This unique vending machine found at the largest cemetery in Zurich is stocked with various items that grieving loved ones might need before, during, or after a funeral ceremony. On offer are tissues, rosaries, condolence cards, and even a tiny music box playing “You Are My Sunshine.” Prices for these objects range from 1 to 20 Swiss Francs.
Designed and constructed by Swiss designer Lea Hofer, “Der Trauerautomat,” roughly translating to “The Mourning Machine,” was set up in 2018 at the main entrance to Friedhof Sihlfeld (Sihlfeld Cemetery). Though it may seem a macabre amenity at first look, the idea behind Hofer’s work is to destigmatize mourning and grief and open up a public discussion on what is still a taboo topic.
Sure enough, after being installed at the cemetery the unique machine has stirred up controversy in the Swiss press and online communities. Some perceive it as tasteless and irreverent, while others appreciate this creative approach to tackling uncomfortable subjects.
The vending machine is part of the Friedhof Forum at the Sihlfeld cemetery, Switzerland’s first cultural service center that offers information and discussion around death, burials, and mourning. The forum’s so-called “office of the last journey” also hosts temporary exhibitions on these difficult subject. The current exhibition displays a collection of objects left behind by the dead, a tangible approach to talking about death and loss.
Update as of June 2022: The vending has been removed.
Know Before You Go
The cemetery can be accessed without any restrictions all year long. The exhibitions at Friedhof Forum can be visited from Tuesday through Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.