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Urban Ground

index 1

Introduction

2

Funerary Practices: A Comparison

3

Context: Space & Time

4

Context: Watershed

5

Site Study: Water

6

Site Study: Soils

7

Site Study: Vegetation & Habitat

8

Site Study: Microclimate

9

Site Study: Circulation & Views

10

Site Study: Further Considerations

11

Design: Introduction

12

Forest & Fire: Components

13

Forest & Fire: Design

Spring 2009

14

Forest & Fire: Plants, Materials

15

Reflection: Components

M o u n t A u bu r n C e m e t e ry

16

Reflection: Design

17

Reflection: Plants, Materials

580 Mount Auburn Street Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

18

Healing Garden: Components

19

Healing Garden: Design

20

Healing Garden: Plants, Materials

21

River Patterns: Components

Katharine Ochsner

22

River Patterns: Design

Conway School of Landscape Design

23

River Patterns: Plants, Materials

an urban natural burial guide & site suitability study

Rachel Bechhoefer

Copyright Š 2009 by the Conway School of Landscape Design


The Conway School of Landscape Design is the only institution of its kind in North America. Its focus is sustainable planning and landscape design. Each year, through its accredited, tenmonth program just nineteen graduate students from diverse backgrounds are immersed in a range of applied landscape studies, ranging in scale from residences to regions. Graduates go on to play significant roles in various aspects of landscape planning and design with an eye to sustainability.


design memorials to the buried that encourage contemplation and reveal natural processes.

recommend ways to build rich soil, promote clean water, and provide urban habitat.

M

ount Auburn Cemetery, one of the world’s great burial grounds, has been an innovator in cemetery design and management since its inception. Located in Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts, the cemetery was founded in 1831 to be not simply a burial ground but a haven from urban life, a place of natural beauty and abundance in the picturesque style, which is characterized by soft, pastoral landscapes adorned with neoclassical buildings and sculptures. The cemetery was designed to inspire contemplation of natural cycles of death and renewal, and to instill an awareness of the passing of time. These origins are reflected in Mount Auburn Cemetery’s mission: to commemorate the dead in surroundings of exceptional beauty and tranquility that provide comfort and inspiration to the bereaved and the public as a whole, and to offer comprehensive cemetery services to all faiths at a reasonable charge. Mount Auburn Cemetery continues to lead the way forward. In recent years, the cemetery has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship through the virtual elimination of fertilizers, the gradual replacement of turf with groundcovers that require less irrigation, and the cultivation of plants that provide food and cover to urban wildlife. Now, Mount Auburn Cemetery would like to become one of the nation’s first major urban burial grounds to explore natural burial, a sustainable and biodegradable form of burial. Urban natural burial sites can help fulfill our shared mandate to be more ecologically responsible in a time of environmental challenges. They can help address the growing shortage of burial space in urban areas. As a link in urban greenbelts, they can provide natural open space for people and habitat for wildlife. Finally, they can help satisfy a growing craving among Americans for a return to a simpler way of life that is more integrated with the natural world.

What does a burial ground look like? rethinking expectations Center

Rachel Bechhoefer Katharine Ochsner Spring 2009

provide guidelines for assessing and implementing natural burial on urban sites by using a parcel owned by Mount Auburn Cemetery as a case study.

580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138

Conway School of Landscape Design 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 (413) 369-4044  •  www.csld.edu

b u r i a l

define natural burial and explain its social and environmental benefits.

M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry

r e t h i n k i n g

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

The goals of this guide are to:

Igualada Cemetery, near Barcelona, Spain Clockwise from top left National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, HI Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York City Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve, Newfield, NY Etowah Indian Mounds, Bartow County, GA Reef ball (concrete mixed with ashes), location unknown Aboriginal burial ground, Melville Island, Australia

This document is both a guide to natural burial in urban areas and a suitability study for a brownfield site in Watertown owned by, and adjacent to, Mount Auburn Cemetery. By focusing on a specific place, the study illustrates the steps for determining the suitability of any site for natural burial. It is also a testing ground for design—a place to show how an urban natural burial ground might look and function. Because the site is typical of areas being slated for land repurposing in cities throughout the country, the principles applied to the site may be relevant to other, similar sites. In other words, this guide is intended to be not a site-specific study but a set of ideas that will inspire further exploration of urban natural burial. It is also a vision statement, a collection of thoughts on how we might find meaningful ways to honor both the dead and the natural world to which we all return. Above: Mount Auburn Cemetery

Sources: Mount Auburn Cemetery Web site and publications

i n t ro d u c t i o n

1/23


formaldehyde

serve as memorial grounds.

meet legal requirements for burial.

encourage and reveal natural processes.

protect clean water and enrich the soil.

particulates SO2 CO2 mercury

Cost to consumer: averages $1,800

Cremation—the process of incinerating a body—is a less resource intensive choice than conventional burial in that it requires less land and fewer chemicals and materials. Crematories have become more and more clean and efficient over the years as a result of developments in technology and increasingly stringent environmental regulations. Crematories are regulated by the EPA, which requires that most air pollutants be filtered out during the cremation process before being released into the environment and which continually revises these regulations. Even so, cremation still requires large amounts of energy and has several drawbacks. Cremation has potentially harmful environmental impacts, due to the fact that it: • involves fossil-fuel combustion, which uses up nonrenewable natural resources and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. • releases some pollutants, despite improvements in pollutant-filtration technology. These pollutants include sulfur dioxide, which contributes to acid rain; a small amount of fine particulate matter; and trace amounts of mercury, released from silver-amalgam dental fillings.

NATURAL BURIAL

Cost to consumer: $1,000–$4,000

Natural burial is a chemical-free and environmentally friendly form of burial that: • has been practiced for most of human history. • involves placing bodies directly into the ground without embalming preservatives, in biodegradable containers. • is completely legal in almost every state in the United States. • is perfectly safe as long as the burial ground is sited according to laws and regulations. • has a conscious conservation focus. • uses native vegetation in place of turf lawns. • involves shallow burials to make nutrients available to plants. • often includes no grave markers or only natural markers such as flush stones or plants that mark grave sites.

Sources: Mark Harris, Grave Matters, New York: Scribner, 2007; Population Resource Center, 2008 data.

why urban natural burial? why now?

environmental need

population pressure

demand

Rachel Bechhoefer Katharine Ochsner Spring 2009

noxious coatings

cremation

3.5–4 feet

mandate biodegradable burials.

580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138

6 feet

Conway School of Landscape Design 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 (413) 369-4044  •  www.csld.edu

In a conventional burial, the body is embalmed prior to interment in order to delay decomposition. After embalming, the body is placed into a casket and lowered into a six-foot-deep grave lined with a 1.5-ton concrete vault. Conventional burials can be described as environmentally unfriendly by several measures: • Embalming uses formaldehyde, a carcinogen that presents a health hazard to embalmers. • Millions of gallons of formaldehyde are buried annually. Little research has been conducted on the effects of formaldehyde on groundwater quality. • Traditional caskets are often made from tropical hardwoods, which come from distant and threatened forests, or from metals, which do not readily decompose in the soil. • Caskets are often coated with substances containing noxious chemicals. As a result, major casket manufacturers regularly show up on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s biennial list of each state’s top fifty hazardous-waste generators.

Natural burial grounds:

M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry

Cost to consumer: averages $10,000

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

conventional burial

Society must evolve to respond to global environmental challenges. Natural burial is chemical-free and can have a negligible carbon footprint.

A 2004 American Association of Retired Persons online poll asked, “What type of burial do you find most appealing?” Eight percent of respondents chose traditional burial, 18 percent chose cremation, and 70 percent chose natural burial.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population, now at 300 million, is expected to grow to 400 million in the next thirty years. More than three-quarters of Americans live in urban or suburban areas. Cemeteries are already running out of space. New burial grounds are needed in major population centers.

