That place in the forest Generating a natural burial ground
CornĂŠ Marien Strootman
JCM 348 Master Thesis - 30 ECTS Faculty of Science - Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management
Supervisor - Rikke Munck Petersen Co-supervisor - Henriette Steiner August 2016
That place in the forest Generating a natural burial ground
CornĂŠ Marien Strootman
JCM 348 Master Thesis - 30 ECTS Faculty of Science - Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management
Supervisor - Rikke Munck Petersen Co-supervisor - Henriette Steiner August 2016
Abstract The Dutch municipality of Epe is planning to build a natural burial ground. The aim of the municipal planners is to provide the inhabitants of Epe with a burial ground possessing a certain atmosphere, different from the current cemeteries. What this atmosphere consists of, however, is currently unclear. The municipal planners have intuitively selected a site for the project on the edge of the largest nature preserve of the country, based on the atmosphere of the location. However, they have not articulated this atmosphere or indicated the goals the expect to achieve by working with it in any official documents. It is the aim of this thesis to articulate the unarticulated goals and intuitive notions of the municipality of Epe. This is done by considering what distinguishes a natural burial ground from any other type of burial ground and analyzing the atmosphere of the site as well as the processes that form this atmosphere. The result is a design proposal for a natural burial ground that resonates with these unarticulated goals and intuitive notions of the municipality. The thesis notes that visitors could no longer relate to traditional cemeteries and natural burial grounds can be seens as an attempt to provide an alternative. Gernot BĂśhmeâ€™s concept of atmosphere is proposed as the central concept in a framework to regain the relationship between the visitor and the burial site. A filmic analysis shows that heathland located on the site is key for the formation of the siteâ€™s atmosphere. This heathland is currently disappearing as the human processes the commonly maintained this landscape have fallen out of use. These notions results in a dynamic design proposal that introduces natural burial as a new human process to maintain heath. It attempts to find a balance between the impact of the proposal on the perception of the visitor and the impact on the development of the processes of the site.
Context; Setting a framework
Municipal aims and activist scepticism Natural burial grounds opposed to the traditional (Victorian) cemetery Filmic exploration: Ă–stra Kyrkegard A natural burial ground as a process Loss of nearness Filmic exploration: Farum SkovkirkegĂĽrd Theory of new aesthetics Atmosphere Atmosphere as polyphonic perception
About the site
The atmosphere of the site Processes
Generating a burial ground Generating atmosphere Staging surfaces Leaving a positive footprint
Marking the grave
10 13 15 22 26 28 34 36 38
66 68 70
The unheimlich The gravesite as a beacon Points of reconsideration
96 98 116
Reflecting on the project Reflecting on my work References
118 120 122
“An experience has a unity that gives it its name, that meal, that storm, that repture of friendship. The existence of this unity is constituted by a single quality that pervades the entire experience in spite of the variation of its constituent parts. ” (Dewey 1987, p. 74). “The term atmosphere has its origin in the meteorological field and refers to the earth’s envelope of air which carries the weather. It is only since the 18th century that it has been used metaphorically, for moods which are “in the air”, for the emotional tinge of a space. Today this expression is commonly used in all European languages; no longer it seems artificial and is hardly even regarded as a metaphor.” (Böhme 2013a, p. 2)
Introduction The municipality of Epe, a municipality in the east of the Netherlands, (Fig. 1) is planning to build a natural burial ground. This type of burial site, in which the dead are buried in (often protected) natural areas, is becoming increasingly popular in the Netherlands (Janssen 2016). The ambition of Epe to built such a burial ground makes sense, considering that the municipality is located just east of the biggest nature preserve of the Netherlands, the Veluwe. In e-mail correspondence with the municipality’s planning department it became clear that the reason for building a natural burial ground is the increased demand for this type of burial ground among the inhabitants of Epe. They see the difference in atmosphere between a natural burial ground and a traditional cemetery as the main reason for this increase in demand. And they feel responsible, as a municipality, to accommodate the funerary demands of the inhabitants of Epe. A personal conversation with one of their planners indicated that they understood atmosphere as something that influences the way you feel. I see a strong link between how the planners thought about atmosphere and the descriptions of atmosphere of philosophers John Dewey and Gernot Böhme as referenced on the previous page. Finding usable criteria However, Dutch planners and regulators are currently not sure what a natural burial ground is supposed to be, let alone the atmosphere it should have. A 2013 inventory of natural burial grounds in The Netherlands commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economics clearly struggled to find criteria usable for the in- or exclusion of burial grounds on their registration system. They ended up including all burial grounds that were, either by their own management or others, advertised as ‘natural’. This led to a list “with clear differences within a relatively small group [translated by author]” (de Haas & de Vries 2014, p. 24). 1
Fig. 1 Location of Epe and the Veluwe within the Netherlands
A practical ecological guideline I received notes from a municipal meeting in Epe regarding the implementation of the burial ground, revealing that EpeÂ´s planners have looked into the definition of a natural burial ground as well. Their definition takes the shape of a list of restrictions and rules that read mostly like a practical ecological guideline (Gemeente Epe 2016). Meaning that most rules are related to keeping a low-impact on the ecology and biodiversity of the site and its surroundings by restricting materiality and use. 2
The (absent) ambition of atmosphere When reading the notes, it is impossible to discern the ambition of creating a burial ground with a specific atmosphere different from a regular cemetery. As atmosphere or the experience of the site is not mentioned once in Epeâ€™s list of rules and regulations. A personal conversation with one of the planners assigned to the project, Henk Posthuma, made it clear that the ambition to create and work with the atmosphere of the site is still very much alive, but that he felt unable to convey this ambition to the municipal council.
Fig. 2 Location of the selected burial site in relation to Epe, the Veluwe and the prehistoric grave hills.
Without a clear definition and an ambition of atmosphere in the back of their heads the municipal planners of Epe selected a location for their project, in the western part of the municipality (Fig. 2).
regarding organization and maintenance (Gemeente Epe 2016). A common critique voiced by the media is that natural burial grounds are nothing more than easy cash cows for municipalities and large estate owners and are often implemented with disregard to ecology and potential visitors (Janssen 2016). Because of the processions of the municipality I slowly started to consider this critique in relation to the municipal plans.
Location of the natural burial ground The selection of the site is based on the ecological definition list as well as practical considerations
But again, conversation with Henk Posthuma revealed the unarticulated reasoning behind the selection of the site. The extreme quietness and vibrancy caused
He suspected that they would not be interested in the atmospheric part of the assignment and decided to leave this ambition unarticulated.
by the many ecological communities (meaning a group of actually or potentially interacting species living in the same place) of the location (Fig. 3) have played an important role in the selection process, as well as the idea that the development of the location could have a positive influence on the surrounding area. Most importantly, Henk Posthuma noted, the site just has a certain atmosphere that made it special.
This project is an attempt to avoid both categories, an attempt to propose a plan that can be executed without becoming uncritical or unimaginative, an attempt to create a vision that does not avoid implementation. Just like Corner, I will work with the processes that form the site and its surroundings and consider my design interventions as mechanisms that steer these processes.
Articulating atmosphere Mr. Posthuma is not alone in intuitively deciding that the site has a special atmosphere, as people have been using it as place of burial for thousands of years. The site is situated exactly in between two prehistoric burial hills that are part of a straight line of burial hills that go through the landscape of Epe (Fig. 2).
The experience I gathered through an internship at a landscape architecture office tells me that as a landscape architect you are not often able to select your own site and usually have to work with sub-optimal places, selected with an uncritical and unimaginative rationale. It is my belief that since this site is selected intuitively, it provides an opportunity for a proposal beyond the unimaginative, but within the municipal framework of possibilities, if the site is addressed correctly.
I am concerned that the importance of the atmosphere as well as the relationship between the site and its surroundings will be lost throughout the project if the (currently unarticulated) intuitive notions and ambitions of Epe’s planners are not made explicit. Especially since the design will be realized by a third party landscape architecture office that will remain unaware of the unarticulated planning goals when reading through the official documentation. Experience and atmosphere at the planning stage The reason for working with the site selected by the municipality stems from the words of American landscape architect James Corner, who notes two common types of landscape architects, ones who often implement their designs into the landscape and utopian visionaries.
“Most who accomplish [the implementation of their design] can only do so through the typically unimaginative and uncritical techniques of design as a service profession. On the other hand, the visionaries, it would seem, are always provocative and interesting, but their utopia’s continually evade the problem of an operative strategy.” (Corner 2006, p. 31)
I think that Henk Posthuma’s reading of the atmosphere of the site is strengthened in validity by the notion that this intuitive attraction to the site has made humans decide to bury their dead there for thousands of years already. And that the key for avoiding the pitfall of addressing design as a service profession is the utilizing of this (unexplored) atmospheric potential. It is the aim of this thesis to articulate the unarticulated goals and intuitive notions of the municipality of Epe. I will do this by considering what distinguishes a natural burial ground from any other type of burial ground and analyze the atmosphere of the site as well as the processes that form this atmosphere. I thereby wish to provide the municipality with a design proposal for a natural burial ground that resonates with these unarticulated goals and intuitive notions.
Fig. 3 The selected site in detail
Methodology Three lines of working are set out in order to create a design proposal. The first is the placing of the concept ‘natural burial ground’ in a theoretical framework so that goals and aims for the design proposal can be formulated and the resulting proposal can be discussed. The second is a filmic investigation of existing burial grounds in order to formulate, test and reconsider the statements of the theoretical framework. Third is an analysis of the site and its surroundings in order to articulate the atmosphere perceived by Henk Posthuma and myself and to embed the design proposal within its surroundings. These three lines of investigation have been unfolded simultaneously and in relation to eachother. Theoretical framework The manifestos of Ken West, arguably the founder of the natural burial movement in England, and essays of Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto (who puts viewpoints similar to those of West into an architectural context) will be the starting points to establish a theoretical framework. Their visitor and experience oriented viewpoints relate to German phenomenologist Martin Heidegger and his ideas on the perception of space and German aesthetics philospher Gernot Böhme, known for his ‘Theory of new aesthetics’. Especially Heidegger’s critique on the loss of nearness and Böhme’s concept of ‘Atmosphere’ will be addressed. Lastly, Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa’s reflections on Böhme’s concept of atmosphere will be used to find handles for working with atmosphere in landscape architecture. Experiencing burial sites As the experience of being in a place is crucial in this project I visited a number of burial sites that were related to or mentioned in the literature I reviewed. These visits have influenced and deepened my understanding of natural burial grounds. I used the 6
film medium to document and present the site visits. Film allowed me to document more precisely what I experienced on site, it became a tool that allowed me to explore and re-experience my visit later on as well as convey qualities of the site to the audience that photography or illustration would not have allowed. These visits and the subsequent filmic explorations can be seen as interjections that change the train of thought for both me and the reader. These sites were selected and explored on basis of the literature, as much as the visits influenced my understanding of what I had read and gave direction to my further reading and writing for the establishment of the theoretical framework. Analysing the site Although the site has been selected for its atmosphere, the municipality has not yet articulated what this atmosphere actually is. Nor was it made explicit how the municipality intended to use this atmosphere for the development of a natural burial ground and the surrounding area. The exploration of the qualities of the site and speculation on their potentials will be done in the form of a design proposal for the selected site. Again, film plays an important role. My supervisor, Rikke Munck Petersen, Assistant professor in landscape architecture and sensory conception at the University of Copenhagen and Mads Farsø, Associate Senior Lecturer at the Department of Landscape Architecture of SLU, Alnarp, regard film as an “Intimacy Projection Environment” (Munck Petersen and Farsø 2016). They argue that we (as humans) are able to “perceive and project bodily sensations without being physically bodily present in space” and that film as a medium is able to transfer a bodily experience to a viewer that is not in the space where the film is recorded. Film can in this respect be seen as a ‘virtual space’. Both for the viewer and for the architect using it as a tool for design. (Munck Petersen and Farsø 2016)
This makes film an excellent tool to capture and project atmosphere. As it allows the documentation of the currently vague notions of atmosphere that can only be experienced by visiting the site. With a film of the site as leading line I will quantify the atmosphere of the site and document the processes and elements that led to this atmosphere. Proposing a natural burial ground On the basis of this analysis and within the context of the theoretical framework I will present a design proposal for a natural burial ground. Here, I take the role of film one step further, by merging footage of the site with Photoshop edits and footage from elsewhere, I can test the atmospheric impact of my design on the site. I will alter the virtual space projected by film in order to speculate on the outcome of my design proposal. Reading the project The literature review, filmic exploration of existing cemeteries and design proposal are heavily intertwined. Without defining the goals and boundaries of a natural burial ground it will be impossible to come up with a valid site analysis and design proposal. The design process and analysis has a strong steering influence on the reasoning and direction of the theoretical framework. The filmic explorations of the burial grounds are a critical point of comparison for the theoretical framework and design proposal, and the framework and proposal influence the exploration of the burial grounds. Because of this the three are folded out together, as one narrative, switching freely between the theoretical framework and filmic explorations of the burial grounds on the one hand, and the Epe’s analysis and design proposal on the other. In order to be able to distinguish between the two parts, the site analysis and design proposal are printed as black text on white paper and the theoretical framework and filmic 7
explorations of the burial grounds as white text on black paper.
