Bigelow Chapel Renovation/Addition
Watertown, Massachusetts

William Rawn Associates, Architects
Boston, Massachusetts

Mount Auburn Cemetery, consecrated in 1831 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003, is recognized as one of the most significant designed landscapes in the United States. The transformation of its chapel focused on revitalization and a new crematory. In addition to making the chapel accessible, the restoration seamlessly incorporates fire-protection and improved lighting, lowers the chancel to its original height, and restores the rose window. The glass-walled addition is detailed to maximize transparency and preserve the architectural identity of the chapel. The addition is kept low and horizontal in juxtaposition to the verticality of the chapel’s ornate spires. Following the cremation ceremony, the doors to a gathering room open, and, in an affirmation of life, participants return to the landscape’s panoramic views.

Jury Comments
It is an incredible rebirth of a New England landmark, giving it a new lease on life to serve the changing ceremonial needs of the region’s growing population of Buddhists and Hindus, who desire a respectful place for cremation rites. The result is a melding of old and new, with sweeping views of Mount Auburn’s historic landscape.