F u n e r a ry P r ac t i c e s : A C o m pa r i s o n

2/23


ZONING: FITTING INTO THE URBAN LANDSCAPE

•

According to a 2009 report issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, residential construction is increasingly turning parking lots, old commercial buildings, and abandoned industrial areas throughout American cities into residential neighborhoods.

In most cities, zoning laws prescribe allowable site uses and regulate setbacks from the street and adjacent properties. For a natural burial ground to be established on a site previously used for another purpose, the site’s owners will need to apply to the local zoning board for permission to use the site as a burial ground. The property may also need a different zoning designation or a variance.

•

The EPA report attributes this trend to an increased civic interest in smart-growth policies, which focus on mixed-use infill development in urban areas and discourage sprawl. With energy and transportation costs rising, the EPA predicts that demand for urban housing will continue to increase.

The study site, which is located in a typical urban matrix of open space, residential neighborhoods, and industrial areas:

Mount Auburn Cemetery

•

An increased demand for natural open space, a growing priority for home buyers since the mid-1990s and a feature that boosts nearby property values by a third or more, is likely to accompany the rise in urban residential construction.

Study Site

concrete plant

empty lot

town dump

recycling yard

recycling yard

dairy farm

auto-body s h o p  /  h o m e

abandoned site

Side

: 25

ft

ge Hi ll R oad

OSC 0'

100'

200'

t

Sources: National Park Service, “Economic Impacts of Rivers, Trails, and Greenways,� 1995; John V. Thomas, “Residential Construction Trends in America’s Metropolitan Regions,� Environmental Protection Agency, January 2009.

C

concrete plant

I-3 0f

study site

2009

:3

water body

B

1980

ar

industrial zone

A

1930

I-3

OSC

Re

residential neighborhood

The past uses of the three parcels that now make up the 5.85-acre Grove Street study site are not unusual for an urban site in an industrial zone. These past uses have resulted in soil contamination and compaction, common problems that need to be addressed if natural open space is to be established.

Not to Scale

Not for construction. This drawing is part of a student project and is not based on a legal survey.

open space

C

PAST & CURRENT SITE USES

id ol Co

Mount Auburn Cemetery

et tre eS ov ft Gr 20 nt:

0.25 mi

B

T

Fro

0

es River

•

is currently zoned I-3, industrial. is abutted by areas zoned T (residential), I-3, and OSC (open space and conservation). will require a zoning variance if it is to become a natural burial ground.

Setbacks, determined by the zoning designation, will determine the limits within which new structures can be built.

A

C h a rl

• •

: 25

e Sid

ft

Filippello Park and Playground

c o n t e x t: s pac e & t i m e

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WATERTOWN

Y

CAMBRIDGE

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

THE CHANGING CHARACTER OF THE URBAN LANDSCAPE

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Fresh Pond Reservoir

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

As demand for natural open space in cities increases, a natural burial ground has the potential to be a desirable neighborhood amenity and a link in urban greenbelts.

NN 3/23


Furthermore, in most states, laws require that any plan for a new burial ground be reviewed and approved by the health board of the local municipal government prior to implementation (in Massachusetts, the law is found in the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 114, Section 34). Laws also govern the use of land within close proximity to water bodies, which means that any natural burial ground would have to comply with existing regulations that safeguard water quality and public health. In Massachusetts, for example, the law states that burial grounds must not discharge water into public water supplies (MGL, Ch. 114, §35), and the Massachusetts Rivers Protection Act restricts site uses within two hundred feet of rivers to protect water bodies from possible contaminants. Burial grounds will thus necessarily be sited outside a buffer zone that surrounds major water bodies. Urban natural burial grounds can, in fact, contribute to the filtration and cleaning of water in cities. Water bodies in cities are more susceptible to pollution by chemicals, oil, sediments, and litter than water bodies in rural areas, due to the fact that much of the ground surface in urban areas is not permeable. Water flows quickly over impermeable surfaces, and pollutants move too fast to settle out of the water. In addition, water running over impermeable surfaces is not filtered by plants. Soil compaction, paved surfaces, and rooftop runoff all contribute to this problem. Natural open space in cities, such as that in a burial ground, can help protect water quality by permitting water to infiltrate and allowing the soil to filter contaminants before they reach water bodies.

PROXIMITY TO WATER Fresh Pond Reservoir, 0.8 miles to the north of the study site and the only public water supply in the area, is at a higher elevation than the study site and is thus not affected by site runoff.

WATERTOWN

CAMBRIDGE

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Study Site

Urban natural burial grounds: •

pose little threat to public health if laws and regulations are obeyed.

•

can play a part in cleaning stormwater and reducing urban runoff by increasing the amount of natural open space in cities.

The Charles River lies 0.3 miles to the south, enough distance that according to the findings at right, burials on the study site would likely pose little to no contamination risk to the river.

study site

Fresh Pond

A es River C h a rl

development

Charles River

development

A'

Conceptual Section (Not to Scale)

A'

Y

0.8 miles

Fresh Pond Reservoir

âž›

A

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

Watertown, MA

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Charles River Watershed

In an urban natural burial ground, water bodies must be protected from health risks presented by decomposing bodies—risks that are much smaller than is commonly assumed. Studies in Great Britain indicate that bodies in cemeteries can seldom be considered disease vectors. Most of the bacteria and viruses in the human body become inert within hours or days of their host’s death. Further studies have shown that even under circumstances in which many bodies are buried at once— and even when they are buried close to the water table—the only major risk to the living comes from drinking untreated well water under or within seventy-five feet of the burial area.

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

protecting water quality, safeguarding public health

NN Sources: Massachusetts General Laws, Memorial Ecosystems conservation burial Web site, Massachusetts Rivers Protection Act.

c o n t e x t : wa t e r s h e d

4/23


infiltration

high point +

+ low point

Infiltration is inhibited in conventional burial grounds in two major ways. First, as cemeteries fill up with concrete vaults, large areas of impermeable surface are created just below grade. Second, backhoes are used to dig graves. When they move over the ground, they cause soil compaction. Heavy machinery is also used to tamp down soil over closed graves to keep it from settling, resulting in further soil compaction. Natural burial grounds, on the other hand, are free of concrete vaults. In addition, the use of backhoes can be reduced or eliminated in natural burial grounds, and the soil mounds that are created when graves are closed can be allowed to settle naturally, keeping the soil aerated and permeable. Finally, as part of a commitment to environmental responsibility, natural burial grounds can compensate for the creation of any new impermeable surfaces, such as parking lots, with vegetated infiltration basins.

runoff

low point +

0'

100'

200'

B'

Filippello Park and Playground

underground drainage

Groundwater & decomposition to Charles River

surface drainage

storm drain

SITE DRAINAGE On the study site, all water passing over the site eventually makes its way to the Charles River, whether as surface runoff, by municipal storm drains that flow directly into the river, or indirectly, through the groundwater. Water flows south across the site and collects in low points before infiltrating into the groundwater. Runoff on Grove Street enters storm drains that flow into the Charles River.

The level of the groundwater fluctuates.

Decomposition requires moisture; however, too much water creates anaerobic conditions and inhibits decomposition. In order to create the best conditions for decomposition—and to reduce any risk of local water contamination—burial should not occur where there is high groundwater. Because the level of the groundwater naturally fluctuates over the year, burials should occur above the seasonal high water table, so that bodies never sit in standing water. In addition, bodies should be buried high enough above the water table that the soil has time to filter potential contaminants from the body. The depth above groundwater will vary with soil type, as the rate of infiltration varies with different soil types.

Stormwater flow, and the amount and rate of groundwater infiltration, should be assessed at the site of any new natural burial ground to protect water quality and determine whether site conditions will support decomposition.

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

B

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Hi e

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Not for construction. This drawing is part of a student project and is not based on a legal survey.

lid

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Natural burial grounds, which provide relatively large areas of uninterrupted natural open space, can permit greater infiltration of stormwater into the ground than conventional burial grounds. This means that natural burial grounds can better reduce urban runoff, which typically contains pollutants and flows into rivers and lakes in large pulses that are often disruptive to the ecological balance of those water bodies.

ov Gr

ll R

oad

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

Infiltration: Slowing & Cleaning Water

retaining wall

commercial building

B

soil mounds

former residence

to Charles River

B S I T E s t u d y : wa t e r

Y

âž›

low point

NN 5/23


lid

A

A

soil type: Udorthents, sandy

•

the types of plants that will grow on the site.

