The North Hertfordshire district council has comissioned Michael Howe and his architechture firm, Mae, to design a new ‘flagship’ cemetery at Wilbury Hills, on the edge of Letchworth in the UK.
The popularity of cemeteries has decreased since the Victorian era when cemeteries were seen as garden parks and places for social gatherings rather than a place of mourning. Besides the change in public perception, a number of other factors have contributed to this decline including:
- Lack of burial space
- High cost of cemetery maintenance
- Increase in cremations since the 1960s – in Britain, only 30% still prefer to be buried
The new cemetery will cater to the area’s multicultural diversity. It will include areas for mausoleums, eco burials, children’s graves, and various religious groups.
“One of the issues that has led to the desecration of burial grounds is fear. Socialising these spaces is absolutely essential, so young people see them as part of the cycle of life and death,” [Howe] says.
He hopes that people will visit the cemetery as a park and even take a picnic there. “If there are green open spaces and woods, why wouldn’t people romp around or have a picnic?”
He adds: “It was only in the 20th century that we stopped using cemeteries in this way. The Victorians thought of them as highly cultured places of genteel resort and instruction. A cemetery was considered a neat and proper place to meet and spend time.”
He argues that it is not only the Victorians who can find cemeteries uplifting places. “Everyone thinks of the commemoration of deaths as a Victorian thing, which is amazing since we are not going to get out of the habit of dying.”
Source: Guardian Unlimited