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.
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.
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.