•

the rate of decomposition of organic matter.

•

the volume and rate of water infiltration.

•

whether machinery will be needed to dig graves, or whether they can be dug by hand.

The stripped and compacted state of the soils at the study site is characteristic of the soil conditions at many postindustrial urban sites. To support vegetative growth, a topsoil layer must be added to bare soil. Topsoil can be added through mulching or soil importation. Vegetative growth, once it starts, creates more fertile topsoil. Burial that takes place in rich soil can make it even richer, as the organisms in organic matter promote the decomposition of bodies and make the nutrients released by the process of decomposition available to plants. Compaction is another typical urban soil condition that must be remedied. Compaction reduces the ability of the soil to infiltrate stormwater runoff amd increases the potential for erosion. Compaction also makes digging graves by hand difficult; instead, heavy machinery is needed. Heavy machinery compacts the soil even more, further increasing surface runoff and degrading soil health.

Acidity versus alkalinity Sites that were once used to make concrete, such as the study site, are extremely alkaline, or have a high pH level. Mulching alkaline soils with acidic organic material can help to neutralize the pH of the soil over the long term. Sites with acidic soils, which have a low pH level, promote the decay of calcium-rich bones and are thus more favorable to natural burial. Soils in the northeastern U.S. are commonly neutral or acidic. Native plants, which may be important in a natural burial ground, tend to prefer these conditions.

Filippello Park and Playground 0'

100'

soil type: urban land

200'

SITE SOIL CONDITIONS Udorthents are exposed sandy, moderately to well-drained soils. In these soils, the topsoil has often been removed for the creation of concrete aggregate, road fill, or landfill. The soil that remains is exposed mineral material. Udorthents are susceptible to compaction by vehicles. They often have a history of contamination and may contain areas where the contaminated soil has been replaced by clean fill.

property line

TOPSOIL & DECOMPOSITION exposed mineral substrate

fertile topsoil

Sandy versus clay-based soils

mineral substrate

Sandy, gravelly soils are desirable for a natural burial ground because they increase the rate of decomposition by allowing more oxygen to penetrate the soil. In addition, water drains through them rapidly, so these soils generally do not become saturated, which could create anaerobic conditions and inhibit decomposition. It is also easier to dig in sandy soils than in more clay-based soils, which hold water and are very dense and heavy. On the other hand, sandy soils can be droughty, making it difficult for some plants to survive. Additionally, these soils may have poor fertility, which also inhibits plant growth. Soil amendments may be needed to adjust for these factors.

In bare soils, the nutrients released by a decomposing body are not captured by plants. Soils with organic matter help bodies to decompose and to contribute their nutrients to new plant growth.

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

ll R

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Not for construction. This drawing is part of a student project and is not based on a legal survey.

o Co

The condition of the soil on a potential burial ground is perhaps the most important physical element to consider when conducting a site suitability study. Soil conditions influence:

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oad

Mount Auburn Cemetery

, ac rrim Me am e: y lo et d yp n tre a il t eS so ne s ov fi Gr

soil type: Charlton– urban land– Hollis complex

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

Urban Soils

retaining wall

A

recycling pit

Grove Street

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Udorthent soils, in yellow, dominate the study site. Sand and gravel have been removed from most of the site, carving out the hillside and leaving a retaining wall to support the remaining slope.

Sources: Natural Resources Conservation Service; Bill Lattrell, wetland scientist (verbal interview, May 2009)

Y

Filippello Park Coolidge Hill

âž›

property line

A S I T E s t u dy: s o i l s

NN 6/23


mature forest

100'

200'

Filippello Park and Playground

vegetation

SITE VEGETATION The study site has very little vegetation in the interior because it has been cleared for many years to accommodate human activities, though some groundcover, such as grass and clover, is establishing itself. The eastern and southern edges of the site contain a mix of small, common, aggressive urban trees such as box elder, tree-of-heaven, Norway maple, and honey locust. Along the northwestern and western edges of the property, above the retaining wall, the forest is dominated by Norway maple, with some native trees, including white pine, box elder, quaking aspen, and paper birch, mixed in. The forest understory contains an assortment of weedy plants such as glossy buckthorn, Japanese barberry, Japanese knotweed, and garlic mustard. In general, aggressive early-successional plants do not provide high-quality forage for native birds and animals and are often considered degraded habitat. Outside the property to the east lies the urban forest of Mount Auburn Cemetery, which contains a mix of tall canopy-layer trees, both native and exotic, cultivated specimen trees, and showy plants from around the world. The diversity of both plant species and vegetative layers within the cemetery provides excellent bird habitat; in fact, the cemetery has ben designated an Audubon Important Bird Area. Well over a hundred species have been sighted in the cemetery, and birding has become one of the cemetery’s most popular activities. The study site could potentially extend this bird habitat as a natural burial ground.

bare field soil

woody shrubs

Creating habitat for birds is a priority on small urban sites. It is difficult to create habitat for mammals on such sites because they are usually too small to accommodate all but the smallest and most disturbance-tolerant animals. On the other hand, birds can travel through the air, above the dangers presented by vehicles, and can thus move between patches of habitat easily. In any new urban burial ground, connections between the site and green space in the surrounding context should be enhanced to expand bird habitat. Not only is this good for birds; it also presents an opportunity for people to enjoy wildlife in the city.

TYPICAL AGGRESSIVE PLANTS OF THE URBAN LANDSCAPE Wildlife diversity can be encouraged by managing a site to include areas in different stages of succession, from field to shrubland to forest.

FOREST LAYERS canopy

midstory

ground

glossy buckthorn

Japanese knotweed

garlic mustard

BIRDS FOUND IN THE URBAN FOREST

shrub brown thrasher (ground nester)

Wildlife diversity can be enhanced by including multiple vegetative layers in wooded areas.

downy woodpecker (cavity nester)

red-tailed hawk (canopy nester)

S I T E s t u dy: v e g e tat i o n & h a b i tat

âž›

0'

young forest

Y

t

bird habitat

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

e tre eS

PROCESS OF SUCCESSION

At many urban brownfields, as at the study site, there is often a large amount of bare soil and little to no cover, forage, water, or nesting area for animals. However, as time goes on and plant succession takes place, bare soil will fill in with denser groundcover, then shrubs and young trees, and eventually urban forest. These sites must be intentionally planted and maintained to encourage the growth of beneficial and native species and increase species diversity, which will create good-quality habitat; without such efforts, these areas will be colonized by aggressive, disturbanceadapted species. Good-quality habitat for a diverse array of species can be encouraged by managing a site to include areas in different stages of succession, from field to shrubland to forest. Good-quality habitat can be further enhanced by including multiple vegetative layers in wooded areas.

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Urban natural burial grounds should increase habitat in cities to improve urban ecological health and promote opportunities for human enjoyment of the natural world.

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

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Not for construction. This drawing is part of a student project and is not based on a legal survey.

Mount Auburn Cemetery

SUCCESSION, LAYERS, & DIVERSITY

NN 7/23


e tre eS t

prev a sum iling m bree er zes

0'

100'

200'

LEGEND no shade

Filippello Park and Playground 0'

100'

LEGEND no shade 200'

full shade all day

full shade all day

WINTER SUN & SHADE

Any natural burial ground should have comfortable spaces for people at all times of year. hot summer sun

cool summer shade

cold winter shade

bright winter sun

While burial grounds are generally designed with the growing season in mind, it is important to consider the location of sunny and shaded areas in winter, particularly if the site incorporates winter burials. Winter burials will likely be more appropriate in relatively warm and sunny spots than in cold, shaded areas.

