Rethinking Urban Cemeteries

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    Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation’s (GSAPP) DeathLab is intensively exploring both theoretical and tangible urban solutions to the challenge of disposal and importance of remembrance in the metropolis. With existing urban cemeteries at or near capacity, we are investigating innovative alternative mortuary practices that address the social and spiritual needs of the individual as well as environmental and practical imperatives of the city.

    Our trans-disciplinary research (http://deathlab.org/research) engages global culture, diverse rituals and beliefs (including secular), urban infrastructure, and biologically sensible human disposition alternatives. Built upon a decade of research and design studios, DeathLab is a platform that brings together architects, scholars, scientists, and practitioners to examine the impacts of death and create avenues to integrate new spaces and practices within the modern urban context. We welcome comments on our civic sanctuary proposals connecting new modalities of memorial with the responsibility that the living share to fortify our collective future.
    (http://deathlab.org/design)

    Respectfully,
    Karla Maria Rothstein
    Director, DeathLab (www.deathlab.org)
    Adj. Associate Professor, Columbia University GSAPP

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      Hi Karla,

      Thanks for the long, thoughtful response. Deathlab is indeed interesting.

      best of luck in the future

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    The Urban Death Project is one exciting solution to the question of what to do with our deceased in cities. It uses the process of composting to gently and safely turn our dead into soil-building material, so that they can be used to grow new life after they’ve died.

    Currently in development in Seattle, WA, the project is bringing a deeper meaning to the experience of death care in urban areas. Envisioned as a place to honor the dead at a neighborhood scale, the Urban Death Project supports sustainable cities by engaging inhabitants in issues of soil heath, resource depletion, and mortality.

    (www.urbandeathproject.org)

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    Interesting. Similar trends seen in the UK.
    The sentence, “The number of cremations nationwide has risen to 30 percent in the past 30 years,” should have an “In the US…” in front of it.

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    It’s also great to see urban policy advocates look at cemeteries as increasing open space in congested neighborhoods. With increased development, the need for more breathing room for both the dead – and the living – is sorely needed. http://bit.ly/1tVmaVi

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    With a growing population, cemeteries had become entangled with inhabited cities. It presents an interesting challenge for future planning and design. Eco-cemetery or natural burial methods offer an alternative as a way of reducing the impact on the environment. The minimum standard requires no embalming fluids, biodegradable casket, no vault, and the maintenance of the indigenous flora and fauna of the burial area. Along with innovating structures, eco-cemeteries are starting points to build resilience in many cities.

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