Confined space, changing attitudes bring new cemetery design trends


All Souls, which takes place every year from late October to early November, is one of Vancouver’s most unique cultural events.

Taking place in downtown Mountain View Cemetery, All Souls is billed as an opportunity for the public to remember their dead in what organizers call “a gentle atmosphere of contemplative beauty.”

All Souls is part of the urban cemetery renaissance in an increasingly secular and multicultural Canada, says Richard Cook, landscape architect at Vancouver-based LEES + Associates Landscape Architects and Planners.

“Events like this are opportunities for families to continue their dialogue with the deceased,” says Cook.

They are also examples of the evolution of demands related to the burial of contemporary families.

“They want more choice, more personalization, more appetizers,” Cook says. “In response, cemeteries strive to make themselves more relevant to the communities in which they are found. “

Cemeteries are no longer part of the “waste disposal system,” he says. “They are now sacred landscapes of memory. The new attitude is part of the trend of repulsion against secularism. “

The new cemetery in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, for which LEES + Associates was the lead consultant, illustrates the changing attitude to cemetery design.

The design includes many contemporary features, such as an outdoor celebration hall with a memorial wall; scatter gardens (for cremated remains); cremation gardens with columbariums (vaults with niches for urns containing ashes); and a kindergarten.

“The site plan incorporates traditional and new forms of burial, including cremation and commemoration,” says Cook. “It also allows for gradual future development. “

Cemeteries must reinvent themselves at a time when municipalities are running out of space.

Unlike Mountain View, Salmon Arm Cemetery has a challenging location in a heavily forested area at the foot of Mount Ida, several miles from the center of town.

A former shooting range, the site is not fenced and is used by wildlife – bears, cougars and deer – as an informal traffic route.

We want to give the new cemetery a favorable “green” image

– Catriona Hearn

LEES + Associates Landscape Architects and Urban Planners

Like many aspects of modern life, the way we dispose of our dead is subject to changing fashion.

“Canadian municipalities, most of which operate at least one cemetery, need to keep an eye out for emerging trends,” says LEES + Associates landscape architect Catriona Hearn. “Cemeteries try to pay for themselves, so they need cash.

More and more dead Canadians are being cremated, especially in British Columbia. More and more people are opting for green burials, which feature a biodegradable casket or a simple shroud, without a vault or tombstone.

LEES + Associates is the lead consultant for the new South East Calgary Cemetery.

Hearn says the idea for the project originated about 10 years ago, when the city of Calgary realized it was running out of space for the cemetery.

The province of Alberta limited the operation of cemeteries to municipalities and religious organizations, which meant that the private sector could not intervene.

The city therefore donated land for a new cemetery.

Like Salmon Arm Cemetery, Southeast Calgary Cemetery is off the beaten track.

“It’s at the southeast end of Calgary,” says Hearn. “It’s far from the city center and lacks a local population base, services and access roads.”

The design of LEES + Associés must also take into account an abandoned wellhead on the site and the need to include a public access road to a property to the north.

“We want to give the new cemetery a favorable ‘green’ image, as well as make it attractive, attractive and beautiful, so that families make it a destination,” says Hearn.

The company calls itself the premier cemetery planning and design company in Canada.

The company recently won an award from the American Society of Landscape Architects for its municipal cemetery in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

“The design draws on local and traditional knowledge with an emphasis on locally sourced, culturally meaningful materials and simple shapes to honor indigenous traditions,” said company founder and director Erik Lees.

The project was ambitious, he adds.

“It was difficult to find a suitable site,” he says. “In addition to the difficult climatic and soil conditions, we wanted to meet the unique cultural needs of the Inuit. “

Lees says the project illustrates how the role of landscape architects has changed over the past 10 years.

“Today’s owners are looking for holistic, comprehensive solutions that creatively synchronize community needs and site requirements,” he says. “Landscape architects are particularly good at this aspect of site planning and development. “

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