SUMMER SUN & SHADE

WINTER WINDS

In the summer, people will be uncomfortable in hot, open areas. Any potential new burial ground needs sources of shade for human comfort and rest. Such shade-giving elements may be vegetative, structural, or a combination of both.

Winter winds generally come out of the north and northwest and can make a landscape cold and uninviting. In any burial ground plan, windbreaks, either vegetative or structural, should be incorporated to block these cold winds and improve the human experience of the space. Vegetative windbreaks that are narrow should be composed of evergreens; a narrow line of deciduous trees will not effectively block wind.

SUMMER BREEZES Not only is shade needed to provide relief from seasonal heat, but so are cooling summer breezes, which generally come from a southerly direction. When planning a natural burial ground, designers should take care not to block these cooling breezes. Source: Weather information from National Park Service

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Filippello Park and Playground

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Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

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In the winter, the study site receives morning sun, but most of the western half is shaded in the afternoon. This makes the site a warmer, brighter, and more inviting space in the morning and a colder, darker, and less inviting space as the day goes on. The western wall and the tall line of trees growing above the wall block some winter winds, but winds from due north blow across the site.

Rach $ 0 / 8":  4 $ ) 0 0 -  0 '  - " / % 4 $ " 1 &  % & 4 * ( / M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry 580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138 Kath 4PVUI%FFSmFME3PBE_$POXBZ .BTTBDIVTFUUT 4 Rachel Bechhoefer Conway School of Landscape Design  _XXXDTMEFEV Katharine Ochsner 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 Spring 2009 . 0 6 / 5  "(413) 6 #369-4044  6 3 /•  www.csld.edu $ & . & 5 & 3 :  t  .06/5"6#63/453&&5 t  $".#3*

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

sun & shadow patterns: winter

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In the summer, most of the study site is exposed to full sun all day. The site is likely to be dry, hot, and inhospitable. In this region, prevailing summer winds and storms tend to come from the southwest. A stand of trees along the southwest edge of the property may block some of these breezes; however, the open character of the site, combined with the sparseness of the trees along the southern edge, is likely sufficient to allow good air circulation across the site.

Mount Auburn Cemetery ov Gr

Not for construction. These drawings are part of a student project and are not based on a legal survey.

SUN & SHADOW PATTERNS: SUMMER

NN

evergreen windbreak

S I T E s t u dy: m i c ro c l i m at e

8/23


parking lot

6

Grove Street is the primary route from which vehicles may access the site. Views out of the site are blocked by fences, retaining walls, trees, and buildings.

visitors may not feel safe in places that are hidden from sight.

•

these views can highlight important aesthetic features in the landscape and can help the site feel integrated into the neighborhood.

5 Natural burial sites with well-planned circulation:

B

desirable views

vacant lot

undesirable views vehicular use 0'

50'

150'

Filippello Park and Playground

Seating areas give people a place to stop and rest.

•

have clearly marked pedestrian and vehicular access points on main streets.

•

have adequate and easily accessible parking.

•

are accessible to hearses and maintenance vehicles.

•

are ADA accessible.

•

have frequently placed, comfortable seating, particularly for visitors who have trouble walking long distances.

•

provide rich, memorable aesthetic experiences through variety and contrast, passing from low points to high points, from sun into shadow, from field into forest.

Not for construction. This drawing is part of a student project and is not based on a legal survey.

A

The view of Mount Auburn Cemetery, on the other side of Grove Street, is currently blocked by a line of street trees. People enjoy long views.

B

The view looking southeast at a vacant town-owned lot detracts from the site’s character as a place for reflection and contemplation of life processes. Views of the street make a site feel safe and integrated into the neighborhood.

Natural burial sites with well-planned views: •

alternate open views with blocked views to create a sense of excitement and mystery in a landscape.

•

use overlooks and views of the street to visually integrate the site into the surrounding landscape.

•

direct the eye toward important features of the site.

•

block aesthetically unappealing elements such as parking lots and industrial buildings.

•

allow views in from the street to provide a sense of safety.

S I T E s t u dy: c i rc u l at i o n & v i e w s

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Views of Mount Auburn Cemetery enhance the connection between this site and the burial ground across the street.

high point +

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4

the clearer parking entrances and vehicular circulation routes are, the easier it will be for people to use them.

Well-planned views into, out of, and within the site are also important, because:

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3

Traffic on Coolidge Hill Road is primarily residential.

•

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

2

the placement, legibility, and accessibility of pedestrian entrances and footpaths structure visitors’ experience of place.

lid

4

2 Paths on steep slopes need to be designed for universal access.

•

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ad

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Co o

1

3

The view offered from the high point across the site to Filippello Park and Mount Auburn Cemetery could become a key site feature and enhance visitor experience of the site.

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

Well-planned circulation is key to the success of a natural burial ground design because:

SITE CIRCULATION & VIEWS

NN 9/23


ROOT DEPTH OF NATIVE GRASSES & FORBS

Animals are not likely to expend energy digging up graves to find food. Two feet of soil over burials should be enough to eliminate odors.

Natural burial grounds mandate biodegradable burials, serve as memorial grounds, meet legal requirements for burial, encourage and reveal natural processes, and protect clean water and enrich the soil. In meeting these five criteria, urban natural burial grounds can bring positive burial-related, social, and ecological functions to the urban landscape.

feet 2 4 6 8

feet 2 4 6

10 12 14 turf grass

lead plant

side-oats pale purple little grama coneflower bluestem

burial-related COMPONENTS

social COMPONENTS

ecological COMPONENTS

Urban natural burial grounds:

Urban natural burial grounds:

Urban natural burial grounds:

are free of chemicals and potential nonorganic pollutants.

explore alternative forms of burial. They may include areas where cremated remains can be scattered or buried.

highlight seasonal changes and reveal plant-community succession, helping people see and understand processes of transformation in the natural world.

use plants to slow down and clean stormwater and to create porous, aerated soils that allow water to infiltrate into the ground easily.

use plants to stimulate all the senses.

use managed plant succession to create species diversity and a diversity of vegetative layers, which in turn creates habitat for appropriate species.

use disturbance, potentially including fire, as a tool to manage plant succession.

make the nutrients returned to the soil by decomposition available to plants in order to increase soil fertility and support new vegetative growth.

provide spaces for natural burial in winter by creating open graves in the fall before the ground freezes.

create a varied, memorable spatial experience through the placement of paths and vegetation.

may explore reburial in graves where decomposition has long since taken place, which is currently legal for family members who wish to be buried in the same place as another family member (Massachusetts General Laws, Ch. 114, §3a).

highlight views important to visitors’ aesthetic experience and sense of safety.

are recognizable as memorial grounds and are places that future generations will come back to visit.

serve as poetic places in which burial is integrated with the natural processes that take place on the site, places where individual memorialization is less important than the way the site functions as a whole. Natural burial grounds are typically free of grave markers or may use flush stone markers. Global Positioning System coordinates can be used instead to record the location of particular graves.

provide natural open space for people in the city and create new links in existing urban greenbelts.

contain comfortable spaces at all times of year, blocking winter winds and providing shade and cooling breezes in summer.

s i t e s t u dy: f u rt h e r C O N S I D E R AT I O N S

Rachel Bechhoefer Katharine Ochsner Spring 2009

Graves should be hand-dug to prevent soil compaction from backhoes. In addition, the use of fossil-fuel-dependent machinery can be

580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138

the role of Native Plants Unlike regular turf grass, native grasses and other plants have deep root systems that are able to take up the nutrients released through the process of decomposition, thereby increasing soil fertility.

Conway School of Landscape Design 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 (413) 369-4044  •  www.csld.edu

seen as antithetical to the mission of natural burial.

TREE-ROOT DEPTH

Won’t animals dig up graves?

COMPONENTS OF An urban NATURAL BURIAL GROUND

burial depth also encourages more microbial activity and thus faster decomposition than the conventional 6-foot burial depth, which takes place in the mineral substrate, where there is little organic activity.

