The new Jewish cemetery at Bushey, northwest of London, has won a second major architectural award, the 2018 award from RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects) East region. The cemetery was designed by Waugh Thistleton Architects and this award follows last year’s Religion Award for a completed project at the World Architecture Festival.
Announcing the award on its web site, RIBA stated:
The architects, Waugh Thistleton, have a very strong, long term relationship with the Jewish community […] the simplicity, austerity even, of the means and materials used in this project are a reflection of this mutual respect, trust and empathy. Every aspect of the building layout and progress through the landscape are in keeping with the spirit of the event. […] the buildings carry through the idea of returning the body to the ground, “earth to earth, ashes to ashes”. In contrast with the plainness of the buildings, the landscape is almost lush. The cemetery is surrounded by a tree belt and a series of balancing ponds to capture the increased rain water runoff fed by a clever drainage system.
The £6 million project adds space for 17,000 more burials and took around a decade to develop and complete. It was consecrated in May 2017 by Britain’s chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and should accommodate burials for the next 50 years.
The architects used solid rammed earth construction to build two prayer halls, a technique the architects described as “an ancient building method that is at once natural and sustainable and durable and strong.”
The fact that the rammed earth walls of the prayer hall will return to the earth once the cemetery is full and has to be extended again, is a poetic response to the programme for the cemetery and the traditions of the Jewish faith.