interactive method for the demarcation of the gravesites of the natural burial ground.
Structure The remainder of this thesis consists of four sections and reads as follows;
After these four sections, I reflect on the project and my working methods.
The first section, ‘Setting a framework’ initiates the theoretical framework and filmic exploration of burial grounds. In this section, the context of the project is presented, as well as different local and national viewpoints on natural burial grounds. An exploration of Östra kyrkogården and a number of manifesto’s lay out how managers and owners of natural burial grounds view the role of their enterprises often opposed to traditional cemeteries. This opposition is explained using Fujimoto’s concept of the Cave and the Nest. An exploration of Farum Skovkirkegård I propose that the natural burial ground should be seen as a reaction to what Heidegger calls the loss of nearness and that atmosphere can be used as a tool to regain nearness. The second section, ‘About the site’, analyses the atmosphere of the site selected by the municipality. I explore the atmosphere of the site and the elements it is composed of based on a short film of the site. I then position the site within its spatial context and the processes that influence its atmosphere. The third section contains the overall design proposal for the site. I work with design interventions as generators in order to strengthen fragile processes essential for the atmosphere I articulated. The fourth section ‘Marking the grave’ focuses on the gravesite in a natural burial ground. I argue how the relationship between the bereaved and the dead can be seen as an atmosphere, specifically, the atmosphere of the unheimlich. I proposes a more dynamic and 8
Context ; Setting a framework Municipal aims and activist scepticism As mentioned in the introduction, the Dutch planning system is unable to define a natural burial ground. The reluctance of the researchers of the 2014 inventory of natural burial grounds to produce a workable framework for the identification of these grounds beyond self-identification (de Haas & de Vries 2014) has made it difficult to discuss the planning of natural burial grounds. In their municipal meeting notes Epeâ€™s planners acknowledge this unclarity and the wide range of burial grounds in the Netherlands that currently go under the banner of natural burial ground (Gemeente Epe 2016, p.4). Municipal aims Their decision to largely depend on their own experiences and research is, therefore, understandable. The municipal notes indicate the planners view the absence of â€œcultural elementsâ€?, as well as the eternal right of grave (meaning that the grave will not be removed under any circumstance) as important aspects for a natural burial ground (Gemeente Epe 2016, p.4). They see natural burial grounds as an opportunity for people to have more freedom of expression, meaning that visitors are more free in the organizing and performing of the burial ceremony and are less obligated to make many visits to the grave for maintenance. They furthermore emphasize the ephemeral character of the site and stress the importance of ecological maintenance and development in relation to the development of the site. Activist scepticism However, not everyone is equally convinced that a natural burial ground will have a positive impact on the ecology of the natural area it resides in. Nearly every proposal for a new burial site is opposed by petitions (Lettele 2016) activist groups (NWBN 10
Fig. 4 Imagine this page to be the size of the burial site, if all 550 bodies would be buried in a manner similar to that of a regular cemetery, they would fit into the small cube above, taking up a mere .5% of the whole surface of the site
2016) and political parties (D66 2016). Two concerns are prevalent among these groups, one is that the planning of a burial ground will make the site unusable for recreational visits and the other is that the human interference and presence that come along with a natural burial ground will be detrimental to the â€œnatural valuesâ€? of the landscape they are constructed in.
strict rules regarding the number of graves (Telegraaf 2015) to minimize the impact of burial on the natural landscape.
The activists share this second concern with the governmental institutions of Epe. The Province of Gerlderland (in which Epe resides) has just set some
Preserving nature through inactivity The planners of Epe have set themselves strict guidelines on top of the provincial limitations, in the meeting notes they set themselves the following rules; â€œA natural burial ground does not put pressure on nature and its maintenance consists of reluctant interventions and ecological 11
principles” * “Right to a grave site is eternal, a grave will not be removed” * “Materials used are of a natural and ephemeral nature i.e. memorials in the shape of a tree trunk instead of a gravestone” * “The area is primarily designated as nature, natural burial comes second” (Gemeente Epe 2016, p. 2) Notable in this selection rules is, again, the insistence on as little impact on the natural aspects of the site as possible. This has led to only allowing burials, as ashes from cremation are toxic and have a negative impact on the landscape. Furthermore, only 550 burials are allowed on the 11 hectare site, leading to a very lowdensity in graves (Fig. 4). Although this is not really a problem for a small municipality like Epe (in personal conversation, Henk Posthuma told me that he expected that with the death rate in Epe these 550 burial spaces would last more or less 10 years) it is concerning with regard to the freedom of expression of ritual of the visitor. The amount of rules already instated even before the start of the project have a good chance of leading to a burial site with many restrictions regarding the burial procession. Stimulating nature Both the activists opposing natural burial grounds and the municipal planners view (visible) human interference in nature preserves as something that negatively affects biodiversity. They are convinced that nature is best left to itself, that a ‘wild’ system will keep itself intact. The rules composed by the municipal planners for natural burial grounds indicate that they think leaving the natural processes alone will be a sufficient intervention for the ecology thrive. However, CEO of the World Nature Foundation, Johan 12
van de Gronden plead the exact opposite to the visitors of the 2014 International Architecture Biennial of Rotterdam. He urged them to acknowledge the invisible human interference on landscape that are often perceived as wilderness. He argues that humans have been affecting the earth for at least 12.000 years and that the nature that we know, is nature that has adapted itself to our presence. “Wilderness in the sense of living nature untouched by humans might not exist anymore on this earth. On the contrary. .. ( - ) .. Flora and Fauna has managed to adapt to new circumstances in a constant evolutionary flux.” (van de Gronden 2014, p. 45) Van de Gronden’s viewpoint is in line with prominent discourse in the realm of landscape architecture, but stands in stark contrast to the ideologies of the activists and the rules of the municipality. The municipal guidelines might not only be restrictive for the funerary procession of the users of the burial ground, there is a chance that they negatively impact the development and maintenance of biodiversity on the site. In fact, the opposite would be more desirable; instead of restricting the funerary processions and having a neutral impact on nature at best, the site should aim to provide users with unexpected possibilities that actively stimulate biodiversity.
Natural burial grounds opposed to the traditional (Victorian) cemetery Founder of the first British natural burial ground Ken West emphasizes the freedom of expression as an advantage of natural burial grounds over the restrictive traditional (Victorian) cemeteries. “[The Victorians] invented cemeteries, to replace churchyards, and cremation, which was initially despised, as solutions. For the first time ever, one might argue, the practicable issue of body disposal took precedence over the issue of spirituality ..( - ).. society needed a clean, quick, efficient body disposal process. Consequently, and for the past hundred and fifty years, funerals have been heavily prescribed” “As natural burial developed, people felt free to invent their own rituals. Some might argue it was a return to a Celtic funeral. They walked where they previously would have used cars, dressed down and made the funeral into a celebration, a tribal event. ..( - ).. The funeral regained purpose, both environmental and social. Mourners began to comment on the intense spirituality of these funerals, regardless of whether the spoken service was religious or secular.” (West n.d. p. 2) Engagement with the landscape According to his writing, natural burial grounds allowed a return to free, non-prescribed cemetery rituals. A paper by a varied group of English researchers consisting of sociologists, historians and landscape architects gives credibility to this explanation. In a series of interviews with owners and managers of natural burial grounds, the aim to create a less prescribed burial ground more open to appropriation is a recurring theme. One site manager is quoted saying “natural burial was an opportunity for people to get ‘down and dirty in a hole’. He believed that embodied 13
engagement with the landscape had therapeutic potential, something missing from conventional service provision” (Hockey et al. 2012, p. 123). So according to the owners and operators of natural burial grounds traditional cemeteries are too restrictive in their attempt to organize and shape funerary processions and the way which people remembered their deceased. They believe that their burial grounds provide an opportunity for people to organize their own rituals and memorials. In other words, just like the municipality of Epe stated early on in their project, the owners and operators are convinced that freedom of expression was an essential part of a natural burial ground. Prescribed cemeteries Carola Wingren, professor at the Department of landscape architecture at SLU Alnarp, touched upon the restrictions and organization of traditional cemeteries in her paper ‘Place making strategies in multi-cultural Swedish cemeteries’ and noted that these restrictions have driven people away. In her analysis of the design of the Malmö cemetery Östra kyrkogården she notes that “Channels of expression for functional needs such as the funeral procession, cremation routines or buying flowers for the grave are all given a special place in the cemetery” “It seems that Lewerentz [The landscape architect that designed Östra kyrkogården] wanted to guide the visitors through the cemetery and landscape in a structure composed by him” (Wingren 2013, p. 159) She relates these findings to the state of the cemetery today. A large central part of the cemetery has become very unpopular, many of the graves are abandoned and there is very little demand to be buried there. Many of the later additions to the cemetery stand 14
in stark contrast, the Islamic section for example is in frequent use and very nicely maintained by its visitors. She explains this change partially through the location of the cemetery, in the neighbourhood of Rosengård. This neighbourhood has over time seen a change towards many residents having foreign roots and different cultural backgrounds. As the people and their culture changed, the prescribed use of the cemetery was no longer compatible with the potential users and the cemetery was left abandoned. Wingren is critical of the role of the landscape architect in this process and implies that the people that made the later readjustments and additions to the cemetery were too focused on the cemetery as a place for burial and neglected the cemetery as a space in the wider context of its surroundings and for a wider variety of uses (Wingren 2013). I see a connection between the notion that cemeteries are no longer compatible with their visitors and the increasing demand for natural burial grounds. Since natural burial allows greater freedom of expression it attracted people for whom the idea of a traditional burial did not resonate. Especially since Professor of behavioural- and societal sciences at the University of Amsterdam, Arnold Reijndorp and planner/writer Vincent Kompier already noted the increasing changes towards individualization of Dutch society in the late nineties (Reijndorp and Kompier 1995), not too long before the appearance of the first self-proclaimed natural burial ground in the Netherlands (De Haas and De Vries 2013). Although Ken West’s ideas also have a strong ecoconscious aspect (he too is against cremation because of the pollution it causes), both his writing and the interviews with natural burial proprietors indicate that they are strongly visitor oriented and insistent on their freedom of expression during the funeral and appropriation of the burial site (Ken West n.d.). It is this awareness of the experiences of the bereaved that distinguishes West from the municipality of Epe, who, in their emphasis of nature have forgotten the visitor.