M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry

SHALLOW BURIAL Conventional burials are 6 feet deep. Shallow burials, at 3.5 to 4 feet, encourage plant roots to contribute to decomposition and allow plants to take up nutrients from bodies as they decay. If bodies are buried close to the organically active layers of soil, which are located near the surface, they will decompose faster and make nutrients available to plants more readily. A 3.5- to 4-foot

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

proposed natural burial method

Well-planned burial practices, peoplefriendly spaces, and environmental responsibility are all integral to the design of a natural burial ground.

10/23


Forest & Fire Reflection Healing Garden River Patterns

FIRE

AIR

earth

A

ccordi n g to conventional Western concepts of death, bodies pass away, but individual souls continue to exist somewhere beyond the mortal realm, unchanged for eternity. The traditional cemetery reveals the influence of this belief in many ways—for example, through the use of stone, a seemingly permanent material, to mark graves. Many features of modern burial, such as embalming and the use of sealed, airtight caskets, also reveal the influence of this cultural attitude. Conventional ideas about death may also contribute to a cultural assumption that humans are somehow set apart from, and superior to, the physical world, a belief that does not always inspire care for the environment. From another perspective, one that may be more compatible with environmental stewardship, death might be seen as a natural process of transformation that is fundamental to life. All living things fade and eventually give themselves back to the soil. The conceptual designs shown here—illustrations of potential urban natural burial grounds—explore this alternative understanding of death. These burial grounds reveal the natural processes of life and foster an awareness of the human place in the physical world. Drawing inspiration from plant communities, successional patterns of change, and principles of environmental stewardship, they remind us that all life is transitory and interconnected. People who choose a natural burial for themselves or their loved ones may find comfort in the knowledge that every life is part of larger, ongoing pro-

WATER

cesses, and that every body eventually returns to the earth and becomes a part of greater biological cycles.

Four Seasons, Four Elements Seasonal changes remind us that change is natural and necessary. Leaves die in the autumn, but when they fall to the ground, they enrich the soil. Spring brings new growth and is a reminder of the fact that death is necessary to support life. The cycle of the four seasons has helped inspire the designs shown here. Each design accentuates seasonal changes but is identified with a particular season in which the design is at its peak. The elements of earth, air, fire, and water— which reference different aspects of the natural world and encompass diverse ecological processes—have also provided inspiration. Each design is identified with a particular element and, by extension, particular natural features and processes that correspond with that element.

stages of growth All of the designs on this page represent the mature stage of two to three planned phases of growth and development. Burial practices correspond with each stage

Rachel Bechhoefer Katharine Ochsner Spring 2009

Disturbance as a management tool

Management for succession

Habitat for appropriate species

Topsoil and soil-fertility restoration

Filtration and cleansing of water

Clear sightlines for safety

Shelter

Multisensory experience

Sense of place

Gateway entrance experience

Vehicle access, circulation, and parking

Pedestrian access, circulation, seating

Reburial

Burials that contribute to soil fertility

Burials containing pollutants

Winter burials

Grave markers

Conventional (Mount Auburn Cemetery)

580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138

summer

Conway School of Landscape Design 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 (413) 369-4044  •  www.csld.edu

spring

ecological components

M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry

winter

S ocial components

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

fall

River Patterns

Healing Garden

Reflection

Places for cremated remains

Forest & Fire

Comparison: Conventional Versus Natural Burial Sites

Above-grade mound burials

B U R I A L - R E L AT E D COMPONENTS

of growth, changing as plant communities change over time. Plant communities in areas of each site are encouraged to undergo succession so that these areas transform from field or meadow into forest. The stages of growth and development also function as a method for restoring a barren urban site into an ecologically vibrant landscape, through the building of soil fertility over time as well as through the cultivation of diverse plant communities.

Stage 1: Establishment • Build topsoil to support future planting • Establish suitable burial conditions Stage 2: Transition • Increase vegetative cover • Manage as an active burial ground Stage 2/3: Mature Growth • Develop a mix of vegetative communities • Continue to manage as an active burial ground • Consider the possibility of practicing reburial

d e s i g n : i n t ro d u c t i o n

11/23


fields against a tree line

oak woodland

controlled burn

fall colors, field and forest

bowl of fire

W

h e n h u ma n s aba n do n a fi e ld or a meadow, shrubs and trees begin to fill in the open areas. In time, the field or meadow will become a forest. This design draws on the process of temperate-forest succession. By making the process of succession visible, this design highlights the fact that the natural world is dynamic—that processes of transformation are an essential part of life.

field

The first stage in this design process involves seeding the earth with diverse grasses and flowering plants so that the site becomes a field. In several areas of the site, field vegetative communities are encouraged to grow up with woody shrubs and trees. Some of these woody areas are encouraged to mature further and become deciduous forest. One special part of the site is managed to become an old-growth grove of oak trees, a place of refuge and contemplation. The lifetime of a mature oak is many times that of a human. Ancient trees suggest a time long before we existed and remind us that life will continue long after we are gone—facts that may bring comfort to the bereaved. Burial responds to transition in plant communities, taking place more densely in fields and less so as areas fill in with shrub and forest layers.

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

funeral pyre, gathering

fire

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Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

fall

Fire also has ancient associations with funerary practices, from the burning of bodies on funeral pyres in the past to the contemporary practice of cremation. The notion that we are “ashes to ashes� is a powerful one, one that gives a dramatic and symbolic character to this natural burial ground.

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shrubland oak woodland old-growth oak woodland

Photos: Internet sources

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In addition, fire is used as a management tool. Fire promotes the regrowth of many species, aids in seed dispersal, and returns nutrients locked up in vegetative matter to the soil, enriching the biological community in the process. Grassland communities, in particular, contain many species that respond favorably to this type of disturbance. In this design, controlled burns take place every three to four years in the portions of the site that are to remain field. These burns prevent shrubby plants and trees from moving in.

NN

Mature Growth

forest & fire: components

12/23


burials

fire circle

• • • • • •

Transition shrubland field

oak woodland

shrubland oak woodland

fire circle

mature growth young oak woodland

Continue burial in field Bury sparsely in shrubby and forested areas Continue scheduled burning of field Abandon areas of field for succession into shrubland Allow existing shrubland to become oak woodland Allow central area of oak woodland to develop into oldgrowth forest

burials

shrubland

• • • •

field

Consider burial in fields and consider reburial Bury sparsely in shrubby and forested areas Continue scheduled burning of field Maintain the diverse successional communities that have been created

Y

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field

field

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

fire circle

Rach $ 0 / 8":  4 $ ) 0 0 -  0 '  - " / % 4 $ " 1 &  % & 4 * ( / M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry 580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138 Kath 4PVUI%FFSmFME3PBE_$POXBZ .BTTBDIVTFUUT 4 Rachel Bechhoefer Conway School of Landscape Design  _XXXDTMEFEV Katharine Ochsner 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 Spring 2009 . 0 6 / 5  "(413) 6 #369-4044  6 3 /•  www.csld.edu $ & . & 5 & 3 :  t  .06/5"6#63/453&&5 t  $".#3*

field

Seed fields Prescribe burns to increase soil fertility Begin burial in field Abandon designated areas of field to allow succession into shrubland and oak woodland

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

• • • •

establishment

small tree-shrub layer young oak woodland

mature oak woodland

mature oak woodland

fire circle

small tree-shrub layer

burials

field

forest & fire: design

NN 13/23


Switchgrass

Panicum virgatum

grass

Bitter panicgrass

Panicum amarum

grass

Virginia wild rye

Elymus virginicus

grass

Blue wild rye

Elymus glaucus

grass, color

Broom sedge

Andropogon virginicus

grass

Side-oats grama

Bouteloua curtipendula

grass

Goldenrods

Solidago spp.

