Skip to Content

Rest in Peace and in Grandeur

Unconventional and outsize, architectural burial site concepts could indicate a new trend


Source: ARCHITECT Magazine
Publication date: 2007-10-01

By Stephani L. Miller

They are extravagant and eccentric, but two human burial and memorial sites, one in Germany and one near Miami, are in the works. Each is massive in scale and offers a final resting place that is far from ordinary.

Proposed by writer Ingo Niermann and economist Jens Thiel, The Great Pyramid would be built in the eastern German town of Dessau, home of the Bauhaus. Each concrete block in the structure —“A Monument for All of Us,” as the project’s website,, describes it—would contain an urn for the ashes of one person or remembrances of that person. Alternatively, stones could be dedicated as memorials and have carvings and decorations.

The pyramid would be a continually growing structure, increasing in size to accommodate as many people as purchase a place in it. If enough people purchase stones, Germany’s Great Pyramid could eventually dwarf Egypt’s ancient Great Pyramid, which is 456 feet high and covers more than 571,000 square feet at the base. To achieve such an enormous size, however, the project would need millions of people to sign up; so far, only a few hundred have done so.

An open-call competition is being held to design the area around the pyramid site and will be juried by Rem Koolhaas; Bauhaus Dessau Foundation executive director Omar Akbar; architect Stefan Boeri, editor of Abitare; fashion icon Miuccia Prada; and Niermann.


Rendering: TheGreatPyramid.orgIllustration:

Rethinking what a sepulcher can be: the Great Pyramid in Germany (rendering, top) and the Neptune Memorial Reef near Miami(Phase 1 illustration, above).

Closer to home, 3.25 miles east of Key Biscayne off the coast of Florida, development has started on the Neptune Memorial Reef, an underwater structure that will serve simultaneously as interment location, memorial, and living reef. Phase 1 of the project was completed last spring. The Neptune Society, a cremation-service company and the project’s management organization, predicts that the reef will become an active marine research site as well as a destination for recreational divers.

Designed by businessman Gary Levine, the project’s originator, and sculptor Kim Brandell, the reef—originally called Atlantis Memorial Reef before being taken over by the Neptune Society—will be constructed in a style and layout reminiscent of the legendary lost city ofAtlantis. Concentric rings containing bronze and concrete structures are designed to attract living coral and other marine species. The completed project will use more than 10,000 cubic yards of cement, cover more than 16 acres of ocean floor, and provide room for the remains of 125,000 people.

The Neptune Memorial Reef will also incorporate several special interment sections, including one for U.S. military personnel killed in combat, who will be interred free of charge, and one to house the remains of treasured pets.