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Architecture: Albert Gerona of Albert Gerona Architects + Engineers
Developer & Contractor: BGT Infra & Development Corp.
Project Engineer: Edmond Ermino
Brass Crucifix: Eduardo Castrillo
  Elysium Gardens was featured in BluPrint Magazine  
Columbaries of late have gained acceptance as alternative to space consuming memorial plots. They are used to hold and store cinerary urns of our dearly departed, and are usually located next to a church. However, since by virtue of being associated with death, columbaries are still identified with the macabre or remain to be dark, dreary places. But this particular facet of columbaries are slowly being changed starting with the aptly named Elysium Gardens. The name derives from the Elysian Fields of Greek mythology, the final resting place of virtuous and heroic souls.

Situated between St. Luke’s Hospital and Trinity College, it was once an overgrown empty lot until it was transformed by owner Reynaldo Talatala, Arch. Albert Gerona and Engr. Edmond Ermino what it is now. Very atypical, most passersby are surprised to discover that the place is actually a columbarium. The reason for this is, as one enters the site, the Elysium Gardens looks more like a showroom for a condominium development, or even a modern-styled museum.

Conceptualized by Talatala and faithfully translated to design by Gerona, the main structure that gets noticed is the Solarium. Instead of the standard white and heavy Corinthian columns, primary materials used are cream-colored and earth-toned sandstone and travertine-finished columns crypts. With large operable windows and clerestories, it makes for a well-ventilated and well-lit space that goes beyond the typical. Another attractive feature is a landscaped stairway that uses peanut plant (arachis spp.) as its main groundcover, especially when it is in full bloom with its yellow-gold flowers. This stairway also serves as a connection from the columbary to the church above it although Elysium provides its own chapel for simple services that may be needed or required by its clients.

The chapel, similar to the design of the Solarium, features marbled flooring with sandstone ad travertine finishes for the wall and columns. What draws the eye is the stunningly sculpted crucifix, created by Eduardo Castrillo, with an elegantly illuminated yellow-gold onyx stone as its backdrop. There are also crypts or vaults located inside the chapel, but are barely noticeable as it blends in with the rest of the concept. The soft and distinctive yellow lighting adds to the calmness of the chapel area.

Apart from the chapel and Solarium crypts, there are the Memorial and Garden wall vaults. The Memorial wall becomes antithetical compared to the interior crypts. There are terracotta planters that dot the area, benches for resting and solemn contemplation provided for visitors. The curvilinear layout of the exterior vaulted walls provides a counterpoint to the straight, uninterrupted lines of the Solarium, thus offering a contrasting perspective. Not limited to the visual senses, a water feature along the Memorial wall walkway provides a refreshing and soothing sound of water, and bestows an auditory delight.

From the water fountain, there is yet another landscaped stairway that leads to the Garden wall area where the same concept on the finishes is applied. Although it is yet to be completed, individual pavers instead of whole concrete paving blocks are used and meticulously laid out. Another important thing to note is the protection of existing trees which include a very mature and majestic Ficus or balete as the Garden wall area’s main feature. The design also called for the preservation of the area’s earthy rock outcrops, which then provides a naturalistic ambiance to the place.

Much attention to the exterior lighting concept also has to be noted. As one would normally want to leave as soon as possible or before dawn because of our stereotypical views on the dead, one would desire to stay until night fall just to experience the lighting effect of Elysium Gardens. The reason for this is the golden yellow lights elegantly illuminating the exterior that gives a tasteful and exquisite look and feel to the surroundings.

Elysium Gardens is definitely paving the way for a design trend that deals with repositories for loved ones that have passed away. The modern clean lines, the light and airy feeling creates a sense not normally encountered and experienced in a typical cemetery or columbarium is much to strive for. What used to be an urban open space has been transformed into not only a columbarium housing which we would not mind visiting during All Saint’s Day, but also into an idealistic open space that can be used everyday.















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