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Rent on Capitol Hill is too high for human composting — Neighborhood-born Recompose unveils plans for first facility in Seattle

(Image: Olson Kundig)

A revolution in “death care” with Capitol Hill roots will take first shape in a SoDo warehouse.

Rent on Capitol Hill is too high for composting humans.

Recompose has announced the location for its first human composting facility and unveiled architecture firm Olson Kundig’s designs for the 18,000+ square foot facility:

at the core of the recompose center is a modular system containing approximately 75 of these vessels, stacked and arranged to demarcate a central gathering space. there are also spaces for the storage and preparation of bodies, administrative back-of-house areas, and an interpretive public lobby which describes the recompose process. porous connections between indoor and outdoor spaces further blur the boundary between the human experience and natural processes.

Earlier this year, CHS reported on Capitol Hill designer and entrepreneur Katrina Spade’s efforts to make human composting in Seattle an alternative to burial and cremation. “The fact that all we really need is nature is pretty magical to me,” Spade told CHS.

Capitol Hill 43rd District State Sen. Jamie Pedersen’s bill to legalize human composting or “recomposition” along with alkaline hydrolysis, a technique called water cremation because of its use of hot, pressurized water and lye to ‘break down’ the body, passed earlier this year, making Washington the first state in the U.S. to allow the technique.

Though she started her venture on the Hill, working from the Cloud Room, her own home and Victrola as makeshift HQ’s, Spade said the need for a huge amount of space made it highly unlikely Recompose could open a center in the central city.

“We need a big space, about 15.000 square foot, with high ceilings and dock doors because we’ll be moving a fair amount of materials such as straw. Ideally, it has some old-bone character, as the facility will also function as a space for memorials or services,” Spade told CHS earlier this year.

The Seattle Times reports that in addition to finding the huge warehouse space in SoDo, Spade and Recompose have also found a partner to take all of the “rich compost” on 640 acres of conservation land in southern Washington near Battle Ground.

Spade told CHS a Recompose service, which will include recomposition and a memorial, will cost around $5,500, more than the average cost of cremation — around $3,000 — but less than the average for a funeral — more than $7,000. Meanwhile, with spaces like Capitol Hill’s Lake View Cemeterypopulation: 40,000 —  filling up, traditional death isn’t getting any cheaper.

Spade’s public benefit corporation still has a long way to go before its first decomposition ceremony begins. It is not yet licensed as a funeral home, for one, and Recompose must still raise around $3 million of its more than $6 million startup goal from investors.

Spade, meanwhile, will be on hand to help Capitol Hill’s People’s Memorial Association, — “the thought-leader for funeral choice, education and advocacy in Washington State” –,mark its 80th year with a fundraising celebration at the Cornish Playhouse on December 14th.


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