Until 2017, 39 year-old Hélène Chaudeau was an audiovisual archivist. In 2018 she decided to become an undertaker, a profession that is just as much about memory and conservation. Settled in the countryside of the Plateau de Millevaches in the Limousin region of central France, she has instigated a collective reflection on how to offer mere mortals an alternative to the business of death.
By Océane Ragoucy
L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui: What made you decide to become an undertaker?
Hélène Chaudeau: I used to be an audiovisual archivist, a profession that works with memory and whose daily lot consists of sorting, discarding, conserving and selecting. Then my father died and I started to take an interest in funeral ceremonies, getting aware of how most people are completely at sea when it comes to dealing with death, which generally remains a specialist business. So I decided to become a funeral counsellor. To that end, I followed a two-month professional training course as well as an internship, funded by Pôle Emploi (France’s unemployment agency), working with an organisation that belongs to a large French funeral group. The training is quite easy and is attended by a very eclectic public. In my training group, people shared a desire to develop ethical funerals, without encouraging people to spend money. Funeral homes are after all commercial companies like any other, and need to sell coffins to be profitable.
Read the full version of this interview in AA’s 433rd issue —Social Housing, a French exception ?—, available on our online shop.