olson kundig reveals recompose facility in seattle for composting human bodies

american firm olson kundig has unveiled renders for an after-death facility in seattle which will compost human bodies and turn them into soil. occupying 18,500-square-feet, the facility will orchestrate the ‘recompose’ process, an alternative to traditional burials and cremations created by katrina spade.



the facility was designed in collaboration between olsun kundig and katrina spade, founder and CEO of the recompose public benefit corporation. the new facility will offer a service called ‘natural organic reduction’ which gently converts human remains into soil over a period of 30 days.



the process is centered around individual natural organic reduction vessels that transform human remains into clean, usable soil. the recompose seattle project follows washington becoming the first us state to legalise the process for the disposition of human remains in april 2019. it is slated for completion in 2021, and is expected to be the first of its kind to offer human composting on a large scale.



at the core of the recompose center is a modular system containing approximately 75 of these vessels, stacked and arranged to demarcate a central gathering space. there are also spaces for the storage and preparation of bodies, administrative back-of-house areas, and an interpretive public lobby which describes the recompose process. porous connections between indoor and outdoor spaces further blur the boundary between the human experience and natural processes.



‘we asked ourselves how we could use nature – which has perfected the life/death cycle – as a model for human death care,’ says spade. ‘we saw an opportunity for this profound moment to both give back to the earth and reconnect us with these natural cycles.’


‘this facility hosts the recompose vessels, but it is also an important space for ritual and public gathering,’ says alan maskin, principal and owner of seattle-based olson kundig. ‘the project will ultimately foster a more direct, participatory experience and dialogue around death and the celebration of life.’



‘as a studio, olson kundig has always thrived on close collaboration with some of the world’s most imaginative and innovative problem-solvers, like katrina and her team,’ he adds. ‘we’re honored to be involved with this project, and excited for the first recompose facility in the world to open its doors in seattle.’



project info:


olson kundig design team:design principal: alan maskin
AIA, leed® AP, project manager: blair payson
leed® AP, project architect: nick ladd


recompose team:


founder and CEO: katrina spade
PHD, research advisor: lynne carpenter-boggs
legal strategy: tanya marsh
architecture and design: alan maskin
ritual and cultural practices: angela hennessy
alternative funeral practices: caitlin doughty
organizational strategy: leslie christian, CFA
public affairs: jim boldt
end of life planning: alua arthur
project management: erik bondo

consultant team:
veksel consulting & construction, owner’s representative

kieron marchese I designboom

nov 23, 2019

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