I want to tell you about an unusual cemetery. The idea, to create a Memory Park instead of a normal crematorium, came from a couple of artists, a man and wife, Ada Rybachuk and Vladimir Melnichenko. This is a very dramatic story about two people struggling with their project against the Soviet bureaucracy machine.
Ada and Vlad created the idea of the so called Memory Park to avoid the scary word “crematorium”. Their concept was to relieve the pain of people’s loss at least for a bit with the help of architectural and landscape design methods and with plastic sculpture. To not make a cemetery, but a park where people could not only grieve over their loss but where they’re reminded that death is a natural and essential part of life.
It was a huge project and construction lasted from 1968 to 1981. The building of the crematorium itself reminds of the body of a flame, made of concrete – a very complicated structure. The hills of the columbarium make beautiful landscape shapes. But the most important part of the project – The Wall of Memory – a huge bas-relief sculpture – was buried under a heavy layer of cement right before the opening. Somehow the government thought it was politically incorrect and destroyed the work of artist’s lives.
As an architect I come here to enjoy the depth of the designers’ ideas. Despite the project not being complete, the columbarium landscape and the crematorium buildings are worth seeing.