and has a duration of a few hours. After rigor mortis passes, the body will again become soft and malleable. Once the body is laid within the Capsula, it will be planted in the earth like a seed.”
The burial pod would then be planted in the soil like a seed.
The burial pods are made from a starch plastic which does not prevent the natural decomposition of the capsule and allows the organic matter to transform into minerals, that will provide the earth with nutrients for vegetative organisms.
Essentially, these pods will transform cemeteries into forests where there would be entire memorial parks of trees rather than tombstones.
The Italian project was created to promote the realization of green cemeteries around Italy but I think this is an idea that needs to ‘take root’ around the world. “A cemetery will no longer be full of tombstones and will become a sacred forest.”
The capsule is made from a starch plastic which is 100% biodegradable. Imagine a forest where families can go to enjoy time learning about nature and different trees. A beautiful place created to honor your loved ones with new life.
The biodegradable burial pod is buried deep into the earth, a tree is planted above directly tying the earth to the sky. “Man doesn’t only belong to the human race, but to the planet’s complex life. Since man has been able to express himself through writing, the tree represents the union between the earth and the sky, material and immaterial, body and soul.”
I personally love the idea of one giving back to the earth after death. We spend our lives consuming what the earth provides. Even in death we consume in order to accommodate standard burial practices.
Using Capsula Mundi we will not only save a tree but we will actually be planting another one. We will be feeding that tree as well as sustaining a small ecosystem naturally.
I would love seeing the sight of a beautiful and natural memorial forest growing on the side of the road rather than a giant manicured field of perfectly placed man-made stones.
It seems rather natural to be placed in the earth in the fetal position as well. That’s where you spent the first months of your life before you were born into this world. Rather than being placed in an area that represents death, loss and sadness, why not be buried in a place that represents life and growth? I think people would have an easier time mourning underneath a beautiful tree that provides shelter from rain and shade from the sun than next to a cold stone.
Capsula Mundi is an idea that could change standard burial practices that will greatly impact the environment almost immediately. As of now, due to a law created by Napoleon Buonaparte, people are prevented from using this type of burial.
The Italian law states that the deceased must be buried inside a wooden coffin and they also must be tinned. This law is incredibly ancient and doesn’t represent Italian culture. The two have created the Associazione Capsula Mundi in order to awaken the citizens of Italy to look further into the problem. With enough people backing them, they hope to change legislation to conclude their new burial ideas.
Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel are dedicating their work to a very important moment in all of our lives. “Death is a mysterious, delicate, and inevitable step. The dead cannot be just a technical problem, it cannot be treated as a taboo.
Capsula Mundi are currently only producing the urns for your loved ones ashes, while we need more time to verify and test the full body pod concept.
More info: Capsula Mundi
Regardless of the religion and culture we belong to, death is a biological phenomenon, it’s the same thing for everyone. No designer ever thinks of a coffin but this becomes a way of reflecting on how distant we are from Mother Nature.