Seattle-based architecture studio Olson Kundig Architects has unveiled designs for a new concept that promises an alternative to conventional burial and cremation methods by gently turning human remains into soil.

The 1,719-square-metre facility designed by the architecture firm for Recompose offers a humane and ecological model for after-death care. Founded by Katrina Spade, Recompose presents a sustainable option as it requires only an eighth of the energy used in cremation and significantly less space compared to traditional burials. Additionally, the patent-pending composting process generates about a cubic yard of nutrient-rich soil, which can be used to grow plants.

The composting of human remains occurs in reusable recomposition vessels with families allowed to take home some of the soil. Alternatively, the soil will be sent to a 700-acre reforestation project in southern Washington.

Olson Kundig principal and Recompose team member Alan Maskin explains that the design of the new building will accommodate Recompose's composting process wherein the bodies are placed in modular and reusable vessels, covered in wood chips and aerated, providing a controlled environment to promote quick breakdown of the remains. The modular system can accommodate about 75 vessels.

The facility also includes spaces to prepare the bodies as well as an open area for families to hold ceremonies.

The Recompose Seattle facility located in the South of Downtown area will be completed in early 2021. This one-of-its-kind end-of-life concept also received a boost with Washington State becoming the first state in the USA to legalise above-ground human composting with Governor Jay Inslee signing the legislation earlier this year.