Jennifer Lewin 2017

Conservation Accredited Architect, UK

Cemetery design: a neglected landscape?

The cemetery and churchyard commonly present problems with maintenance issues, contentious memorialisation sensibilities, economics and allowing for an evolution of rituals and customs. If architecture began with the tomb, has the story line for cemetery design been lost along the way? This landscape interface between mortality and immortality could be seen as it has in the past, as the greatest design brief of all, but current design ethos is surely falling short. Is this landscape a place of exclusive use for the visiting bereaved and has it been so in the past? Why are aesthetics so often a contentious issue? The historical cultural use of the cemetery could in fact be described as multi- functional. From Neolithic mass gatherings to the churchyard as place of teaching, birth, marriage and death ceremonies, the Victorian garden cemetery as parkland, arboretum and visitor destination and the ‘green burial’ as a bio-diverse sanctuary, there is a rich precedence for integrated community use. If a brief was considered at the outset, for a working, multi-functional landscape, could this overcome common problems and create sustainable community heritage? Inspired by Loudon’s seminal book, On the Layout Planting, and Managing of Cemeteries and drawing on conservation projects, study at Bath University’s Ritual and Belief MSc module, and interviews with cemetery managers and funeral directors, this paper presents a contemporary brief and a sampler layout for a working cemetery to illustrate the ethos put forward.


The Cemetery Research Group runs two events a year: in May and in November. Follow the links and send in an abstract