David Ocon & Wei Ping Young 2023

Singapore Management University

Bridging the nature-cultural heritage gap: evaluating sustainable entanglements through cemeteries in urban Asia [v]

The expanding footprint of urban Asian settlements and increasing living standards have put pressure on cemetery sites. Public health narratives and the sanctity associated with death matters in Asian urban landscapes have fed into the rhetoric of cemeteries as undesirable heritage spaces. Often lacking protection, many cemeteries have been exhumed, cleared, and relocated to allow room for new developments and infrastructure, risking the survival of this quiet element of the urban cultural patrimony. Within an Asian context, nature and cultural heritage preservation synergies are not prevalent in major cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. In light of the increasing recognition of urban cemeteries as multi-valued sites with both natural and cultural heritage values, this paper turns to deconstructing the nature-cultural binary and the concept of entanglement to frame an investigation of collaborative interactions. A focused study on Asian urban cemeteries follows, examining existing trends and adapted mix-uses and highlighting the region’s unique conservation challenges. The analysis reveals three major typologies encapsulating the region’s current nature-cultural heritage entangled preservation approaches: sustainable compromises, memories, and everyday sustainability. To conclude, the paper distils respectful alternative futures for these spaces to be better integrated into the modern textures of the cities, unlocking functional recourses to destruction or oblivion.


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