Life Matters Media
Quality of life at the end of life

Italian Designers Envision New Form Of Burial


An Italian start-up is working to change the way the world views death.

Capsula Mundi aims to “sensitize” people about the “unbearable” way Western cultures often deal with decay. The goal of designers Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli: create lush forests instead of dilapidated gravestones and cold cemeteries.

“Our idea is to change the perception of death,” Bretzel told Life Matters Media during an interview from Rome. “Death is no longer just the end of life, but the start of change. It’s the cycle of life.”

Capsula Mundi is an egg-shaped container, made of biodegradable material, where an individual’s ashes or remains would be placed. The pod is specially engineered to be buried as a seed in the earth. Finally, a tree, selected previously by the deceased, would be planted on top of the pod.

Designers Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli. Submitted photo.

Designers Raoul Bretzel and Anna Citelli. Submitted photo.

Bretzel and Citelli envision protected forests made up of hundreds of “sacred trees,” so families and friends can stroll and relax. They want each tree to bear a GPS so it is easy to identify who lies under each plant. The deceased’s family and friends look after the plant for the rest of their lives.

“We are all part of nature, even people who live in huge cities seek to be a part of nature,” he said. “But we have to be careful in the ways we deal with nature. It’s important to preserve our sense of community with the rest of the world.”

Corpses become “food” for the plant. The pod, designed to have minimal environmental impact, dissolves over time.

In 2003, Capsula Mundi was exhibited for the first time at the “Salone del Mobile” furniture exhibition in Milan. Since then, it has generated a significant amount of foreign media attention and “went viral” on Facebook (the company boasts 34,000 fans). A TED talk about the project has been viewed more than 10,000 times on YouTube.

Bretzel said he receives dozens of emails each day from people hoping to learn more about his efforts.

How it works.

How it works

“We don’t like that death became a taboo,” Bretzel said. “Death should not be a taboo, but something that is part of our life. We need to talk about this.”

However, the project remains in its start-up phase. Complicating matters: green burial is prohibited in Italy. Still, production of a pod for ashes is expected to begin soon, Bretzel said. Then he will focus on making Capsula for body a reality.

“We are artists, and our project is becoming a reality,” he added.