The studio will explore how we might reimagine cemetery landscapes of the future in response to the challenges of the climate crisis, and the clear and present issues of social inequality. These issues are extensively shifting the ways we live, and, at the very least, are the uninvited corollary through which we might imagine new expressions of the cemetery.
As sites of remembrance, cemeteries may be considered as ‘places where memory crystalises and secretes itself as part of an ongoing construction of history’ (Pierre Nora 1989), whilst simultaneously acting as ‘settings in which memory is a real part of everyday experience’ (Michael Rothberg 2010). They are spaces that are socially produced and made productive in social practice (Lefebvre 1974), whilst also being highly logistical practical settings created in the absent presence of the body (Ken Warpole).
Just as death is a necessary part of life, cemeteries are sites of contrast, yet it is perhaps through the very preservation of this tension of contradiction that they exist as some of the most enduring landscapes across cultures around the world.
Often perceived as a space ‘apart’ from the city as a consequence of their physical traits and phenomenal characteristics, cemeteries none the less play significant roles within the life of the metropolis as biodiversity hotspots offering ecosystem services in the form of thermal regulation, stormwater management, and carbon absorption. They provide significant social functions such as spaces for people to seek sanctuary, reflection and play, and healthy spaces for individuals to contemplate in the context of a natural landscape.
Cemeteries, capable and perhaps charged to carry multiple meanings, are paradoxical spaces described by Foucault (1967) as ‘heterotopias’, a no place that, nonetheless, is. The studio will be exploring what the urban and social significance of the cemetery of the future could be, and ask what are the forms and cultural expressions the urban cemetery might project? How might the articulation of the material and physical space reinterpret the temporal experience of the cemetery, and how might the increasingly rich cultural diversity of a progressive society be celebrated through ritual and mediated through disparate processes of burial and internment? How might the cemetery critique and address the extensive environmental and social issues that are before us by proposing alternative organisational patterns and expression, a place that celebrates diverse beliefs and rituals, and a space as an important contribution to the city’s natural systems?