UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The forgotten landscape : cemeteries and the public mind Beebe, Steven Clark


The cemetery was at one time a major public institution and an integral component of civic and community life. The cemetery landscape itself was looked upon as sacred ground and the rituals that were undertaken there played an important role in society. Sadly, changes in cultural attitudes toward dying and death have led to a decline in the hallowed status of the cemetery to that of a landscape that is largely forgotten until life's harsh realities force us to think about it. Many factors have contributed to this phenomenon in addition to the aforementioned changes in cultural attitudes, including the displacement of death from the home to the hospital and funeral parlor, the rise of technology, the loss of community, and lack of place making in the cemetery context. At the heart of this thesis project has been a desire to see this valuable landscape restored to the revered status that it once held and for cemetery design to be more concerned with place making, rather than expediency. The objective of this thesis has been to examine the reasons for this decline through an interpretive review of available literature concerning social critique of attitudes toward death and cemeteries, and precedent in cemetery design, with the end goal of applying that knowledge to the development of specific and extensive design recommendations for Bayview Cemetery in Bellingham, Washington. What has emerged is a belief that the cemetery landscape can once again inhabit a more exalted position in our culture than it currently enjoys. That the cemetery should be the central setting not only for expressions of grief, but also a landscape which addresses the need for remembrance and healing, is essential. Those in the field of Landscape Architecture have a significant role to play in challenging and striving to change public attitudes toward the subject. By fostering a greater awareness of the sacred in all aspects of life and placing a new emphasis on creating place rather than holding fast to the status quo, there is reason to hope that the cemetery landscape will be reestablished to an important position in our communities.

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