Building for Eternity: mausolea at Beechwood Cemetery

MPG Post Articles :: Building for Eternity: mausolea at Beechwood Cemetery
June 15, 2021
Innovation & Technology Properties

In May of 2019, the Mausoleum of the Madonna at Beechwood Cemetery opened its doors on a new chapter as the second phase of its development reached completion. The elegant two-storey expansion is 31,645 square feet in total, and introduces 1,200 new crypts as well as 21 geothermal wells, in addition to new services and client experiences. Each is the result of decades of learning and listening.

The Mausoleum of the Madonna is one of four mausolea at Beechwood: its neighbours are the Mausoleum of the Angels, the Mausoleum of the Saints and the original Beechwood Mausoleum constructed in 1990. Early mausolea were often built for a single family or even a single person. But as they grew in popularity, especially among Catholic newcomers in the 1920s, Mount Pleasant Cemetery offered the first communal mausolea in Ontario as an affordable alternative.

Old-World Beauty

When the Mausoleum of the Madonna’s first phase was completed in 2008, its traditional European architecture set it apart from the three other mausolea of Beechwood. This decision to shift away from the modern aesthetic of its neighbours was inspired by requests from Toronto’s Italian and Portuguese communities for a space that embraced their architectural heritage. The columns, domes and Carrera white marble crypt fronts that helped define phase one can be found throughout the new expansion. Private family rooms featuring Roman-style leather benches and chandeliers are separated from the main corridors by locking glass gates, while an espresso lounge offers a quiet, central hub for conversation and refreshment.

Finding a Niche

Although the Mausoleum of the Madonna was primarily built to house crypts, we knew when constructing phase one that cremation is an increasingly popular choice. Both phases were designed to incorporate future glass niches so that those who wished for cremation could ensure their remains are close to their families’. The four banks installed in phase one have proven popular, and room for twelve more banks has been set aside to supply future need.

Timeless Technology

The promise of forever depends on sustainable sources of energy. That’s why we’ve been implementing alternative climate control and power solutions for our facilities since 2010, when we introduced geothermal systems to three smaller columbarium niche buildings at York Cemetery. With geothermal power, the consistent temperatures found deep underground are circulated through fluid-filled pipes to heat or cool the facilities year-round.

Madonna Phase Two uses a “vertical, closed-loop geothermal heat pump system” comprised of 21 geothermal wells, each over 250 feet deep, located underneath the new central courtyard. Fluids circulated underground are pumped up to roof-mounted heat exchange units that either warm or cool the air that then circulates throughout the building.

Other than the electricity used by the fans, no additional power is needed to run the air conditioning in the summer, and no gas is required for heat in the winter. Lighting throughout all four mausolea utilize LED fixtures activated by motion sensors. The combined result makes the Madonna our greenest mausoleum yet.

Space to Reflect and Grow

A courtyard now connects the four Beechwood mausolea, inviting visitors to pause for a moment on one of the elegantly curved benches in the shade of carefully curated trees and plants. Each piece of greenery was chosen for its shallow root system to avoid disturbing the geothermal wells below. Both floors of the expansion are connected to the original Mausoleum of the Madonna, while walkways let visitors cross directly to the second floor of the Mausoleum of the Angels and the Mausoleum of Saints.

The Madonna may have reached a new milestone, but its evolution is far from over. The cemetery space around the mausolea has been set aside to accommodate further growth.