Highland Park Cemetery

The Reception Centre and Chapel at Highland Park Cemetery provide a new venue for Cole Funeral Services in the rural lands west of the city. Located near the historic village of Carp, the facility offers funeral and burial services in a modern, uplifting environment. Situated on a 120 acre lot surrounded by mature trees, Highland Park Cemetery is a quiet and comforting rural retreat that welcomes people of all ages, cultures and denominations.

The intent behind the design was to create a place to celebrate life, rather than mourn the loss of it, by shaping an environment that instills hope and celebration rather than sadness and shame. This meant dispelling all notions of a traditional funeral home, and piecing together a new model for this type of space, tailored to Cole Funeral Services’ specific needs. The design process involved multiple charettes to arrive at a plan that would maximize operational efficiency while achieving the overarching qualitative and aesthetic goals.

Conceptually, the building strives to project the idea of life through its open layout, ample natural light and a strong connection with nature. The floor plan is based on two main wings: to the west, a primarily administrative and operational area with a basement for back of house and loading functions. To the east are the more public spaces including a large visitation room which can be divided with an operable partition. At the centre of these flanking wings is a landscaped courtyard featuring a single sugar maple, the “Tree of Life.” The Tree of Life idea connects all forms of creation, and is a symbol seen throughout history and by many religions and philosophies. Lobby and reception spaces wrap around the atrium with uninterrupted views and doors on two sides.

The building form is loosely derived from the simple shapes found in the rural architecture and farm buildings that predominate the Ottawa Valley. Preference for natural materials is seen in the wood siding that surrounds the building, and stone at the walls of the main entrance and throughout the landscape. Ample indigenous plantings surround the building and will mature in time, echoing the theme of life and nature.

While the built facility is complete and fully functional, the design allows for future expansion which would add 4,100 sq. ft. of visitation space, a 131-seat chapel and some additional ancillary spaces.

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