Filmic exploration: Östra kyrkogården I went to visit Östra kyrkogården in Malmö, Sweden with Carola Wingrens paper in mind, looking for the difference in experience between the abandoned central part and the cared after additions. The initial thing I noticed was that ‘lack of maintenance’ is not the best phrasing to describe the central sections of the cemetery. I came in expecting graves overgrown with weeds, broken gravestones and dead hedges, none of which was the case. The staff of Östra kyrkogården is very much on top of keeping the whole cemetery in shape. ‘Lack of attention’ is a better phrase. Many of the newer sections of the cemetery are filled with graves draped in decorations, flowers and gifts to the deceased, a good number of the graves is planted with perennials, these parts look visited. The central section just misses this inhabited feeling, it is not as actively attended. Many of the graves in this section are also a lot older, as revealed by dates-of-death in the 1970s and 1980s on the gravestones and recent additions are lacking. The lack of new additions is rightly explained by Wingren as stemming from a change in society. On the one hand, many of the new inhabitants of Rosengard prefer to be buried in the rapidly expanding Islamic section of the cemetery. The partitioning of the cemetery between religions and cultural groups has certainly not done Östra kyrkogården good in the long run and a more diversely organized cemetery would retrospectively have helped in keeping the full site active. However, one important aspect is brushed over in this reasoning, which is the non-active attendance of the graves of the 1970s and 1980s.
I brought the boy who remembers everything here. I thought maybe, this unchanging place would bring him rest...
Fig. 5 Still from the short film â€˜The boy who remembered everythingâ€™
...But he saw vibrancy and movement, In places I neglected to look.
Fig. 6 Still from the short film â€˜The boy who remembered everythingâ€™
Changing interactions Just because the graves of the 1970s and 1980s do not receive weekly flowers does not mean they are insignificant, it is very plausible to assume that people deceased in this era still have family and friends alive today, their interaction with the grave has merely changed over time. Weekly visits have become monthly or yearly visits, or maybe the grave site has become a fixed geographical point that is remembered once in a while, without an actual visit. It is too easy to assume that a lack of visits means the abandonment of a grave site, the set-up of the cemetery just makes it feel that way. A feeling that is strengthened by the topography of the middle section that on the high points of the slightly hilly site, where the visitor can look over the systematic separation of ‘grave-rooms’ by hedges, reveals a mass of graves without active attendance. Funes - the boy who remembers everything I am reminded of the character Ireneo Funes, who is the subject of Jorge Luis Borges’s short story ‘Funes, the Memorius’. The story is an obituary for Ireneo in which Borges summarizes an encounter between himself and the young man. During this encounter Ireneo tells Borges how he (after a horse-riding accident) was suddenly able to remember everything. This means that he could recall every single moment of his life, every sound he has ever heard, every feeling he has ever felt, in great clarity. Language did not work for Ireneo anymore, as he did not comprehend the generalizations made by words because he could remember, for example, all the slightly different features of a hand-gesture, to summarize these gestures as a wave would be incorrect. Every single hand-gesture would need its own name, every millisecond, would be an individual memory with an individual name for Ireneo. His remembering was a great burden on him, when he met Borges he was sat in a completely dark room, as to not create too 20
many new memories. According to Borges Ireneo had lost the ability to generalize and abstract much more than that he had gained the ability to remember. Furthermore, his relationship with his past would always stay entirely and exactly the same (Borges 1962, p. 107-115). Funes in Östra kyrkogården The short film of Östra kyrkogården (Fig. 5 & 6) (https://vimeo.com/177431990) shows a thought experiment in which Ireneo visits the cemetery, leaving his dark room for this outside place that was meant to be just as static. Theoretically, Östra kyrkogården would have been the perfect cemetery for someone like Ireneo, as every grave is assumed to always be attended in the same manner. Ireneo could come visit without the fear of making too many new memories. The design did not take into account the changing remembrance of visitors over time, it is, in a way, too dependent on active attendance of the bereaved to create diversity in an otherwise homogeneous design. Ireneo would see the activities and changes missed by the designers almost immediately. As Lewerentz’s design has many redeeming qualities, e.g. the park like-outer rim and main axis are well visited by the people of Malmö, who use it both as a place to take a stroll or as a shortcut to another part of town. The cemetery might not have fully succeed as a lively place for remembrance, but it is at the very least a pleasant place to be in. It would be unfair to Lewerentz to hold him responsible for not predicting flaws in his design almost a hundred years after it was constructed. The first two shots of the film reveal the abandoned feeling of the cemetery, with static graves, box hedges and very little decoration. Yet, slowly you start recognizing perennials, plants that do not need weekly watering but a definite attempt to decorate the grave in between long-term visits. Halfway through the film, casual visitors come into the shot, first the cars using
the cemetery as a shortcut, and then the recreational users, with their skateboards, bikes, strollers and dogs. Static remembrance I am, just like Wingren, critical of the landscape architects that have worked on Ă–stra kyrkogĂĽrden after Lewerentz. Specifically the ones responsible for the addition of the Islamic section (visible in the last shot of the film). This section is reliant on active attendance even more than the main part. The architects have not only ignored the cause of the issues of the cemetery, but have neglected to emphasize its redeeming qualities. Being almost an open field, the addition does not promise the park-like qualities of the original cemetery, attracting recreational visitors, and its placement on the wedges in between a freeway even prevent it from becoming a helpful shortcut. The addition shows the limited understanding of the designers, as they used essentially the same design ideas as ones from Lewerentz that have stopped working. They still view visitors as eternally remembering and grieving in exactly the same manner, much like Ireneo, and rely on this for their design.
A natural burial ground as a process Hockey et al. view natural burial grounds as a process rather than a site. During a series of interviews with bereaved at a natural burial ground they note a change in the behaviour of visitors over time. They notice that shortly after the burial visitors often spend a lot of time marking the grave site and over time they “transform from ‘bereaved person’ to ‘volunteer.’” (Hockey et al. 2012, p. 127) Meaning that they spend less time at the specific location of the grave and instead start helping out with the maintenance of the nature preserve the burial ground is located in. They start meeting other volunteers related to the burial ground and share experiences. A natural burial ground allows (sometimes even forces) a visitor to change his or her relationship with the site, simply by growing and changing over time. Hockey et al. note that this already manifests in the manner in which demarcation of graves is restricted, namely to organic materials that decay over time (a restriction that seems to be one of the few things all natural burial grounds have in common). The decay forces visitors to think about their relationship with the grave site, do they renew the demarcation or decide to remember the dead in a different way? The interaction between visitors and the site changes and evolves over time, where the relationships between traditional cemeteries and visitors are expected to remain static. The Nest and the Cave Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto explores the relationship between visitors and spaces. Fujimoto reflects on primitive architecture, by which he does not mean the buildings of ancient cultures. Instead, he reaches back to the primality of inhabiting, reflecting on spaces, and how these spaces influenced people and vice versa. He sees this as the only way to be able to consider innovative future architecture. In his book ‘Primitive Future’ he defines two different types of 22
Aria mit verschiedenen Veranderungen BWV 988
Johann Sebastian Bach 1685 - 1750
Aria mit verschiedenen Veranderungen BWV 988
Johann Sebastian Bach 1685 - 1750
Fig. 7 The difference between the Cave and the Nest (Fujimoto 2008, p. 26)
spaces inhabited by man, the Nest and the Cave; “Consider the two origins of a ‘Nest’ and a ‘Cave.’ As a functionalist archetype, a nest is prepared according to inhabitants’ sense of comfortability while a cave exists regardless of convenience or otherwise to its inhabitants; it remains indifferent. ..( - ).. It is not organized in the name of functionalism but by place making that encourages people to seek a spectrum of opportunities” (Fujimoto 2008, p. 24)
The natural burial grounds as a Cave With the distinction of the Cave and the Nest, Fujimoto has essentially summarized the difference between a traditional cemetery and a natural burial ground. Much like a Nest, a traditional cemetery is designed to accommodate the wants and needs of visitors as predicted by the architect. As seen in the example of Östra kyrkogården this can make designs very shortlived, as this cemetery is not able to adapt to changes in visitors that were not expected by the architect. Much like a cave, a natural burial ground encourages 23
visitors to find their own expression. Like a cave, a natural burial ground exists regardless of its visitors, forcing the visitor to consciously explore and define his or her relationship with the site. It is the indifference to its visitors that is the strength of the Cave. Fujimoto uses functionalist and modernist architects to define his stance in architecture. He questions Mies van der Rohe’s simile of the music scroll (Fig. 7). Van der Rohe understood temporality and spatiality as an empty music scroll, with merely the bars on which we impose our music notes in the form of use and activities, time and space are one-directional in this understanding. Fujimoto understands time and space as a musical notation system from which the bars are removed, leaving only the notes. Time and space are in this case multi-directional, the notes are waiting to be activated in infinite unexpected variations and relations (Fujimoto 2008, p. 29). Through this understanding he does not only allow the physical indifference of space as implied above, but also introduces an associative and imaginative aspect into the relationship between the visitor and space. “Space is relationships. Architecture is to generate various senses of distances. The origin of architecture must have been constituted purely of ‘distances’. Far before the advent of roofs and walls, only the various modulations of distances were recognized. Distance predicated the degree of interactions amongst persons and objects; thus, the profound spatial expressions of potential expanses were enriched by diverse qualities of gradations and intonations. One can be alienated yet connected. Close yet separate. Associations are solely indicated by propinquity. These interactions transform ad infinitum with motion.” (Fujimoto 2008, p. 32) Fujimoto interprets distance and closeness beyond the purely physical. We, as visitors, relate spaces to other spaces and ourselves, creating interactions that 24
could not have been predicted before they happened. One particular room of a building might (to a specific visitor) be a lot closer to a place in another country, or even an imaginary place, than a different room in that building. Fujimoto does not think an architect can fully understand or control this relatedness, the architect just chooses how to pose the building within this process. Although Fujimoto claims to pose spaces indifferent to visitors, his projects reveal spaces urging to relate by emphasizing the qualities of his constructions and their surroundings. This is evident in his Tokyo apartment project (Fig. 8), in which multi-floor apartments are divided between non-neighbouring floors and connected by stairs on the outside of the building. In this way Tokyo becomes part of the apartments as much as the apartments become part of Tokyo. (Fujimoto 2008, p. 114) On a smaller scale Fujimoto often plants trees on half-open floors of his buildings to relate the rigid inside of the building to its ephemeral and unpredictable moving, sounding and growing outside. Questioning set boundaries He understands his buildings in the same way that Andrea Kahn, Adjunct Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University understands the urban site, beyond the area that is actually being built. She dismisses limiting a project to the site it’s built on, as it influences and is being influenced by its surroundings. “Instead of demarcating simple metes and bounds, defining urban site limits requires accounting for copresent, but not necessarily spatially coincident fields of influence and effect. Urban sites encompass proximate as well as nonproximate relations, physical as well as non-physical attributes. As setting for interactions and intersections that transgress abstract property divisions, urban sites are conditioned by, and contribute to, their surroundings.” (Kahn 2005, p. 285)
