Sir Dawber, Fox and Robinson’s Medway Crematorium completed in 1959 during the boom in crematoria following the Cremation Act of 1952.
Local demographic and cultural changes since then led to larger numbers of mourners attending services and a need to extend the chapels and modernise the crematoria.
The location of mature trees and cremated remains led to the removal of outer flank walls and extensions to the side of each chapel. The tapered polygonal plan of the extensions follow the sight lines to the catafalque in the apse of each chapel, creating the unique form of the extensions.
Bronze-tinged zinc cladding blends with the original arts and craft material palette. Brise soliel to the large gable-end windows reproduce and scale-up the mirrored box-diamond pattern of the original leaded chapel windows, frame views of the park and screen the chapel from onlookers.
The final award-winning scheme has been applauded by users, stakeholders and even moved one of the judges of the KDDA awards to tears. The architecture has been sympathetic to the original while still being futuristic and of its own style of rhythm.
Firas Witwit, Client Project Manager
Medway Crematorium won a 2014 RIBA SE Award and was featured in Goodbye Architecture, a study of the architecture of crematoria in Europe, edited by Vincent Valentin and Kim Verhoeven, published in 2018 by nai010 publishers.
The extension of this unusual crematorium in its centralised location was a complex challenge in which the technical requirements and respect for the original building were the ingredients. Despite a limited budget the result is very successful and the intervention introduced modern qualities in an already unique building.