For many people, attending a funeral ranks right above visiting loved ones in hospitals as the one of the most devastating obligations life has to offer. The circumstances surrounding someone’s death matter very little at a funeral; rather, it’s the memories and the sadness, especially when experienced inside a stuffy, windowless building, that are the hardest to swallow. Although there are nearly 20,000 mortuaries in America, few offer any amenities beyond simple folding chairs and stale coffee.

Passing On with Panache

Dutch architectural design company HofmanDujardin decided to radically change the image of these so-called funeral homes, not only to put attendants more at ease but also to honor the deceased in a more elegant and upbeat atmosphere. They believe their funeral center, located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, uplifts the human spirit, inspires the most sincere feelings of love, and honors the dearly departed in a truly special way.

The HofmanDujardin Philosophy

Since their start in 1999, HofmanDujardin has been dedicated to making people feel good in environments that promote contentment and self-fulfillment. Willem Wopereis, one of the assistant architects at the firm, says: “In general, all designs we make are human-centered. Our design philosophy — which we call ‘shaping intuition’ — is based on intuitive, natural feelings of human beings.”

Inspiration Through Loss

When firm founders Michiel Hofman and Barbara Dujardin lost a dear friend, they were inspired to develop a building that would properly honor the dead and encourage survivors to say goodbye and heal at the same time.

The pair concluded that a typical funeral is comprised of three main components, designing a unique room for each part of the process. In the first room, friends and family draw together to remember the dead and support one another. The remains of the deceased are then showcased in the second room, which itself is large, peaceful, and full of flowing angles and panoramic views of nature. The third room is reserved for toasts to the honoree and lively conversation about the person’s life, loves, and influences. The firm made a point of providing ample space for each event in order to imbue beauty, tranquility, and comfort into the ceremony.

Hofman explains, “The lack of places for worthy send-offs results in uneasy feelings during crucial moments in our lives. Naturally following our design philosophy, Shaping Intuition®, focusing on the intuitive values of human beings, we designed a funeral center which tries to break this discomfort. The design combines timeless qualities with elements of our modern ways of life.”

A “memory wall” is central to the ambiance of the first room. Filled with snapshots and videos, this huge multimedia screen celebrates the life of the departed. Memories beget memories, and soon everyone is atwitter with years of stories and recollections, with laughter serving to lighten the pall of loss.

Next stop is the room for the guest of honor. Whether it’s a coffin, urn, or some other token of remembrance, the memorial can be visited by groups of guests or singularly to share a few personal parting words.

By the time the guests reach the beverages and snacks in the third room, they’ve hopefully been reminded to enjoy life to its fullest, all of them newly aware of just how fleeting and precious it really is.