Fig. 8 Model for Tokyo house (Fujimoto 2008, p. 115)
Both Kahn and Fujimoto think of projects beyond what Kahn calls ‘area of control’, or the limited area in which a designer is allowed or able to build. As they both include an ‘area of influence’, which is the area beyond the construction site that is either physically or practically connected and an ‘area of effect’ that has influence and is influenced by the project in terms of context and reference (Kahn 2005, p.293). For Fujimoto’s design this area of effect is important, instead of attempting to map out this area, he chooses that there are too many relations and influences to
address. He emphasizes the qualities of his projects in such a way that the visitors of his building will try to map out this area of effect for themselves (Fujimoto 2008, p. 137). Fujimoto’s way of working is useful for the creation of natural burial grounds. By relating to the surroundings and leaving his design open for interpretation, Fujimoto is able to acknowledge the individual visitor and his or her relationship with the site, one of the central aims of the natural burial movement. 25
Loss of nearness Fujimoto’s architecture and search for cave-like spaces can be seen as a reaction to Heideggers critique on the ‘loss of nearness’. In his essays ‘the thing’ and ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’ Heidegger poses and explores this critique. In ‘The thing’ Heidegger argues that “What is least remote from us in point of distance, ..(-).. can remain far from us. What is incalculably far from us in point of distance can be near to us. Short distance is not in itself nearness. Nor is great distance remoteness.” (Heidegger 2001, p. 161) He states that we understand the world around us in two ways, through the ‘present-at-hand’ and ‘readyto-hand’. ‘Present-at-hand’ and ‘ready-to-hand’ In ‘the Thing’ Heidegger explains ‘present-at-hand’ and ‘ready-to-hand’ through a hammer. On the one side is the ‘present-at-hand’ hammer, this is the hammer you are using right now to get a nail in the wall, the hammer that is presently in your hand, on your table, or at home in your toolbox. On the other side is the ‘ready-to-hand’ hammer, this is the hammer you have in mind when you go to the shop to buy one, or the hammer the toolmaker thinks of before he begins production (Heidegger 2001, p. 163.) ‘Ready-to-hand’ is, to use landscape architect James Corner’s words, our eidetic image of an object. “the term eidetic here refer[s] to a mental conception that may be picturable but may equally be acoustic, tactile, cognitive or intuitive.” (Corner 1999, p. 153)
With the eidetic image, Corner describes the image of things we have in our head, an idea based on memory, description and generalization. ‘Present-at-hand’, then, is our perception of everything in the world. It relates to what Heideggers predecessor, Husserl, called our “ontic being” (Husserl 2002 p. 130). The ontic is everything around us that ‘is’ in the world, ‘ontic being’ is our interaction with the ontic. ‘Ontic being’ is based on perception, the hearing, touching, seeing, smelling, etc. of the world. The coming together of the ‘present-at-hand’ and ‘ready-to-hand’ We perceive the things around us by these two coming together, according to Heidegger it is impossible to perceive the two as separate entities. When we think of the ‘present-at-hand’, we always automatically think of the ‘ready-to-hand’ and vice versa. Our ‘ontic being’ (or present-at-hand) influences the ‘eidetic images’ (or ready-to-hand) we create, as Corner puts it: “Eidetic images are ..( - ).. engendering, unfolding and participating in emergent realities.” (Corner 1999, p.153) Meaning that our eidetic interpretations always interact with and change because of the things we perceive in the world. And Husserl argues that, as we only perceive fragments of the ontic, eidetic interpretations are essential to understand our being (Husserl 2002). In ‘The thing’ Heidegger expresses his concern over the disconnectedness of the eidetic image and the ontic being in present day society, something brought on by the development of technology. He argues that the instantaneous travel of information does not mean that everything comes closer. On the contrary, it made us detached from the world (Heidegger 2001, p. 161).
The ease with which we can convey the eidetic image has made us lose touch with the ontic being. This is what he calls “loss of nearness”(Heidegger 2001, p. 164). Because of it, things are only represented and understood as abstract ideas. James Corner “echo[es] Heidegger’s loss of nearness” (Corner 1999, p. 156) some fifty years after the conception of ‘the thing’, in the context of landscape architectural practice. He argues that the eidetic image of the landscape has been limited by the domination of the visual in landscape architecture and planning. In this way, the ready-to-hand is only influenced by our ocular perception of the Ontic, and our “acoustic, tactile, cognitive and intuitive” (Corner 1999, p. 153) perceptions and interpretations are ignored. This has led to the production of static landscapes based on simplistic concepts, whereas the present-at-hand would reveal a dynamic and complex context. Loss of nearness in relation to the cemetery In the case of Östra kyrkogården as well as many other traditional cemeteries, even the visual as a basis for design has been largely lost. Any link to the ontic being is missing, their input merely comes from a preconceived eidetic image and not the perception of the site. Especially in the newer extensions of Östra kyrkogården the design decisions seem to come from a ‘what does a cemetery need’ perspective, instead of a ‘what does this cemetery need’ perspective. They are so detached they could be placed anywhere, as long as a large enough clearing has been made. The natural burial movement should be seen as an attempts to regain nearness. By creating a burial ground as a cave, or as a place that provides people with opportunities for burial and ritual, visitors are no longer restricted to preconceived images of cemeteries and can start to create their own.
Filmic exploration: Farum Skovkirkegård In order to understand how to use the qualities of a site for the design of a natural burial ground I decided to visit one of Denmark’s two natural burial grounds: Farum Skovkirkegård. When arriving to Farum by S-train I could immediately imagine a natural burial ground built on the qualities of the landscape I encountered. The S-train passes through forests and in between lakes, these took my mind immediately towards the place I was about to visit, one of the first natural burial grounds of Denmark. I could imagine people arriving by car, or coming in by bike have similar experiences. Or that someone sitting in an office building could mentally be back at the burial ground through the movement of the branches of a tree in the wind. Farum and Farum Skovkirkegård A visit to the Skovkirkegård reveals a strong embedding of the forested burial ground in the banks of Farum Sø (Farum lake) and the surrounding lakes, meadows and forests. However, the design is far from perfect, the walk towards the burial grounds led me past lush villas, a Netto, Farums Christian cemetery, the office of the burial grounds and the Farums secular cemetery. However, instead of acknowledging the sites direct relatedness to the village of Farum it tries to distance itself from everything that is not related to the forests and lakes. The designers of Farum Skovkirkegård have created quite an empty space. The burial ground itself is only defined by a small wall with some steps in the middle and a winding path moving towards the lakes. The rest strongly blends in with the forest it is located in. The fence of the neighbouring secular cemetery becomes an almost stronger orientation point for the burial ground than the site itself.
The sinking vessel I am reminded in this respect of a passage of a book by Joseph Conrad on his experiences as a seafarer. During a clear sunny day and on a quiet sea Conrad and his men spot a brig in distress. Apparently the brig got damaged during a storm a few days prior and its sailors have been pumping out water that steadily leaked into the boat ever since. Conrad goes out with rowboats to save them. When the sailors are all on the rowboats on the way to Conrad’s ship, the captain of the sinking brig suddenly shouts and points towards his boat: “As if at a given signal, the run of the smooth undulations seemed checked suddenly around the brig. By a strange optical delusion the whole sea appeared to rise upon her in one overwhelming heave of its silky surface where in one spot a smother of foam broke out ferociously. And then the effort subsided. It was all over, and the smooth swell ran on as before from the horizon in uninterrupted cadence of motion, passing under it with a slight friendly toss of the boat. .. ( - ) .. And the great stillness after this initiation into the sea’s implacable hate seemed full of dread thoughts and shadows of disaster.” (Conrad 1881, p. 11) After this encounter Conrad starts dreading the sea, as it has this hidden sadness and aggression. This sadness and aggression is only revealed during the sinking, after which the sea turns back to a stillness, as if nothing happened. This lack of acknowledgedment from the sea left Conrad in unease. Film In my short film (Fig. 9 and 10) (https://vimeo. com/177431989) I try to show that Farum Skovkirkegård has become like the sea, it takes in the dead only to return to a stillness. First, you see the sea of Farum in the form of its lakes and forests. These appear quite friendly and pretty. Yet, they swallow the
natural burial ground, and the whole area gets the same connotation as the burial ground. Just like the sea there is no distinction of individual space within the great whole. In an attempt to fit in with nature, bereaved are not allowed to mark the graves of their dead, a practice increasingly common in natural burial grounds. The last sentence of the narrative; “Just like the sea, it is only distinguished by its shores” Alludes to a different issue with such an indistinguishable burial ground, in its subtlety some elements start to stand out unintentionally. Farum’s natural burial ground is mostly defined by the fence of the secular cemetery, its own entrance, a path that is slightly too manicured and a trash bin. It seems that as a visitor, you always choose points of orientation, ways to define a site. And with a site this open, those points become somewhat unfortunate. The disappearance of a burial ground Overall, my visit to this natural burial ground was slightly disappointing. Although the surroundings of Farum are a genuinely pleasant place to be, the burial ground does not manage to build on these qualities, it drowns in them instead. Worrying is that natural burial grounds that attempt to blend in with their surroundings completely are increasingly common, they often will not even allow people to place (even temporal) signs on the location of the grave. The only other Danish ground, in Odense is even more rigorous in this aspect (Odense Kommune n.d.) and the guidelines of Epe aim for a similar policy.
This place haunts me. I’m reminded of it, by the brushing of leafs and the ringing of church bells..
Fig. 9 Still from the short film ‘The sinking vessel’
..But whenever I visit, I get lost. I hear the bells and leafs all over town. Just like the sea, it is only distinguished by its shores.
Fig. 10 Still from the short film â€˜The sinking vesselâ€™
Theory of new aesthetics Farum Skovkirkegård shows that simply not imposing rules or images on a burial site is not enough to create nearness for visitors of the burial site, as it is very difficult to form a relationship with the burial ground in Farum. To propose an alternative, a deeper understanding of how nearness (the coming together of the ontic being and the eidetic image) works and how we lost this nearness in the first place, is essential. German Philosopher Gernot Böhme studies the way we perceive, he calls this the theory of new aesthetics. According to his writing, aesthetics is the coming together of the inner self and outer objects (Böhme 2013-1), much like the coming together of the the ontic being and the eidetic image. “perception is understood as the experience of the presence of persons, objects and environments.” (Böhme 1993, p. 114 ) Beauty Böhme argues that aesthetics, or how we perceive things, changes over time. He does this by comparing the modern understanding of beauty to beauty as theorized in classical theories of aesthetics, reaching back to Plato and Kant (Böhme 2010). Plato’s theory of aesthetics relates beauty strongly to form and defines beauty as a characteristic of an object. “Forms, are beautiful in being simply what they are, the transient things of our world are beautiful in making clearly visible the Form to which they correspond. A bed is beautiful by being a good bed, and as such recognisable. Something is beautiful if it is what it is really well, and as such is knowable.” (Böhme 2010, p. 24) 34
This reasoning implies that beauty is hidden in an object, a beautiful object is simply one that is capable of bringing out this embedded sense of beauty. It led to an emphasis on geometrical form in objects, as this allowed a mathematical exploration of beauty.
New technologies lead the way to “new paradigms of perception.” (Böhme 2010, p. 28) On the one hand these new technologies expose flaws in the reasoning of aesthetics and on the other they change how and what we perceive.
