( As published in ‘The Architectural Review’ Dec 03, London)
Crematorium in Low-cost RCC
Surat is a city on the river Tapi in Gujarat, near Ahmedabad, the capital of Indian modern
architecture, where both Kahn and Corbusier built, and distinguished contemporary architects
such as Doshi carry on the tradition. Surat was partly overwhelmed by a flood in 1994, after
which there was a disastrous epidemic of the plague. So the authorities decided to overhaul
the urban infrastructure and the new crematorium is one of the results of their plans.
Hindus believe that cremation is the only way of dealing with the dead: by fire the immortal
soul is freed from the temporal body. Ancient rituals prescribe the way in which the body is
brought to the fire. It was traditionally taken to an open place, where a pyre
Could be built and the soul could ascend. With increasing urbanization and population
density, there is not enough open space to allow the traditional procedures, so crematoria are
essential. But they must be designed to allow for the rituals laid down by the scripture. Gurjit
Singh Matharoo has reinterpreted the traditional rites in his Ashwinikumar Crematorium.
Here, instead of the body being carried on a specially made wooden frame by the closest
male relatives, it is transported in an ambulance. The relatives still accompany the corpse in a
procession at the crematorium, and it comes to a court where an old existing tree casts ever-
changing shadows on beautifully cast concrete walls.
From here, the body is moved to be cleansed before it goes to the passage that leads to the
five gas-powered furnaces that are partly shielded by curved walls to allow mourners a
degree of privacy. The corpse is raised on a platform on which further rituals are observed,
then it goes on a special trolley into the fire. After the soul has left the ashes, they can be
taken down to the river through a ceremonial contemplative pavilion.
All jury members were impressed by this contemporary interpretation of tradition, though
some believed that it was too obviously Kahnian to merit a prize. But the crematorium does
set a dignified and moving model, which offers solace to the whole community, not just
5500 sq. m.
2300 sq. m.
Year Of Completion
Rs 2.5 cr approx
Mr. Gurjit Singh Matharoo - Principal Designer
Komal Mehta - Architect, Rolf Seiler, Trainee
Bimal Balakrishna - Trainee
Matharoo Associates, Ahmedabad.
Principal Designer Mr. R.S Matharoo
Harshad Zhaveri, Ahmedabad
Furnace Counsultants Alpha Equipments,
Rajendra Chauhan, Vadodara, Gujarat
Site Coordinators Falguni Desai, Snehal Derasari, Surat , Gujarat.
Shakti Builders, Surat, Gujarat