architecture must die: placing cemeteries within the flow of lived time
Ledford, Ansley Clark
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Burial spaces are among the earliest works of architecture. Varying by time period and culture, they represent a society’s sense of place and their values as a community. Historically, cemeteries in the United States have been an active part in defining social spaces. The development of rural cemeteries, in the early 1800s, created large, open spaces that became havens for people living in industrial cities. Built at a time when there were no public parks or museums, people flocked to them as places for picnics, biking, and festivals. However, the independent establishment of museums, libraries, and other public institutions led to the decline of the cemetery type as a social, public space, becoming solely for the use of the dead. Once on the outskirts of towns, the growth of cities now places cemeteries in highly populated areas, where they have become both cut off from the greater urban fabric but also absorbed by modern urban sprawl. Today, our continued impulse to memorialize ourselves is reflected by green burials and the spreading of ashes. Modern burial trends and an increase in families moving further from their ancestral homes have resulted in the permanence of death left unevidenced. Though cemeteries still retain a spiritual importance, their social value requires our interaction with them. This thesis argues that a cemetery’s true audience is the living individual and proposes the creation of spaces within local cemeteries that allow an individual to mourn unbeholden to burial, removing the limitations on location and letting anyone mourn anytime and anywhere. Finding comfort in a collective history, local cemeteries are used as a forgotten infrastructure, reconnecting people to places within their neighborhoods and promoting the continued spiritual importance of cemeteries.
- Architecture