Immanuel Kant broke from this theory of beauty after hearing the words of “the astronomer Kepler, who had stated that everyone needed to have a mathematician deep in their soul in order to take pleasure in music.” (Böhme 2010, p. 26) Kepler meant that the beauty of music was its harmonic proportion and mathematical rhythm, and that people who liked music were subconsciously well versed in mathematics. This made Kant realize that the real beauty of music was not this proportion or rhythm in itself, as not everyone is (of course) a well versed mathematician. Instead, Kant proposed that beauty was the experience of looking for form, for rhythm and proportion.
‘Loss of nearness’ as a paradigm shift I propose that Heidegger’s ‘loss of nearness’ should be seen as the recognition of a paradigm shift in aesthetics. The instantaneous travel of information, of which Heidegger is very critical, has not so much caused the loss of nearness, but exposed that nearness can not purely be conveyed through the ‘ready-tohand’ image. (Heidegger 2001, p. 161) The flooding of our lives with images by inventions like the television has rendered the mere perception of objects less valuable. According to Böhme, new technologies like film and (more recently) data-gloves and virtual reality have made a distinction between the perception of an image and the experience of space. It has led to new aesthetic needs for us as an audience.
Aesthetics and technology Böhme suggests that it was developments in technology that brought Kant to the re-definition of aesthetics. Inventions like the telescope and microscope brought aspects of objects into view that were not commonly perceived by viewers. Yet, people beyond astronomers, mathematician and biologists (who had access to these tools and were able to understand them) could perceive beauty in things. Therefore, beauty could not be in the pure form of an object, as this pure form was often not visible with the naked eye. “Modes of perception mediated by technology ..( - ).. are likely to represent at least an enlargement of the field of perception and perhaps even fundamental changes. That will also have consequences for our conceptions of the beautiful.” (Böhme 2010, p. 27)
“It cannot be said that, in the light of these new experiences, the classical paradigms of beauty have been simply devalued. But we see them in a new way ..( - ).. What is decisive for us today, when we use the word beauty, is whether a person or a thing, a scene or a place makes us feel that we are there, whether these things, people or scenes contribute to intensifying our existence.” (Böhme 2010, p. 30) He argues that it is exactly the prevalence of images and technology’s new found capability of excluding the human body in the conveying of information that urged new aesthetics and a move beyond form and objects (Böhme 2013-1). Instead, we are seeking beauty in ephemeral, transient things. Our being in relation to what we perceive has become more important. 35
Atmosphere The new emphasis on being should, according to Böhme, lead to a new discourse in art and (landscape) architecture. Shapes and objects themselves lose importance to how they are “experienced in and by the body, as if it were realised internally.” (Böhme 2013a, p.21) Focus should no longer be on the shape of a building, but on its inverse, the space it creates and how we as visitors are affected by this space. “Because we ourselves are transient beings, we encounter beauty in the lighting-up of appearances which assure us of our existence. Beauty is that which mediates to us the joy of being here” (Böhme 2010, p. 31) Mindful physical presence Böhme lets go of the one-sided relationship between an object and a viewer (which was how both Kant and Plato saw aesthetics, as an object that reveals itself to the viewer) by placing the perceiving body in space. In the framework of the theory of new aesthetics, the relationship between object and viewer becomes more dynamic. Böhme brings together the body (which I see very closely related to the ontic being, our body allows us to perceive the things around us) and the mindful body (which I see very closely related to the eidetic image, or the product of the interaction between mind and body). Physical presence is replaced with mindful physical presence, which “hinges precisely on the interplay between body and mindful body”. (Böhme 2013a, p.27) Atmosphere The product of this coming together of the body and the mindful body, or the inner and the outer, is atmosphere. Böhme calls atmosphere the ‘character’ of a space, something perceived unconsciously and instantaneously. Something that puts us in a mindset that influences all our conscious perceptions and interpretations of a space. (Böhme 1993, p. 125) 36
“[it is] something which flows forth spatially, almost something like a breath or a haze.” (Böhme 1993, p.117) Entering a space of mindful physical presence means entering an atmosphere. These atmospheres can have many different characteristics, not surprising considering all the different aspects that influence atmosphere. Böhme argues that the task of an architect can be seen as the influencing of atmosphere, “staging spaces of mindful physical presence in which certain sensitivities would be imparted to the users or visitors.” (Böhme 2013a, p.27). This can be done by influencing what is perceived by the body. It expands the architect’s toolbox with intangible materials such as light and sound.
been adopted. The mere continuation of the landscape is increasingly becoming the working method for new natural burial grounds. (Odense Kommune n.d.) Even the rules and restrictions articulated by the Epe municipality indicate a reluctance of creating tangible intervention. Within these rules and restrictions the creation of a distinct burial space is near impossible, and a result similar to Farum seems likely.
These tools are also used differently, they function as “generators”. (Böhme 2013a, p.27) Meaning that they generate atmosphere instead of possessing it. In this context the placing of elements in space is no longer the final goal of a designer, this goal is the influencing of how a space affects us. According to Böhme, an architect “articulates” a space (Böhme 2013a p. 27) by creating conditions that people can perceive and interpret. Atmosphere in Farum Skovkirkegård Where the natural burial ground of Farum has certainly made an attempt to break with the cemetery tradition and become a more Cave-like space, it has not (at least not successfully) articulated an atmosphere. A large part of the burial ground’s issue is that its design it no more than a continuation of its surroundings. It in no way defines itself as an entity separate from the surrounding forests. The traditional way of creating a burial space as a cemetery has been discarded in reaction to the loss of nearness. However, a new way of creating a burial space has in the case of Farum skovkyrkegard not 37
Atmosphere as polyphonic perception Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa attempts to find a way to consciously work with atmosphere. In a reflection on Böhme’s work, he describes atmosphere as an instant perception of a space. “The judgment of environmental character [of a space or place] is a complex multi-sensory fusion of countless factors which are immediately and synthetically grasped as an overall atmosphere” (Pallasmaa 2014, p. 230) Polyphonic perception and focused perception He calls this type of perception the polyphonic perception. Polyphonic perception is a holistic perception of all sensory organs and happens instantaneously and mostly subconsciously. (Pallasmaa 2014, p.243). We base our eidetic images mostly on this perception. Polyphonic perception stimulates creative thought, and it is exactly this creative thought that gives “emotional value to what we see” (Pallasmaa 2014, p.239). Pallasmaa sees focused perception, or perspectival perception, as the opposite of polyphonic perception. (Pallasmaa 2012, p. 41). This perception is described as the conscious, singular perception of the objects around us. Pallasmaa regards polyphonic perception as more important “for our perceptual and mental system than focused perception.” (Pallasmaa 2014, p.243) However, focused perception is almost always the starting point for modern architecture (Pallasmaa 2014, p.244). “The serious Western architectural tradition is entirely based on regarding architecture as a material and geometric object as experienced through focused vision. Standard architectural images seek clarity rather than ephemerality and obscurity.” (Pallasmaa 2014, p.234) 38
Focused vision has made the individual parts of a design more important than the overall interpretation. However, the overall interpretation is often more important in our judgement of a space than the individual parts. (Pallasmaa 2014, p.241) “one reason why contemporary spaces often alienate us ..( - ).. has to do with the poverty of our peripheral vision, and the consequent weakness of the atmospheric quality. Focused vision makes us mere outside observers; whereas peripheral perception transforms retinal images into a spatial and bodily involvement” (Pallasmaa 2014, p.241) Focused vision and Farum skovkyrkegard The flaw in projects like Farum Skovkyrkegard is the conviction that the simple recurrence of certain elements taken from a certain surrounding automatically creates the atmosphere of this surrounding. The burial ground attempts to emulate the surrounding forest with the preservation and planting of indigenous trees and plants and the use of unpaved paths. This is the result of a focused reading of the site, an observation of the elements that make up the forest and a copy-pasting of these elements on the site. The design of Farum skovkyrkegard is because of this more the re-creation of an image than the creation of an atmosphere. I suspect that a polyphonic reading of the site of Farum skovkyrkegard would have resulted in a completely different design, a design that would have acknowledged and worked with the site as a transition zone between the town of Farum and the forests. Not only do all visitors reach the burial grounds by travelling through the town, the sounds stemming from the town like traffic, permeate into the peripheral of the site. In my polyphonic reading of the site the natural burial ground was as much embedded in the town as in the forest. The continuation of forest elements makes the burial ground seem out of place.
Film as a medium for polyphonic vision Pallasmaa argues that architects need to start working more intensively and consciously with the polyphonic perception of space (Pallasmaa 2014, p.244). However, it seems that many forms of media commonly used by architects and landscape architects are not able to address or convey the polyphonic vision. Pallasmaa suggests film as a potential tool for the representation of the polyphonic vision. “In a music video ..( - ).. we cannot halt the flow of images for analytic observation; instead we have to appreciate it as an enhanced haptic sensation” (Pallasmaa 2012, p. 40) And indeed, my short film reveals aspects of the site of Farum Skovkyrkegard that might have remained hidden in a more focused reading. The resonating of the church bells for example, or background noises like traffic and wind that were the same in the town of Farum and along the lakes. It is not that film necessarily creates a clearer reading of a site, it is first and foremost the training and experience of the landscape architect or other design professional that allows this reading. Yet, film does allow site qualities to be documented and analyzed that would have remained untouched, and, maybe even more important, it forces me as a designer to move on from aspects that would be over analyzed in for example a section, plan or photograph.
About the site The atmosphere of the site In order to identify and analyze the qualities of the site in Epe I visited it twice, once with municipal planner Henk Posthuma, who showed me around and supplied me with information about the specifics of the location, and once on my own, which allowed me to explore the site in-depth and focus on my senses. What immediately struck me about the site is the excitement you get from visiting it. The place reminded me of stories I read in Darwins journal, or the scene in the film Master and Commander, in which 17th century a ship-doctor and amateur biologist explores the Galรกpagos islands for the first time and is amazed by everything he encounters. During his explorations catches and documents species unknown to science. He takes his young assistant and a shipmate with him, and all three are amazed and exited by the island in their own way (Weir 2003). Their excitement is the basis of the short film I made about the site (https:// vimeo.com/177431992). By emphasizing the difference in experience of the three men I found a framework to distinguish three distinct qualities of the site that together explain the feeling of excitement I got on my visits. These three qualities are the sense of exploration, the sense of bewilderment and the sense of liveliness.
Fig. 11 Still from the short film ‘The senses’
Fig. 12 Still from the short film ‘The senses’
Sense of liveliness The sense of liveliness is related to the experiences of the doctor (Fig. 13). As a fanatic amateur biologist, he wanted to observe everything he saw, and the longer he looked, more of the landscape revealed itself to him. First, he notices the overall landscape he finds himself in, so perhaps a tree in a field of colourful undergrowth, then he might be surprised to see an owl or other rare bird fly from the tree, when he takes a closer look he discovers that the undergrowth consists of a vast range of plants, an even closer look reveals the intricate construction of the flower of the plants with all its different petals, after standing back up he starts noticing these flowers more and more and slowly starts to appreciate the richness and delicateness of the whole landscape. How it is made up of an infinitude of small parts. I noticed this quality before I started filming my site. As I arrived midday I decided to eat my lunch before starting my notations. Whilst sitting down I saw a beautiful plant with very delicate white flowers and distinct purple petals, no more than 10 centimeters wide. During my meal I started noticing this flower more and more throughout the field of heath and realized how this relatively large field was made of completely of small, delicate parts. This quality flows forth from the incredibly large biodiversity of the site. In the film I tried to show the sense of liveliness through the frames overlaying one another, one frame revealing some form of detail or overview relating to the next and previous frames.
