Based in Italy, the Capsula Mundi Project is the brainchild of designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel. “Capsula Mundi was born essentially because we don’t like the way in which our society deals with death,” they tell me. Placing a taboo on death is, for Citelli and Bretzel, an extension of problematic human attitudes where we place ourselves outside of nature, or even above it.

Placing a taboo on death is, for Citelli and Bretzel, an extension of problematic human attitudes where we place ourselves outside of nature, or even above it.

In doing so, we foster attitudes towards death that treat it as something other than what it is: a natural, biological process. Elaborating on this frame of mind, they explain: “We refer not only to the well-known attitude that has caused serious climate problems for our planet, but more specifically to the ugliness of modern cemeteries (areas closed by high concrete walls like prisons, characterised by over-population in the minimum space) and to the massacre of high quality trees that take place to produce the object with the absolute shortest ‘life-cycle’: the coffin.”

We regularly cut down trees en masse that can take up to 40 years to grow in order to make overpriced coffins; these coffins serve a purpose for 2 to 3 days.

We regularly cut down trees en masse that can take up to 40 years to grow in order to make overpriced coffins; these coffins serve a purpose for 2 to 3 days. The Capsula Mundi Project aims to propose an environmentally sustainable alternative: organic burial pods.

The body is placed into an egg-shaped biodegradable container and buried underground, with a tree-seed planted directly above it; the dead body thus becoming a nutritional source for the tree.

The body is placed into an egg-shaped biodegradable container and buried underground, with a tree-seed planted directly above it; the dead body thus becoming a nutritional source for the tree. Current Italian burial legislation forbids the procedure, dictating that coffins must only be made of wood, and that cemeteries need to be restricted to controlled areas. This hasn’t stopped the Capsula Mundi Project from generating widespread support, both in Italy and beyond. “Continued demand has never stopped,” they inform me. “The project has never aroused scandal or discomfort. It was understood as a whole beyond expectations.”

The widespread implementation of the project would lead to the prevalence of forests rather than cemeteries, of peaceful spaces for contemplation and remembrance characterised by trees rather than foreboding tombstones.

The widespread implementation of the project would lead to the prevalence of forests rather than cemeteries, of peaceful spaces for contemplation and remembrance characterised by trees rather than foreboding tombstones. As Citelli and Bretzel explain, “The cemetery as we know it will appear anew, shifting from being a congested area of architectonic structures to a vast green memorial space.”

In this way, death takes on a new meaning, no longer considered as an interruption of the process of life but rather as the beginning of a series of transformations that reintroduce us into the natural cycle.

The Capsula Mundi Project is a crucial step forward. Not only does it centre around making the current death-care industry more environmentally viable, it is also groundbreaking in that it aims to redefine the mourning process and the way we think about death. As the founders tell me themselves: “In this way, death takes on a new meaning, no longer considered as an interruption of the process of life but rather as the beginning of a series of transformations that reintroduce us into the natural cycle.”

Words: Catherine Karellis

Image source: Capsula Mundi