herb, early successional, summer flowers

Red clover

Trifolium pratense

herb, nitrogen fixer, insectary

False indigo

Baptisia australis

shrub, nitrogen fixer, insectary

Yarrow

Achillea millefolium

herb, early successional, spring summer flowers

Bush clover

Lespedeza capitata

shrub, nitrogen fixer, insectary

Transitional old field/

Flowering dogwood

Cornus florida

small tree, spring flowers

shrubland

Pagoda dogwood

Cornus alternifolia

small tree, spring flowers

Pin cherry

Prunus pensylvanica

small tree, fruit

American hazelnut

Corylus americana

canopy tree

Witch hazel

Hamamelis virginiana

shrub, fall flowers/color

Scarlet oak

Quercus coccinea

canopy tree

Chinkapin oak

Quercus ellipsoidallis

canopy tree

Bur oak

Quercus macrocarpa

canopy tree

Shagbark hickory

Carya ovata

canopy tree

Ironwood

Ostrya virginiana

understory tree

Green ash

Fraxinus pensylvanica

understory tree

Paper birch

Betula papyrifera

understory tree

Appalachian sedge

Carex appalachica

groundcover

Pennsylvania sedge

Carex pensylvanica

groundcover

FIELD Field plant communities are 60 to 80 percent grasses, dominated by four to six species. Grasses have deep root systems that build topsoil, often found growing side-by-side with nitrogen-fixing flowering plants, which also provide seasonal color. Early-successional plants such as yarrow and goldenrod, and nitrogen fixers like clovers, thrive in open sites with degraded soils and build soil. Grasses and flowers are adapted to tolerate periodic burning. Transitional Old Field / shrubland hedgerow along the field edge.

In this design, small trees and shrubs create a six- to twelve-foot-tall

Photos: Internet sources

Oak Woodland The oak woodland contains several species of oak in the canopy layer, while shade-tolerant trees and low-growing sedges dominate the understory.

Woodland

Left to right: flowering dogwood (Cornus florida); field of little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium); scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea)

materials granite

brick

weathering steel

Rachel Bechhoefer Katharine Ochsner Spring 2009

grass, fall/winter color

580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138

Schizachyrium scoparium

Conway School of Landscape Design 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 (413) 369-4044  •  www.csld.edu

Structure/Purpose

M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry

Botanical Name

Little bluestem

Common Name Field/Meadow

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

plants

The plants in this list are representative of the key species in each plant community shown above. Species in boldface should be dominant in the planting plan.

f o r e s t & f i r e : p l a n t s , m at e r i a l s

14/23


fern patch

Cemetery to the Unknown, Japan

cracked glass

T

h e forms a n d mat e rials used in this design reflect the site’s connection with the urban forms that currently surround it—such as the grid of urban streets and the straight architectural lines of modern buildings—as well as the past industrial uses of the site. Hard lines and sharp points, patterns that recall shattered glass or shards of ice, have an edge of devastation that might reflect the grief associated with death. At the same time, vertical elements in the landscape draw the eye upward, toward the sky, while reflecting pools draw the eye downward and turn the mind inward.

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

Bordeaux Botanical Gardens, France (Kathryn Gustafson)

Salk Institute, CA (Louis Kahn)

Rach $ 0 / 8":  4 $ ) 0 0 -  0 '  - " / % 4 $ " 1 &  % & 4 * ( / M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry 580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138 Kath 4PVUI%FFSmFME3PBE_$POXBZ .BTTBDIVTFUUT 4 Rachel Bechhoefer Conway School of Landscape Design  _XXXDTMEFEV Katharine Ochsner 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 Spring 2009 . 0 6 / 5  "(413) 6 #369-4044  6 3 /•  www.csld.edu $ & . & 5 & 3 :  t  .06/5"6#63/453&&5 t  $".#3*

Sky Pesher (James Turrell)

air

YZ

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

winter

The red-pine stands are managed to produce timber. This act of urban forestry represents an investment in future generations. The trees become a resource to be harvested and a kind of gift from those who have come before. Each red pine is originally planted to mark a burial, but the patches of pine are periodically thinned out as saplings grow larger. This management strategy eventually creates stands of healthy, mature trees. Throughout this process, there is a recognition of the individual’s contribution to the larger community—the body of the individual becomes a necessary element in a process of transformation that transcends its parts and supports the good of the whole.

Y

pine stand blueberry patch

NN

Mature Growth

Photos: Internet sources

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The harsh lines in this landscape are softened by patches of vegetation that create a sense of quiet and stillness. Stands of tall, straight red pine create strong vertical lines, while below, pine needles blanket the ground plane. These pine-needle beds are surrounded by patches of low-bush blueberry and scattered fern drifts. The soft textures of the vegetation, combined with the strong sense of shelter provided by the red-pine canopy, suffuse the site with a hushed calm. In the winter, certain areas are left open with pre-dug graves so that burials may take place even when the ground is frozen.

reflection: components

15/23


funeral structure

Sheet-mulch to build acidity, fertility Establish fern groundcover

fern patch

fern patch

reflecting pool

fern patch

• •

Transition

funeral structure

•

Begin burial Plant pines as burial markers and thin as necessary as trees grow Establish patches of low-bush blueberry

fern patch

burials

mature growth

pine seedlings blueberry patch

low-bush blueberry fields

red pine seedlings

• • •

Manage pine stands for timber Harvest blueberries Continue burial in blueberry and fern patches and consider reburial

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

• •

Rach $ 0 / 8":  4 $ ) 0 0 -  0 '  - " / % 4 $ " 1 &  % & 4 * ( / M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry 580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138 Kath 4PVUI%FFSmFME3PBE_$POXBZ .BTTBDIVTFUUT 4 Rachel Bechhoefer Conway School of Landscape Design  _XXXDTMEFEV Katharine Ochsner 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 Spring 2009 . 0 6 / 5  "(413) 6 #369-4044  6 3 /•  www.csld.edu $ & . & 5 & 3 :  t  .06/5"6#63/453&&5 t  $".#3*

establishment

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

reflecting pool

reflecting pool

funeral structure

Y

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fern patch

pine stand blueberry patch

mature red pine stand

low-bush blueberry fields

reflection: design

NN 16/23


Photos: Internet sources

Pine forest Red pine is a useful commercial timber tree. The pines are planted densely over burials and the stand is managed, by thinning, to support the growth of the best timber trees. Ferns and low-growing ephemeral woodland wildflowers blanket the ground under the pines.

Pine forest

Structure/Purpose

Dennstaedtia punctilobula

groundcover

Trailing Arbutus

Epigaea repens

herb, spring flowers

Bloodroot

Sanguinaria canadensis

herb, spring flowers

Low-bush blueberry

Vaccinium angustifolium

shrub, edible fruit, fall color

Heather

Calluna vulgaris

shrub, late summer flowers

Bearberry

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

shrub, fruit

Red pine

Pinus rubra

canopy tree, timber

Christmas fern

Polystichum acrostichoides

groundcover, evergreen

New York fern

Thelypteris noveboracensis

groundcover

Jack-in-the-pulpit

Arisaema triphyllum

herb, spring flowers

Bluebead lily

Clintonia borealis

herb, spring flowers

Trout lily

Erythronium americanum

herb, spring flowers

White trillium

Trillium grandiflorum

herb, spring flowers

Red trillium

Trillium erectum

herb, spring flowers

The plants in this list are representative of the key species in each plant community shown above. Species in boldface should be dominant in the planting plan.

Rachel Bechhoefer Katharine Ochsner Spring 2009

Heath Association Fields of low-bush blueberry are planted with heather and bearberry to create dense one- to two-foot mats of vegetation. Heather blooms in late summer, while low-bush blueberry fruits in late summer and turns bright red in autumn.

Heath association

Botanical Name

580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138

Fern association Ferns, with scattered mayflower and bloodroot, which blooms in early spring, blanket the ground and build fertile and acidic topsoil.

Hay-scented fern

Conway School of Landscape Design 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 (413) 369-4044  •  www.csld.edu

The plants in this design are adapted to acidic soils and maintain the soil’s acidity over time. An initial period of mulching with pine needles creates acidic soils, which speed decomposition of bones.