Fig. 13 A notation showing the possible locations of the shots of the sense of liveliness in â€˜the sensesâ€™
Sense of exploration The sense of exploration is based on the experiences of the Doctorâ€™s young assistant (Fig. 14). He climbed hills and mounds to catch the birds on top, descended into pools to catch reptiles and ran across fields in other to scout what lay across. At all time, he has be aware of his balance and where he sets his next step whilst speculating on how to get where he wants to go. I had a similar experience on the site, even when following the one path looping through the area I had to make sure not to trip over tree roots or heath plants or stumble over a sudden change in terrain. In between the heath are small paths made by hares that often turn out to be dead-ends, making me think constantly about where to go next and which path to follow. It is the erratic relief of the site as well as the plants and trees that are free to grow that make up this sense. I tried to show these qualities by documenting my own feet walking over the site, sometimes I move carefully and other times with ease, once almost tripping over a few loose branches.
Fig. 14 A notation showing the possible locations of the shots of the sense of exploration in â€˜the sensesâ€™
Sense of bewilderment The sense of bewilderment is the sense the shipmate must have felt the most (Fig. 15). With no expertise of plants and animals or the energy of youth and forced to carry all kinds of heavy materials the shipmate mostly appreciates the view of the island during the breaks of the journey. The sudden overview of the island on a cliff or the entering of a green forest after a stretch of beach created a sense of bewilderment or dramatic surprise for the shipmate. The site does the same to me, sometimes appearing dense, sometimes open, sometimes dark, sometimes light, and ranges from bright green to yellow and red. At times I moved into a new scenery without even noticing, like the transition between a group of pine trees, with their relatively lightness and green grassy undergrowth and a group of oak trees, that appear dense and dark, and their shedded leafs colour the ground slightly orange. Other times the change is sudden, when I walked up a sand dune in the heathland, I suddenly saw a pasture full of cows neightbouring the site, as I reached the top. Again, the large biodiversity and many height differences play an important role in the establishing of this sense, as well as the diverse surroundings of the site, that somethimes reveal themselves. I tried to show this quality in the film by using long still overview shots, sometimes these shots appear suddenly and other times they appear slowly out of a series of overlays.
Fig. 15 A notation showing the possible locations of the shots of the sense of bewilderment in â€˜the sensesâ€™
Fig. 16 Section with different ecological communities in relation to groundwater level 1:500 (height exaggerated to 1:250)
Heathland 23,5 m.
Fig. 17 The map of the site pulled apart, revealing the organization of the site according to its contours
Ecological communities The senses of liveliness, exploration and bewilderment are largely a product of the contours and biodiversity of the site. The contours and biodiversity are also influence each other; the higher the sandy soil goes, the further away the surface is from the groundwater. This means that different plant communities grow on different heights. (Fig. 16). It is for the most part possible to predict what will grow on the site depending on the height of the position. Closer to the ground water (22m. and lower) 52
is Oak and Beech forest, on the high tops (23m. and higher) Heath resides and in between Pine takes its position (de Jong and van Seumeren 2011). When the organization of the site is pulled apart (Fig. 17), this becomes ever clearer. The many dents in the site become visible, making the different communities appear patchy, but definitely in correspondence to the heights. It is the interplay of these different ecological communities on an erratic relief that makes the site special.
Fig. 18 Cutout Heathland
Heathland The heathlands (Fig. 18) of the site are a planting community often referred to as ‘Calluno-Ulicetea’, common for European dry heathlands. The community is most often found on dry, nutrition-poor, acidic, sandy soils. This community contains different associations, or more specifically distinguished groups of planting. Two of these associations are applicable to the site, ‘Genisto anglicae-Callunetum’ and ‘SperguloCorynephoretum’. The former is a low bushed heathland consisting of heath plants and grasses and the latter is a pioneering association consisting of lichen, small
annual grasses and plants (Haveman & van Ravensberg 2003). This community is stimulated by dry sand, as this sand moves and forms dunes on different places, blowing nutrients off the topsoil. Regenerating, as it were, the nutrient poor qualities the soil once had. Places covered by sand dunes will first grow ‘SperguloCorynephoretum’ and slowly transform into ‘Genisto anglicae-Callunetum’. However, without regeneration they will continue transforming into ‘LeucobryoPinetum’, a pine community. 53
Fig. 19 Cutout Pine forest
Pine The northern European pine community, ‘LeucobryoPinetum’ consists mostly of ‘Pinus sylvestris’ with an undergrowth that changes from species of heath (‘Calluna’ mostly) in a very young communities, to berried shrubs (‘Vaccinium’) in mature ones (Walentowski et al. 1994). Most pine forest on site is somewhat in between these two, and even has some ferns in its undergrowth (Fig. 19). From this observation, and the notion that the oak/ beech forests surrounding it as quite old, I deduce that 54
the pine communities have developed from heathland, something that is quite common for this part of the Veluwe. (de Jong and van Seumeren 2011) Pine is a pioneering species, it grows fast and does not need many nutrients. As pine will eventually be taken over by the oaks and beeches it is most prevalent on the middle-high parts of the site, where it out competes heath, but oaks and beeches still have difficulties developing.
Fig. 20 Cutout deciduous forest
Oak/Beech The Oak/Beech planting community is often referred to as â€˜Holco-quercetumâ€™ and used to be abundant on the Veluwe However, it has been the victim of large scaledeforestation about two centuries ago that allowed pine to thrive. (de Jong and van Seumeren 2011) Oak/Beech flrest is currently making a comeback and is rather prevalent on and around the site. This community consists mostly of Beech and Oak trees, with very little undergrowth, apart from a few lichen species.
This type of forest needs the most water and nutrients and is, therefore, found on the relative lows of the site, closest to the groundwater. It develops as a final successor after heathland and pine forest, when enough nutrients have accumulated. With their large crowns they prevent sunlight to reach species that pop up under them, but when a tree falls, many different plant species, often with colourful flowers (Fig. 20), grow quickly on its place, only to be out competed by another Oak or Beech tree over time. 55
Fig. 21 a selection of the different species found during my site visit
Ecotone The high biodiversity of the site is a result of the different ecological communities residing next to each other. Two or more communities close to each other and their transition zone are together called an ecotone. These ecotones often have a high biodiversity that is established by the coming together of species that would normally live in either one of the communities, species that need more than one ecological community to survive and species that thrive in transition zones (e.g. pioneering species). 56
Especially the heathland is important for the biodiversity of the site, not only does this niche landscape bring many species to the ecotone that will only grow under the specific conditions of a heathaldn, it is also a perfect hunting ground for predators that live in the forest. In spending just a few hours on the heathlands of the site, I saw a vast amount of different animals and plants (Fig. 21), many of them ranging from relatively rare to extremely endangered
Fig. 22 Section of the site 1: 5.000
Zooming out When the section on Fig. 16 is extended in Fig. 22 the farmland that neighbours the site on both sides becomes visible. Just like the different ecological communities, agricultural crops grow best with a certain amount of water, they often need more than Oak and Beech trees. This means that farmland has to be even closer to the groundwater than the Oak/Beech forest forest.
The farmers around Epe have over the course of centuries, appropriated all the land close enough to the groundwater level for farming. This has left a single green wedge in an agricultural landscape, reaching inwards from the Veluwe towards the villages of Emst and Epe (Fig. 23) This wedge was too far away from the groundwater for farming and the forests on them were allowed to grow. (de Jong and van Seumeren 2011)
Fig. 23 map of burial site 1:12.500
Fig. 24 Houses on and around the wedge
Living on the wedge This does not mean that the green wedge was left unused by the farmers. On the contrary, because of the forests that grew on them and the shelter they provided, they became the farmersâ€™s preferred place to live (Fig. 24). The green wedge is still very popular for living to this day, more bungalows have been built in and around the forests, as well as restaurants and campings. That the site selected by Epe is completely devoid of human habitation, is almost remarkable in the context of the wedge. 60
Fig. 25 The prehistoric road and burial hills
Prehistoric presence The first human presence on the wedge stems from long before farmers inhabited the space. The prehistoric inhabitants of the surroundings of Epe buried the ashes of their dead in grave hills over this wedge, in a relatively straight line. Interesting is that the natural burial site will not be the first relatively modern project related to death and burial on this prehistoric line. Epeâ€™s church is also built in extension of the grave hills and rumour around town is that there is even a hill underneath the church.
Apart from these hills there is also an equally old road running straight along the wedge, both the road and the hills are still visible in the landscape (Fig. 25). The road is still very much in use today and the ashes in the hills make the soil slightly more acidic, causing distinctly different types of plants to grow over the hills, especially in heathland areas.
Fig. 26 Heathland on and around the wedge
Heathland It is also noteworthy that the site is home to the only heathland on the wedge (Fig. 26). It is also the only heathland in the vicinity that does not fall under the protection and maintenance of national park the Veluwe.
Fig. 27 Map of Epe c.a. 1866 from the WageningenUR historic map register
The disappearance of heath An 1866 map of Epe reveals that the wedge used to contain considerably more heath than it does today. Heath is recognizable on this map through the lines that shape ovals, indicating heath dunes. Everything from the site to the heathland in national park the Veluwe used to be connected, with another large area just to the north. This is in stark contrast with the present situation.
Fig. 28 Development of heath without human intervention (above) Development of heath with human intervention (below)
Preserving Heathland The disappearance of this heathland is related to how it used to be maintained. Heath normally grows best on really wet or really dry nutrient poor soil, the plants of this ecological community have developed a niche for these conditions. Especially on dry heath, sand-drifts keep the nutrients in the top layer of the soil low. When heath thrives too much, these sand-drifts stop and other plants will get a chance to develop. This means that over time this landscape will change into a forest (Fig. 28). 64
Historically, the inhabitants on and around the Veluwe (unintentionally) preserved the heathlands by removing the top layer of the soil to use as fuel and fertilizer. This allowed the sand-drifts to blow and kept the soil nutrient poor (Fig. 28). As the inhabitants of Epe switched to other types of sources for fuel and fertilizer, the heath slowly disappeared. (de Jong and van Seumeren 2011) Hardly any heath is left today, which is concerning for the biodiversity of the Veluwe and the atmospheric qualities of the site.
