Medicine Wheel Nomadic Apothecary

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Cemeteries and planning

According to the dictionary, a cemetery is a spatially defined area where the remains of deceased people are buried or are otherwise interred. The term "cemetery" ( from Greek  meaning sleeping place) implies that the land is specifically designated as a burial ground. The intact or cremated remains of deceased people may be interred. The remains may be interred in a grave, commonly referred to as burial, or may be interred in a tomb, an "above-ground grave" (resembling a sarcophagus), a mausoleum, columbarium, or other edifice.

Burying the dead and burial sites have been part of human history for thousands of years.  The act of honoring the dead is one of the  many  unifying themes that permeates across cultures all over the world.

Designated grounds for the dead have varied in place from the outskirts of a settlement to the rear area of churches in the middle of  a town. The latter approach, was banned in Europe due to the spread of infectious diseases, a sharp rise in population in the early stages of the industrial revolution and limits in space for new corpses or headstones amongst  the main reasons.

 The stratification of the dead. Gwadeloupe Island 2012.

The stratification of the dead. Gwadeloupe Island 2012.

As civilizations made scientific and technological advances like sewer systems, and planning regulations like zoning came into place, it was allowed for cemeteries to be located in close proximity to the city again. In turn, the expansive city has encroached these spaces turning them into yet another square in the quilt of the urban fabric.

As a planner,  it is this aspect of integration of sacred space  into the urban fabric that interests me the most in  terms of the implications of  land use , community development and the  potential  environmental benefits that an  area might gain from viewing these sacred/open spaces through a  different lens.

In my research I have come across supporting evidence that in the United States there are cemeteries that play more than its  prescriptive role. I aim to expose the various uses of cemeteries and their impacts on the natural and  human community. In addition, my research begins to tackle  the  issues  encountered in the process of  proposing additional uses for sacred/open space. the legal process of  zoning and regulations  put in place  which sometimes  hinder these  spaces  from performing additional functions. In many cases, the regulations are not even stipulated which can either be frustrating or rather  taken as an  opportunity to formulate various scenarios that are  place-based and sensitive to the community.

 Burial style, Gwadeloupe Island, 2012

Burial style, Gwadeloupe Island, 2012

Cemeteries within city limits have intrinsic characteristics in terms of land use. They are a required zone in the urban fabric and they are considered sacred ground as well as open space. Most importantly, given the nature of most cemeteries, they are typically vacant  for the  majority of the time.

As mentioned before, as cities grow cemeteries have been engulfed by development.  It is not rare to see a cemetery nestled between high-rises and proposed residential development like the municipal cemetery in  Miami, Florida. In Albuquerque, a prime example of a cemetery in a  residential  area is  the Fairview  Memorial  park.

Om mani padme hung -for all my relations- por todas  mis relaciones  - Mitakuye Oyasin - OMETEOTL - gracias