Common Name

M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry

Fern association

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

Plants

Left to right: red pine (Pinus rubra) in winter; low-bush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) in autumn; low-bush blueberry among pines

materials concrete pavers

glass

steel

concrete

r e f l e c t i o n : p l a n t s , m at e r i a l s

17/23


drifting meadow patterns

mown meadow labyrinth

Spruce Knoll, Mount Auburn Cemetery (Julie Messervy)

formal herb garden

gathering area shrub / small tree border meadow

Many of the volunteer gardeners could, potentially, be recovering patients from Mount Auburn Hospital. These patients—who might be participants in a program developed jointly between Mount Auburn Cemetery and the hospital, less than a mile away—would enjoy the satisfaction of working with plants and have the pleasure of being immersed in a landscape full of color, textural variety, and the scent of blooming flowers, things that may speed the healing process. Volunteer gardeners would harvest the herbs and plants when they were ready to be used medicinally. Other volunteer gardeners might be mourners, who could take comfort in the act of tending. greenhouse

Mature Growth

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Mount Auburn Cemetery’s history as an arboretum has helped inspire this design. The cemetery’s rich collection of tree and plant species has made it almost as famous for its horticultural program as for its history as a cemetery. Many volunteers and groundskeepers are needed to maintain the arboretum. In this design, as in Mount Auburn Cemetery, community volunteers are central to the maintenance of the garden, both in the healing-garden spiral and, especially in winter, in a propagation greenhouse on the site.

herb beds

Photos: Internet sources

e n di n g a gard e n can be soothing and healing. A healing garden is full of medicinal and edible herbs, colorful plants, aromatic and edible leaves and fruits, and many other plants that can bring people pleasure, comfort, and nourishment. Healing gardens are stimulating to all the senses and can make people feel the joy of being alive. In this design, a healing garden looks out over the site’s burial spaces: a central meadow and a woodland edge filled with flowering trees. The planting beds in the healing garden are devoted to individual plant species that provide masses of color, pleasant scents, and medicinal benefits. The paths that wind through the healing garden put plants within easy reach of visitors and gardeners. In addition, the spiraling path shapes draw on the design of traditional meditation labyrinths. People have long used this circular pattern, which may evoke a sense of journey, to enter meditative or contemplative states of mind. Finally, as part of the site’s mission to honor the dead, mourners may choose to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in the planting beds so that the nutrients in the cremated remains, such as calcium and phosphorus, can contribute to the growth of the flowers and herbs. Throughout the site, there is something in bloom, blazing with color, throughout the growing season, giving the landscape a sense of joy and hope.

Y

overlook

T

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

fields of color

Rach $ 0 / 8":  4 $ ) 0 0 -  0 '  - " / % 4 $ " 1 &  % & 4 * ( / M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry 580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138 Kath 4PVUI%FFSmFME3PBE_$POXBZ .BTTBDIVTFUUT 4 Rachel Bechhoefer Conway School of Landscape Design  _XXXDTMEFEV Katharine Ochsner 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 Spring 2009 . 0 6 / 5  "(413) 6 #369-4044  6 3 /•  www.csld.edu $ & . & 5 & 3 :  t  .06/5"6#63/453&&5 t  $".#3*

earth

YZ

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

spring

NN healing garden: components

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overlook

gathering area

gathering area

overlook

greenhouse

mature growth

woodland orchard

gathering area • • •

herb beds herb beds

greenhouse

Plant and maintain woodland orchard Continue to tend herb gardens Continue burial in meadow and consider reburial

meadow

herb beds

herb beds

burials meadow

burials meadow

healing garden: design

Rach $ 0 / 8":  4 $ ) 0 0 -  0 '  - " / % 4 $ " 1 &  % & 4 * ( / M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry 580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138 Kath 4PVUI%FFSmFME3PBE_$POXBZ .BTTBDIVTFUUT 4 Rachel Bechhoefer Conway School of Landscape Design  _XXXDTMEFEV Katharine Ochsner 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 Spring 2009 . 0 6 / 5  "(413) 6 #369-4044  6 3 /•  www.csld.edu $ & . & 5 & 3 :  t  .06/5"6#63/453&&5 t  $".#3*

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

Establish seedlings, meadow Begin greenhouse propagation Tend herb gardens Scatter ashes in gardens Begin burial in meadows

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meadow

• • • • •

Y

gathering area

establishment

NN

19/23


herb, spring/summer flowers

red

Lupine

Lupinus perennis

herb, summer flowers

blue

Beebalm

Monarda didyma

herb, summer flowers

red

Black-eyed Susan

Rudbeckia sp.

herb, summer flowers

yellow

Joe-Pye weed

Eupatorium purpureum

herb, summer flowers

pink-purple orange

Asclepias tuberosa

herb, summer flowers

Anemone

Anemone canadensis

herb, spring/summer flowers

white

Maximillian sunflower

Helianthus maximilianii

herb, summer flowers

yellow

Balloon flower

Platycodon grandiflorus

herb, summer/fall flowers

blue

Pale purple coneflower

Echinacea pallida

herb, summer/fall flowers

purple

Little bluestem

Schizachyrium scoparium

grass, fall color

Purple lovegrass

Eragrostis spectabilis

grass, fall color

Purple coneflower

Echinacea purpurea

herb, flowers, medicinal

purple

Coneflower

Echinacea spp.

herb, medicinal

white-pink-peach

Lavender

Lavandula spp.

herb, scented, medicinal

purple

Fennel

Foeniculum vulgare

herb, scented, edible

white

Anise hyssop

Spiral garden Sun

Left to right: eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis); lavender (Lavandula sp.); coneflower (Echinacea sp.)

Shade

materials willow fencing

Woodland orchard

Agastache foeniculum

herb, scented, edible

purple

Rosemary

Rosemarius officianalis

herb, scented, edible

purple

Thyme

Thymus vulgaris

heb, scented, edible

pink

Oregano

Origanum vulgare

herb, scented, edible

purple

Sunchoke

Helianthus tuberosus

herb, edible root

yellow

Lemon balm

Melissa officinalis

herb, scented, edible

pale purple

Mints

Mentha spp.

herb, scented, edible

pale purple

Sweetcicely

Osmorhiza berteroi

herb, scented, insectary

white

Strawberry

Fragaria spp.

herb, edible fruit

white

Goldthread

Coptis trifolia

herb, medicinal

white

Wild ginger

Asarum canadense

herb, medicinal

brown

Pippsissewa

Chimaphila umbellata

herb, medicinal

white

American ginseng

Panax quinquefolius

herb, medicinal

green-white

Goldenseal

Hydrastis canadensis

herb, medicinal

white

Apple

Malus pumila

small tree, flowers, edible fruit

white

Peach

Prunus persica

small tree, flowers, edible fruit

white

Asian pear

Pyrus bretschneideris

small tree, flowers, edible fruit

white

Flowering dogwood

Cornus florida

small tree, spring flowers

white

Eastern redbud

Cercis canadensis

small tree, spring flowers

red-pink

Eastern red cedar

Juniperus virginiana

tree, evergreen

evergreen

Mountain laurel

Kalmia latifolia

shrub, spring flowers

white-pink

Juneberry

Amelanchier alnifolia

shrub, edible berries

white

Butterflybush

Buddleia spp.

shrub, summer flowers

purple-pink-white

Sweetspire

Itea virginica

shrub, spring flowers

white

Chaenomeles speciosa

shrub, spring flowers

peach-pink

Flowering quince

h e a l i n g g a r d e n : p l a n t s , m at e r i a l s

Rachel Bechhoefer Katharine Ochsner Spring 2009

Trifolium pratense

Butterfly weed

Woodland Orchard Fruit trees and flowering shrubs, set against an evergreen backdrop, create a colorful border that screens the road and parking areas.

Left and middle: Internet sources; right: RB

Red clover

580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138

Meadow The majority of the site is a colorful wildflower meadow, with drifts of color that change from day to day and over the course of a season. The meadow community is dominated by wildflowers, with ornamental grasses interspersed.

flagstone

Flower Color

Conway School of Landscape Design 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 (413) 369-4044  •  www.csld.edu

Spiral Garden The formal spiral garden is full of culinary and medicinal herbs that are edible and aromatic. Solitary fruit trees provide shade for people and shade-loving medicinal herbs.