Fig. 29 Burial as the new process for the maintenance of heathland
Preserving Heathland with natural burial Heathland is dependent on human intervention. Without physical intervention in the landscape this ecological community will slowly disappear. In order to preserve heathland in the area, a new mechanism for removing the top-layer of the soil needs to be invented to replace the abandoned practice of disturbing the top layer for fuel. Natural burial has the potential to become the new man-made process to create and maintain heathland (Fig. 29). Just like the traditional gathering of fertilizer
and fuel, burial removes the top layer of the soil and allows sand-drifts to develop. The municipal plans could be a pilot project to explore and test this potential. Both currently, by developing this concept and during the period of burial, by monitoring the site and changes in biodiversity. When using natural burial as a process to create and maintain heath turns out to be as feasible an successful as it now seems, it could be used both in Epe and further around the Veluwe to establish or maintain heathland outside of the protected forest. 65
Generating a burial ground Generating atmosphere Böhme argues that although atmosphere is largely dependent on the instantaneous, overall, perception of a space, it is possible to make or change the atmosphere of a space. (Böhme 2013b, p. 3) This is often done in the paradigm of stage-set design. Generators As atmosphere itself is intangible, the enviroment that formulates a certain atmosphere needs to be altered to change the character of that atmosphere. “The making of atmospheres is confined to setting the conditions in which the atmosphere appears. We refer to these conditions as generators” (Böhme 2013b, p. 4) Meaning that atmosphere is not directly made, but established through the creation of other things that generate atmosphere. Generators can be anything that influences the character of a space. The appearance of phenomenon by the setting of conditions is to Böhme the true character of making. Böhme pleads that the concept of generators and making through the setting of conditions needs to expand from the paradigm of the stage set to those of architecture, landscape architecture and other spatial design practices. Ekstases The practice of setting conditions for their effect on perception, instead of staging objects, finds its beginnings in the ancient Greek who employed a technique called ‘Phantastike techne’. It is a technique of making that takes the perception of the viewer into account and alters the created subject so that it appears ‘correctly’ to the viewer. Think of the Greek temples whose walls were slightly curved in order to appear straight to the viewer from a distance as an example of this technique. Generators can be seen as the modern interpretation of ‘Phantastike techne’. 66
Key for the both Phantastiske techne and generators is the awareness of the effects of the set conditions on the perceiver. Böhme calls this effect on the perceiver the ‘ekstase’ of a generator. “The difference between properties and ekstases can be clarified by the antithesis between convex and concave: a surface which, in relation to the body it encloses, is convex, is concave in relation to the surrounding space. ..( - ).. [ekstases] are therefore the way in which things are felt present in space.” (Böhme 2013b, p. 8) Meaning that the ekstase is the way in which the set conditions affects the perception of the ontic and the eidetic image. This notion brings a new way of considering the use of physical elements in design. The ekstases and generators of Epe’s natural burial ground So far in this project, I have attempted to frame atmosphere of the site in Epe, for this I have analyzed the generators of this atmosphere. The height differences of the site, the resulting pine forests, oak/beech forests and the heathland, as well as the interplay between these elements can be seen as the prominent generators in this space. The senses of exploration, liveliness and bewilderment form their ekstases.
“an audience which is to experience a stage set in roughly the same way must have a certain homogeneity, that is to say, a certain mode of perception must have been instilled in it through cultural socialisation.” (Böhme 2013b, p. 4) Meaning that the general mood of the perceivers of ekstases have an equal influence on the atmosphere as the ekstases themselves. According to Böhme the overall mood of the people in a room can also influence the mood of a single person entering the room. So by gathering different people in a space you can just as effectively change an atmosphere as by changing the physical surroundings. Although a designer has very little influence on whom exactly will visit and use the site, it is important to at least speculate on the mindset of the users. Especially in a place like Epe’s natural burial grounds. Since the overall site processes will last longer than the period of burial, a shift in type of visitor seems inevitable. Because of this a flexible design is required that can be used and interpreted in many different ways.
In the continuation of this project I will try to alter the current generators and create new ones in order to manifest a natural burial ground and articulate an atmosphere on the site selected by the municipality. Audience Böhme emphasizes that the ekstases instilled by an object are dependent on who is watching, in other words, the audience and visitors of a place influence the atmosphere just as much as its generators. To explain this, he returns to the art of stage building. 67
Staging surfaces It is interesting that Landscape architect James Corner, just like Böhme, uses a simile of a stage when talking about the altering of the landscape. Corner argues that part of his practice as a landscape architect and urbanist is the staging of surfaces. He discusses this staging as the “[sowing of] seeds of future possibility” (Corner 2006, p. 30) that need to be considered, tended and reconsidered. “The thrust of this work is less toward formal resolution and more toward public processes of design and future appropriation. Concerned with a working surface over time, this is a kind of urbanism that anticipates change, open-endedness and negotiation.” (Corner 2006, p. 30) This type of staging is not so much about reaching a final result, as it is about providing handles to work with a dynamic landscape. Much like a generator, the design intervention becomes a starting point that reacts and influences processes and perception over time. After design interventions are made, they need to be tended, assessed and reconsidered. Processes over time It is, therefore, important to understand the larger processes in which the design intervention is implemented and how the intervention influences this process. There are many large, often global, processes that influence the site, and these often play a role in the establishing of a design project in the first place. Corner suggests the need for “a dialectical understanding of how [a design] relates to the processes that flow through, manifest, and sustain it. This suggests shifting attention away from the object qualities of a space (whether formal or scenic) to the systems that condition [it].” (Corner 2006, p. 29) 68
The speculation on and alteration of the future processes of the site requires a look backwards to the processes that formed a landscape. Corner notes that, just like the site in Epe, it is often a combination of natural and human (or urban, as Corner calls it) processes that play a part in this formation. He even notes that it is often the interplay between the two. Integrating human and natural processes Much like WNF CEO Van de Gronden’s plea in the introduction of this thesis (van de Gronden 2014), Corner sees the separation of traditionally urban and natural functions as counter productive and praises projects that managed to integrate both. He praises projects like Boston’s Back Bay Fens and Stuttgart’s greenway corridors for their “ability to shift scales, to locate urban fabrics in their regional and biotic contexts, and to design relationships between dynamic environmental processes and urban form. The challenge in looking to these precedents for insight into our contemporary conditions is their invocation of a cultural image of Nature” (Corner 2006, p. 23) These projects are not just a successful reintegration of natural systems into the city, they are attempts to re-introduce “the phenomenal richness of physical life” into their surroundings (Corner 2006, p. 33). The integration of human and natural processes is necessary in order to fully understand the processes that form the landscape. Corner pleads for a creative practice that integrates planning, engineering, architecture and landscape architecture. However, this integration is not the final goal in itself, it is a step towards the regaining of nearness (Corner 2006, p. 28).
Handlebars for reconsideration Gernot Böhme reconsidered the way in which (landscape) architectural practice could be used to regain nearness by exploring how physical interventions alter the atmosphere we perceive. James Corner provides thoughts on how these interventions should be formulated and implemented. He provides the basis for a strategy that allows the landscape to develop dynamically through interventions that work with the dynamics of the site. He stresses the importance of acknowledging change over time and the complexities of the landscape. I think that the key for a succesful design project is the combination of these two concepts. On the one hand implementations need to be judged on their ekstases, on how the immediately change the perception of the visitor. On the other hand, the impact of these implementations on the processes of the site need to be considered. If an implementation has a desired effect on the atmosphere, but is detrimental to the formation of the landscape, it should be reconsidered and altered. If an implementation develops the site in a desirable manner, but has a negative effect on the atmosphere, it should be reconsidered and altered in the same manner.
Leaving a positive footprint It is the aim of this design proposal to create a cultural process that leaves a positive footprint on the natural environment and strengthens the atmosphere of the site. As the sense of exploration, sense of liveliness and sense of bewilderment are all strongly related to the three ecological communities and their ecotone, it aims to regenerate the community most fragile and most beneficial for the biodiversity, the heathland. The project can be seen as the starting point of a 30 year process. In the first 10 years the top soil will be opened up through burial, in order to re-generate the top layer and make it nutrient poor again. During this time the site will clearly manifest as a burial ground. After this burial process, heath is allowed to develop, during this time different species will arrive and different visitors will occupy the site. Slowly the rate of human influence on the landscape will diminish and ecological processes will take over (Fig. 30). At the end of the 30 year period the municipality is going to have to reconsider the use and maintenance of the site, as it will be around this point that the development of heath and pine bring the site back in a position like the one it is in right now, and in need of a new regeneration.
Human influence Ecological influence
Fig. 30 Procession of heath, and the human and ecological influence over time
Area of control I will first redefine the area of control, area of influence and area of effect, as described earlier in this thesis for the design proposal. The municipality has set the area of control as the boundaries of the site, the area of influence and area of effect are not yet fully defined, although the municipality did indicate the desire to make a direct impact on the surroundings of the site. I intend to diminish the area of control for this project to the heathlands of the site, this is the area that needs intervention in order to be maintained. The area of influence, then, is the rest of the site. The two ecological communities in this area, the pine and oak/beech forests, would not benefit from a direct intervention, but the establishment of a stronger and more vibrant heathland would improve their ecotonal relationship and presumably increase their biodiversity. The area of effect becomes be the municipality of Epe and beyond, and consist of the relationships of the bereaved with the burial site (Fig. 31).
Area of control
Area of influence
Area of effect
Fig. 31 Area of control, area of influence and area of effect
Re-generating through burial Within this area of control, a six step burial plan will fold out over the course of the 10 years that the burial ground is active (Fig. 32). This plan aims to create a nutrient poor soil for the heath re-establish itself on.
First the relative heights within the heathlands are established. These are the points where the heath has the best niche advantage over the other ecological communities and gives heathland the best chance to recover once the top layer is removed. These relative heights are marked by banners of black cloth in the landscape
When these relative heights, or mounds, start to develop into pine communities they are covered by black cloth attached to the outline-banners.
Under the black cloth the plants will, revealing the top-layer of the soil.
Once the cloth is removed, the mounds are ready for burial. Most mounds will be used for burial for about a year, depending on their size.
Over time, sand from the top soil of the mounds spreads over the site. This, together with the pressure of visitors walking over the land, will decrease the nutrition of the heathland beyond the mounds
After the ten year burial process, the banners will be removed. Heathland will slowly start to regrow on the site.
Fig. 32 Steps involved in the maintaining of heathland through burial
Fig. 33 Design proposal 1:2000
Build-up of the site The physical interventions take shape in the following manner (fig 33 & 34).
The heathland is slightly extended to follow the 22 meter contour line, for this some young trees on the west of the site need to be removed.
Within the heathland, 8 burial mounds are outlines. The picture shows how many bodies each mound can host.
In the middle of a site is a sudden drop in height, as part of a hill has at some point been removed. This hill is reconstructed and the resulting inner space can be used as a place for ceremony, shelter or gathering.
Although no real path structure is laid out, the physical interventions, as well as a new entrance/exit at the north of the site, provide a pleasant flow through the landscape
3. 60 1 yr.
70 11/3 yr.
115 2 yr.
50 1 yr.
125 21/4 yr.
50 1 yr.
Fig. 34 The different elements of the design proposal79
To test the design proposal, the short film ‘The senses’ (https://vimeo.com/177431987) has been edited with Photoshop overlays, sound and video additions and became the short film ‘Adding to the senses’. This short film tests the impact of the design interventions on the atmosphere of the site.
Fig. 35 Still from the short film ‘Adding to the senses’ displaying burial mound81
The decision to use black cloth for the burial mounds stems from idea that black surfaces radiate warmth and will therefore attract many insects and reptiles, just like an open patch of sand.
a Fig. 36 Section burial mounds 1:500
A strong indicator in finding the next mound that should be covered and used for burialis the presence of pine saplings. As these saplings indicate that the heathland is slowly transforming into pine forest.
Fig. 37 Section burial mounds 1:500
An old hill (1) has, some hundred years ago, been excavated. Over time this gap has filled up with an island of trees (2), disrupting the flow of the site. â€˜Reconstructingâ€™ the hill creates a dome (3). This dome introduces both new walking opportunities and functions as a shelter.
c Fig. 38 Section Burial mound and central dome 1:1000
Fig. 39 Section of the central dome 1:500
The dome can at first be used as a place to hold ceremonies for the natural burial ground. As some trees will be maintained and allowed to grow through intrusions in the dome, the space will be an unusual interplay between light and dark and inside and outside( Fig. 39).
Fig. 40 Section of the central dome 1:500
Over time, when burials no longer take place on the site, the dome can be reclaimed by other inhabitants of Epe and surroundings. Currently, the site is used by a camping association, and for the training of policedogs. The dome would be an opportunity for these groups to use in their activities or can be used for storage (Fig. 40).
