A Modern Mortuary in Munich

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October 30, 2010

In the tenth-century district of Riem, on the far eastern edge of the city of Munich, sits the Mortuary at Munich–Riem (Friedhof-Riem). Designed by architects Andreas Meck and Stephan Koppel, the complex is comprised of unassuming buildings that conjure a decidedly modern last resting place.

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  From afar, the Mortuary at Munich-Riem seems foreboding, suggesting the standing remnants of a bygone communist design. The rough exterior of untreated concrete is set in cantilever, creating dark horizontal crevices along the facade.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    From afar, the Mortuary at Munich-Riem seems foreboding, suggesting the standing remnants of a bygone communist design. The rough exterior of untreated concrete is set in cantilever, creating dark horizontal crevices along the facade.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  The mortuary, commissioned in 1996 and completed in late 2000, lies in stark contrast to the old, archetypal cemetery on the opposite side of the roadway. The central entry courtyard, pictured here, is the starting point for visitors.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    The mortuary, commissioned in 1996 and completed in late 2000, lies in stark contrast to the old, archetypal cemetery on the opposite side of the roadway. The central entry courtyard, pictured here, is the starting point for visitors.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  Meck and Koppel designed the burial route to lead from the mortuary through the covered forecourt adjoining the pool, past the mortuary bell, and over the crunching gravel to the cemetery.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    Meck and Koppel designed the burial route to lead from the mortuary through the covered forecourt adjoining the pool, past the mortuary bell, and over the crunching gravel to the cemetery.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  A single ‘tree of life’ is planted in the central courtyard, which faces the viewing room.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    A single ‘tree of life’ is planted in the central courtyard, which faces the viewing room.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  The viewing room has a surprisingly comforting and welcoming presence. Light filters into the narrow corridor from both ends, and the oak-clad ceiling and walls reflect a warm glow.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    The viewing room has a surprisingly comforting and welcoming presence. Light filters into the narrow corridor from both ends, and the oak-clad ceiling and walls reflect a warm glow.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  The courtyard is topped on one side with a grand concrete canopy pierced by a skylight. According to the architects, “this peaceful entrance yard is the starting point for visitors proceeding to the cemetery, mortuary and private chapels.”  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    The courtyard is topped on one side with a grand concrete canopy pierced by a skylight. According to the architects, “this peaceful entrance yard is the starting point for visitors proceeding to the cemetery, mortuary and private chapels.”

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  Another view of the central courtyard with the waiting room in the distance. The architects chose to leave their materials—Cor-Ten steel, oak, concrete and stone—solid and untreated, allowing for the natural process of aging to be symbolic of the cycle of life.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    Another view of the central courtyard with the waiting room in the distance. The architects chose to leave their materials—Cor-Ten steel, oak, concrete and stone—solid and untreated, allowing for the natural process of aging to be symbolic of the cycle of life.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  The architects conceived the buildings as “solid bodies emerging from the ground.”  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    The architects conceived the buildings as “solid bodies emerging from the ground.”

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  The waiting room sits in front of the large cross tower in the background. Other than the stacked-stone walls, nearly every line of the building is taut and angular.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    The waiting room sits in front of the large cross tower in the background. Other than the stacked-stone walls, nearly every line of the building is taut and angular.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  A massive oak door pivots to the waiting room, which features a floor-to-ceiling panel of glass.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    A massive oak door pivots to the waiting room, which features a floor-to-ceiling panel of glass.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

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  The entrance to the wateraum, or waiting room.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    The entrance to the wateraum, or waiting room.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  A constantly moving shaft of natural light that edges along an oak bench is a defining element in the room.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    A constantly moving shaft of natural light that edges along an oak bench is a defining element in the room.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  Protected by a natural stone roof, the mortuary’s upper half comprises a smooth oak cube contrasted with the quarried stone surrounding walls and floor. The architects conceived the water feature as a “golden water surface [that serves as] a meditative focal point.”  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    Protected by a natural stone roof, the mortuary’s upper half comprises a smooth oak cube contrasted with the quarried stone surrounding walls and floor. The architects conceived the water feature as a “golden water surface [that serves as] a meditative focal point.”

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  Cor-Ten steel doors open to the gravel path that meanders through a flowering meadow to the cemetery.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    Cor-Ten steel doors open to the gravel path that meanders through a flowering meadow to the cemetery.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  The layout of the site appears as a free form drawing in concrete.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    The layout of the site appears as a free form drawing in concrete.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  The cemetery is set within a lush meadow and groves of indigenous birch and pine, oak and cherry. The wood sculpture is the site's centerpiece.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    The cemetery is set within a lush meadow and groves of indigenous birch and pine, oak and cherry. The wood sculpture is the site's centerpiece.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  The towering sculpture of natural, untreated wood rises far above the pathway.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    The towering sculpture of natural, untreated wood rises far above the pathway.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  A series of Cor-Ten gates mark the route to the burial sites, which are reached via the stacked-stone steps.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    A series of Cor-Ten gates mark the route to the burial sites, which are reached via the stacked-stone steps.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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  The cemetery, with its verdant landscape and monumental sculpture, can easily be confused with a public park. During my time there, many people at Friedhof-Riem were on foot and bike—here, a friendly Bavarian waves as I capture her on film.  Photo by: Bret RobinsCourtesy of:
    The cemetery, with its verdant landscape and monumental sculpture, can easily be confused with a public park. During my time there, many people at Friedhof-Riem were on foot and bike—here, a friendly Bavarian waves as I capture her on film.

    Photo by: Bret Robins

    Courtesy of:

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