Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

Underwater Gardens

In Cemeteries on November 29, 2009 at 9:36 am

Living Reef

Burial Reefs – improving the environment

Your remains 
can be embedded in an artificial reef, bathing somewhere off Florida or Malaysia or Brazil.

It’s an ultimate gesture to preserve the fragile 
ecosystem of the sea.

Small but growing companies offer an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional burial practices by mixing cremated remains
– cremains — into concrete and molding them into “reefballs.” The final product — resembling a giant dome of Swiss cheese — is then cured and donated to government reef projects wherever needed.,8599,1708004,00.html

You’re not merely disposing of someone’s remains.You’re using them to create.

Many people say they’d rather spend eternity in the ocean surrounded by life than in a field surrounded by dead people.

Started in the early 1990s, the Reef Ball Development Group was formed to build the molds for the concrete reefs. What began as an all-volunteer
effort evolved into a non-profit business.

The organization has deployed about 500,000 balls in 3,500 locations around the world.

Compared with traditional
funerasl and burial memorial reefs are still a bargain.

The concrete domes begin to attract tiny aquatic plants and animals almost immediately. Within a couple of years — with coral and sponges and fish in the neighborhood — it’s tough to tell the difference between the fake reef and the real
deal. Which is the whole point.

In just the past few decades, scientists estimate, 27 percent of the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed, mostly because of water pollution. If trends continue, 60 percent may be lost by 2030. At stake is not only a strikingly beautiful ecosystem but an essential link in the food chain.


Garden Cemeteries

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Green-wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Rural Garden Cemeteries

We all can always use more parks, and people will continue to be buried: combine the two and you have benefit to all: the living, the dead, and the environment.

Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA

Newton Cemetery, Newton, MA

Rural cemeteries, from their beginning in the 1830’s were intended as civic places designed for public use.

Before the widespread development of public parks, the rural cemetery was a place for people to enjoy outdoor recreation among sculpture and art that only the wealthy had enjoyed

Today, many of these historic cemeteries are designated landmarks and are cared for by non-profit organizations.

Hollywood Cemetery overlooking the James River

Hollywood Cemetery is a large, sprawling cemetery Richmond, Virginia. Set among rolling hills and winding paths overlooking the James River, it is the resting place of two United States Presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler. It’s an important historic Southern cemetery.

Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831 as America’s first garden (or rural) cemetery”, with classical monuments set in a rolling landscape.

Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn is another beautiful example of the garden cemetery.

I think that there are lessons and examples in the thought and planning of these spaces as a park, a garden, a place for people to enjoy outdoor recreation that can be applicable today.

Beautiful places for people who don’t want to be buried – columbaria

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2009 at 2:22 am
San Francisco Columbarium

San Francisco Columbarium

San Francisco has a beautiful columbarium, left from the original Odd Fellows Cemetery. It’s one of only four places that one can be buried in San Francisco (The National Cemetery in the Presidio, Mission Dolores, and, recently, Saint Mary of the Virgin Church). The Columbarium is a beautiful neo-Classical built in 1898. A delightfully quiet, beautiful, and moving space.

The Columbarium in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is in a loggia, with many famous interred there – Isadora Duncan, Maria Callas, Stephane Grapelli. And like the rest of that scenic urban cemetery, it’s beautiful.


Columbarium at Pere Lachaise, Paris

The Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland was designed by julia Morgan (who also designed Hearst’s Castle in San Simeon, California). It’s a fantasy world – a moorish library and gardens. Most all of the urns in the original section are done as brass books, so you fell like you want to stop, sit, a enjoy for a good long while. It’s also scaled at about 3/4 scale, so the felling is very intimate.

Chapel of the Chimes, Oakland, California

Chapel of the Chimes, Oakland, California

So, we’re seeing that there are many beautiful examples of places for people to rest for eternity, and for people to visit, remember, and sometimes “enjoy”. What other examples are there?

Traditional and Rich

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2009 at 4:19 am

There are cemeteries whose formal straight rows and plantings work perfectly. A number of them are military cemeteries. And one of the most beautiful and powerful is the Normandy American Cemetery above Omaha Beach in France.

Normandy American Cemetery above Omaha Beach

Normandy American Cemetery above Omaha Beach

It’s a lawn cemetery with lush plantings. Its rows of marble headstones are crosses and Stars of David. It’s laid out in the form of a latin cross. It’s militarily precise. And it works.
It’s a very moving space. Situated right above the the sight of the fierce and bloody battle of Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, it is now a supremely peaceful place. And a melancholic one. Silence and hushed,  your honor and respect come naturally and wholeheartedly.

THe Normandy American Cemetery

The Normandy American Cemetery

The site is almost overwhelming – you know the titanic effort that the allies hurtled against the Germany army. And you feel the sacrifice all around you. All the dead here died within 9 months.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

And the place manages to hold all this emotion and understanding – and to let you leave with a deeper feeling. In short, it is a Transformational experience.

Enhancing the Land

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2009 at 12:25 am

There are many objections that many people have to burial. One is “environmental”: people don’t want to “take up” space. I can recognize this feeling, and might feel the same way if my only options were large, non-human scaled Memorial Gardens.

However, my hope is to improve and enhance the landscape for the present and for the future. Imagine if in your three foot by eight foot plot (or larger if you’ll be buried side by side with someone else) you had a beautiful tree planted and or a good sized beautiful stone bench for passersby to rest. What if many such plots were grouped together? You might have a nice woodsy place for strolling and resting.

Some cemeteries like Sonoma Mountain Cemetery in Sonoma, CA (pictured) are built up into the woods, and have a very organic and inviting presence.

Sonoma Mountain Cemetery, Sonoma, CA

Sonoma Mountain Cemetery, Sonoma, CA

There are beautiful people-based cemeteries in Japan, some of which have important shrines inside the cemetery. They have beautiful paved paths for people to stroll and to get to the shrines.

There is a huge spectrum of “useful” use of cemetery space that not too many could argue as “wasted” or “taken-up” space.

Mount Koya Cemetery, Wakayama, Japan

Mount Koya Cemetery, Wakayama, Japan

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