Ashfield stone

Structure/Purpose

M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry

Meadow

t

Botanical Name

Common Name

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

plants

20/23


upland forest riparian forest riverbed

Photos: Internet sources

footbridge

R

iv e rs ar e lif e - givi n g . They carry water through dry places and create fertile soils along their banks. The receding waters of a flooded river can be a reminder of natural processes of renewal and cleansing. This design acknowledges and builds on the original brownfield character of the project site—a barren, abandoned urban lot with exposed and degraded soils—and uses the model of a flowing river to structure the process of soil restoration. Fertile soil is established slowly, over time, as clippings, yard waste, and surplus soil from Mount Auburn Cemetery are scattered along the banks of a constructed riverbed. Water will drain into this dry riverbed filled with stones and, like a natural intermittent stream, the riverbed will slow down the water and allow it to infiltrate. As the original strip of fertile soil along the riverbed fills in with clovers and other nitrogen-fixing plants that increase soil fertility, the compost is spread outward, toward the western and eastern edges of the site, to create a gentle slope that directs water toward the riverbed. Through a managed process of succession, the area on either side of the riverbed grows up with riparian tree species such as sycamore and willow. As groundcover becomes established farther upslope, an upland forest community takes root. Not only does this process reveal succession, but it also reveals the way in which plant communities correspond with the flow of water in the landscape. In addition, this design evokes a geologic scale of time through the presence of glacial erratics in the landscape and plant forms that resemble those of ancient species. The erratics may suggest the glaciers that carved this landscape as they retreated millions of years ago and may remind visitors of how ephemeral human lives appear when placed in the context of geologic time. The presence of glacial erratics also suggests the way that the site’s glacial history created the soils that made this place a good location for a concrete factory.

Mature Growth

riparian corridor

Like the retreat of the glaciers, the soil-building process proposed here may happen over several lifetimes. It would take a new period of glaciation to truly re-create the soils that once existed on this site, but it is possible to restore topsoil and fertility within a more human-scale time frame through the patient and persistent application of vegetative matter and the products of organic decomposition, and through the cultivation of healthy vegetative communities that provide habitat for the beneficial fungi and microorganisms that live in the soil and make nutrients available to plants.

Aboveground mound burials provide visible signs that an otherwise natural-looking landscape is a burial site. Mounds can also be used to build topsoil. In addition, mound burial can be used in place of digging when compacted or contaminated soils are present. In this design, mound burials occur throughout the site and contribute to the process of soil restoration when they are spread locally, after decomposition has taken place.

r i v e r pat t e r n s : c o m p o n e n t s

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groundcover

Urban Outfitters, Philadelphia Navy Yard (Julie Bargmann)

Y

intermittent streambed

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

glacial erratic

water

Rach $ 0 / 8":  4 $ ) 0 0 -  0 '  - " / % 4 $ " 1 &  % & 4 * ( / M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry 580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138 Kath 4PVUI%FFSmFME3PBE_$POXBZ .BTTBDIVTFUUT 4 Rachel Bechhoefer Conway School of Landscape Design  _XXXDTMEFEV Katharine Ochsner 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 Spring 2009 . 0 6 / 5  "(413) 6 #369-4044  6 3 /•  www.csld.edu $ & . & 5 & 3 :  t  .06/5"6#63/453&&5 t  $".#3*

river of green

YZ

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

summer

NN 21/23


riverbed

• • • •

groundcover riparian forest riverbed

riverbed

large boulders

groundcover

Transition

young sycamore

Build soils along riverbed Seed groundcover along riverbed

riparian forest

burials

Spread groundcover outward Encourage riparian forest to grow up along riverbed Begin ground burial alongside riparian forest Begin mound burial

groundcover

large boulders

upland forest

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Extend groundcover throughout entire site Encourage upland forest to grow up alongside mature riparian forest Continue burial in areas with groundcover and, more sparsely, in wooded areas

Y

groundcover upland forest riparian forest riverbed

• • •

mature growth

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

• •

Rach $ 0 / 8":  4 $ ) 0 0 -  0 '  - " / % 4 $ " 1 &  % & 4 * ( / M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry 580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138 Kath 4PVUI%FFSmFME3PBE_$POXBZ .BTTBDIVTFUUT 4 Rachel Bechhoefer Conway School of Landscape Design  _XXXDTMEFEV Katharine Ochsner 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 Spring 2009 . 0 6 / 5  "(413) 6 #369-4044  6 3 /•  www.csld.edu $ & . & 5 & 3 :  t  .06/5"6#63/453&&5 t  $".#3*

establishment

Na t u ra l Bu r i a l Fe a s i b i l

bare soil groundcover riverbed

mature sycamore riverbed

riparian forest

burials

groundcover

large boulders

r i v e r pat t e r n s : d e s i g n

NN 22/23


Left: RB; middle & right: Internet sources

Riparian Forest

Upland Forest

Left to right: field horsetail (Equisetum arvense); staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) in autumn; sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

groundcover

Hay-scented fern

Dennstaedtia punctilobula

groundcover

Red clover

Trifolium pratense

groundcover, nitrogen fixer

Prostrate birdsfoot trefoil

Lotus corniculatus

groundcover, nitrogen fixer

Groundnut

Apios americana

groundcover, nitrogen fixer

Leadplant

Amorpha canescens

groundcover, nitrogen fixer

Beach pea

Lathyrus japonicus

groundcover, nitrogen fixer

Sycamore

Platanus occidentalis

canopy tree, bark

Smooth sumac

Rhus glabra

small tree, flowers, fall color

Staghorn sumac

Rhus typhina

small tree, flowers, fall color

Willow

Salix spp.

small tree/shrub

Riverbank grape

Vitis riparia

vine, edible fruit

Black cherry

Prunus serotina

tree, fruit

Green ash

Fraxinus pennsylvanica

canopy tree, fall color

White ash

Fraxinus americana

canopy tree, fall color

Willow

Salix spp.

small tree/shrub

Pin cherry

Prunus pensylvanica

small tree, fruit

Chokecherry

Prunus virginiana

shrub, fruit

Winterberry

Ilex verticillata

shrub, winter color

Witch hazel

Hamamelis virginiana

fall flower/ color

Rachel Bechhoefer Katharine Ochsner Spring 2009

Upland Forest Canopy trees are planted to become mature shade trees. Islands of upland species are planted with the intention that they will eventually spread across the whole area.

Equisetum arvense

580 Mount Auburn Street  • Cambridge, MA 02138

Riparian Forest Mature sycamores dominate a riparian woodland with sumac, other small trees, and vines along the riverbank.

Structure/Purpose

Conway School of Landscape Design 332 South Deerfield Road  •  Conway, Massachusetts 01341 (413) 369-4044  •  www.csld.edu

Groundcovers Nitrogen-fixing plants along the river corridor build nitrogen and fertile topsoil. Low-growing plants (six to twelve inches high) maintain the open, barren character of an abandoned site. Plants with prehistoric forms, such as horsetail and ferns, may recall the ancient past.

Field horsetail

Botanical Name

M o u n t Au b u r n C e m e t e ry

Groundcovers

Common Name

Urban Ground: An Urban Natural Burial Guide & Site Suitability Study

plants

The plants in this list are representative of the key species in each plant community shown above. Species in boldface should be dominant in the planting plan.

materials pea gravel

river rock

wood

r i v e r pat t e r n s : p l a n t s , m at e r i a l s

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I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles. —from Song of Myself, Walt Whitman

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Candace Currie, director of planning and cemetery development at Mount Auburn Cemetery. Special thanks to David Barnett, president and CEO of Mount Auburn Cemetery. Thank you to the Board of Trustees of Mount Auburn Cemetery. A special thank-you to Carol Coan, for providing information, advice, and valuable feedback.


Mount Auburn Cemetery Natural Burial Guide