The dome over time The construction of the dome consists of a metal frame and panels in heptagon shape that fit into this frame, made of painted wood. These panels will through their colour, in combination with the shape of the dome, allude to the covered burial mounds (Fig. 42). Over time these panels can be removed to make room for the trees already present in the dome-construction or new trees that appear over time. Because of this the dome will change with the site, starting out as a clearly marked element part of the natural burial ground and blending in with its surroundings over time (Fig. 41).
Fig. 41 Detail plans of the development of the dome 1:100
Fig. 42 Construction details of the dome 1:20 (left) 1:10 (right)
Fig. 43 Still from the short film â€˜Adding to the sensesâ€™ displaying the use of the dome long after the natural burial phase
Procession of the visitors The site will, over time, see a change in visitors (Fig. 44). First, the bereaved will hopefully be able to cope with their grief and change the way they visit the site over time. As these visitors change and the elements that link the site to the image of a burial ground will disappear, other types of visitors will feel less inhibited to visit the site. These new visitors can use the site for hiking or camping, and in collaboration with the bereaved more intensive programs could potentially take place, taking advantage of the improvement in reachability of the site and the new opportunities provided by the dome.
Non-burial related visitors Burial related visitors
Fig. 44 presence of different visitors over time
Marking the body Manifestation of the dead A manager of a natural burial ground told Hockey et al. that even though it was not in accordance with the rules of the grounds, he often turned a blind eye to the demarcation of the graves of recently deceased as it was such a common occurrence (Hockey et al. 2006, p. 122). They refer to this demarcation as the mapping of absence, making these demarcations representations of the absent, of the dead. The manifestation of absence However, Stanford professor of philosophy Ewa Domanska argues that even though the dead are not present, they are not absent either. She states that if something can be present or absent, the opposite must also be true, things can be non-present or nonabsent (Domanska 2006, p. 339). The non-present is that of which the “presence is not manifest” and the non-absent is that of which the “absence is manifest” (Domanska 2006, p.345). She argues that the dead are part of the non-absent, even though the person has died, part of them remains, at least enough to show that they are no longer there. What remains is on the one hand the eidetic aspects of a person, these aspects are within us and do therefore not die with a person. On the other hand are traces that are left behind, these traces are things that remind a person of the deceased, these can be physical objects or transient phenomena such as smell and sounds. Together these two manifest the absence of the deceased.
The Unheimliche The way in which the absence of the dead manifest is reminiscent of the concept of atmosphere. It results from the coming together of the perception of the outer and the inner, is often subconscious and instantaneous and influences all further conscious perception. Domanska categorizes the manifestation of absence as the Freudian concept of the uncanny, or
the Unheimliche. (Domanska 2006, p. 343) “the Unheimliche [is] what was once heimisch, homelike, familiar; the prefix ‘‘un’’ is the token of repression. .. ( - ) .. the uncanny is nothing else than a hidden, familiar thing that has undergone repression and then emerged from it” (Freud 1919, p. 15) Although the Unheimliche can derive from anything non-absent, “many people experience the [unheimlich] feeling in the highest degree in relation to death and dead bodies.” (Freud 1919, p. 13) This is understandable as a dead body is of course a trace of extreme likeness to a deceased person. In spite of this it is key to understand the unheimlich as a broader concept. Freud regards the Unheimliche as an aesthetic. He understands aesthetics as “the theory of the qualities of feeling” (Freud 1919, p. 1), throughout his discussion of the unheimlich he describes it as a feeling incited by both memory and encounters. Again, his descriptions are very similar to Böhme’s description of atmosphere. Taking this in consideration makes it logical to regard the unheimlich as an atmosphere. An atmosphere that is not so much bound to a certain space, but to certain memories and spatial qualities. An atmosphere that a burial ground becomes part of because of the burial of the dead and its related rituals. The dead as an atmosphere It renders the dead from a static idea that must be represented to an active, evolving thing with which we interact. An example of how this can work, becomes apparent in the film ‘Me, Earl and the dying girl’ during a conversation between Greg, a high-schooler whose best friend is terminally ill, and his history teacher, Mr. McCarthy who tries to comfort him by sharing a story about the death of his father. “Mr. McCarthy: At his wake, these buddies of his kept coming up to me, telling me these stories about him and
it was like they were talking about some complete other guy. I’ll give you an example. He knew every single European pop song from the 1970’s, every single one. He memorized these songs and he would do that so he could go in and sing them to German girls in bars. He had a go-to, a number one go-to song. It was a Dutch song. It was called Ding-a-dong. My dad used to sing that to German girls in bars. That’s a fact. Greg: So what does that mean? Mr. McCarthy: Well Greg, I think that it just means that even after somebody dies you can.. You still keep learning about them. Life can keep on unfolding itself to you as long as you pay attention to it.” (Gomez-Rejon 2015) I think this shows that through the traces left behind by the deceased, the bereaved have an active relationship with the deceased. Both the traces of the deceased and our ideas of them can change. Therefore, our relationship to the dead changes over time. Therefore, the traces of the dead are not merely a representation, but something dynamic we interact with. These traces allow the relationship with the dead to develop further after death. Marking the grave Because of this, the relationship between the visitor and the grave site needs to be reconsidered. A regular gravestone is too static, it is not capable of being part of an interactive relationship with the dead. But is leaving the grave unmarked a logical alternative? Does this provide the interactive relationship visitors are seeking? I think not. A new type of burial site requires a new type of gravedemarcation. A grave site that allows people an active, changing relationship with the deceased through the Unheimliche. 97
The grave as a beacon A common concern from activists against natural burial grounds is that the presence of a burial ground will attract too many people and would put too much presence on the landscape. This concern is based on the idea that bereaved need to keep visiting a burial site in order to maintain their relationship with the dead. This idea could be turned around by creating a grave site that radiates the relationship with the dead outwards, instead of inviting inwards, using the buried body as a beacon. Where the long-term influence of decaying bodies is quite minimal, on a shorter term this influence can be quite big. Carter et al. (2006) calls the place where a body is buried a “highly concentrated island of fertility” or CDI (cadaver decomposition island). These islands can have their own micro-ecology and are of a very ephemeral character. They are often apparent in the landscape because of the wild and fast plant growth that occurs on top of them (Fig. 45). These CDIs could be used to mark the grave, by influencing what plant grow on top of the grave sites. I propose to seed rare and endangered local plants on the grave site, these distinctive plants will mark the grave and have a positive impact on the biodiversity. The concept is based on the slightly different planting on top of the prehistoric grave hills caused by the increase in acidity in the soil because of the buried ashes. Over time these rare and endangered plants will spread and make the grave site move all over the Veluwe. The relationship between the bereaved and the grave will become more dynamic. The bereaved will be ‘visited’ by the dead, through the recognition of plants away from the burial site, as much as the dead will be visited by the bereaved on the burial ground itself. 98
Fig. 45 The body as a CDI
A third line could be added to the diagram presented at the start of the previous section (Fig. 46). This line would be the impact of the on-site ecology on its surroundings over time. The re-introduction of rare and endangered plant species could potentially be a necessary stimulating push for the development of these species outside the protected core of the Veluwe. This eco-conscious reasoning is very much in line with the thoughts and aims of the start of the natural burial movement.
Fig. 46 The influence of biodiversity on the surroundings of the site
Fig. 47 Still from the short film â€˜Adding to the sensesâ€™ displaying a view from the dome
Organization of the graves Every individual grave site is approximately 9 square meters because the grave sites are restricted to the burial mounds. The grave sites are organized in a site specific grid, this allows an efficient burial practice and allows the seeded CDIs to become an organic looking pattern on top of the burial mound (Fig. 48). The outline-banner is a guideline for this grid. First it is offset 1 meter into the site(1), along this line a grave site is located every 3 meters(2). Another line is offset 3 metres further inwards until the middle of the site is reached(3), along these lines a grave is located again every 3 meters(4). The result is an organic rationale that allows people to recognize their individual space whilst simultaneously blending in with the landscape.
Fig. 48 Organization of a burial mound
Fig. 49 Detail map of the development of the grave site 1:200
Growth of the graves - burial When the black cloth is just removed, the mounds are large, open, sandy spaces, outlined in an otherwise green surrounding. On these large open spaces, burial takes place.
Fig. 50 Detail map of the development of the grave site 1:200
Growth of the graves - Plant islands The second summer after burial, as the surroundings of the mound are slowly being covered in sand, CDIs start appearing. Since decomposition is mostly related to temperature (Carter el al. 2006), many of these CDIs will appear around the same time. At this stage the grave site strongly resembles a traditional gravestone and forms an orientation point for the bereaved.
Fig. 51 Detail map of the development of the grave site 1:200
Growth of the graves - Dissolving graves As the area is slowly starting to regrow, the plant islands will slowly start disappearing into the landscape. Bereaved will have the choice to either maintain the grave site or let it overgrow. They will be forced to consider their relationship with the dead and act (or not act) accordingly.
Fig. 52 Detail map of the development of the grave site 1:200
Growth of the graves - Return of the heathland Over time the burial ground will turn back into a heathland, albeit with more rare species. At this point the bereaved need to consider a different type of relationship with the site. Being involved in the larger maintenance of the site, or as an activist for the preservation of the area or certain species, both described by Hockey et al. (2003), could be potential relationships.
1. 2. 3.
Fig. 53 The seeding of the grave site
Three layers The seeding of the graves happens in three layers (Fig. 53); 1. Mycorrhizospheric plants native to the area will be seeded in large quantities, these plants have become endangered because of the way they reproduce. They release many fine, light, seeds. These seeds are so light that they do not contain nutrients, and need to come into contact with the (myccorhizoid) root sphere of another plant in order to sprout. These plants are redlisted and often considered extremely rare 108
2. Native species on decline form the second layer, these are species often noted in censuses as â€˜strongly diminishedâ€™. These plants often struggle with exotic competitors and work best in the context of their native planting community. 3. A thin layer of plants regular for the two associations of the heathland form the third layer. These plants stimulate the species on decline in symbiotic relationships and form a root-network for the Myccorhizoid plants.
Pyrola minor The common wintergreen grows an average height of 15 centimetres. It grows white bulbous flowers that appear on a purple stem
Dactylorhiza maculata The heath-spotted orchis reaches an average height of 30 centimetres. It grows lilac or white flowers with purple spots. These spots also recur on the leafs of the plant.
1 yr. 5 yr.
/ / / / / /-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/ / / / 500 m.
Mycorrhizospheric plants The species described above are mycorrhizospheric plants native to the area. (KNNV 2006) They are often red-listed species native to the east of the Veluwe.
show up occasionally around the natural burial ground. Considering the limitations of their seed it is not very likely that they will spread beyond the site in the near future.
As mentioned before, mycorrhizospheric growing means that the plants produce very fine seed without extra nutrients, this allows the seeds to fall further from the plant, but makes them dependent on nutrients from the root systems (or mycorrhizospheres) of other plants to grow. The species will show up in groups over the grave site, and they will over time
The timeline under the plant species indicates how far the plant is likely to spread over time as calculated using the estimations for plant spread from Vittoz and Engler (2007). What these distances mean in the context of the site can be seen on Fig. 54.
Festuca ovina Sheepâ€™s fescue can reach a length up to 70 centimetres. It grows white/green plumes with purple ares.
Narthecium ossifragum Bastard Asphodel can reach a lenght up to 30 centimetres. The plant grows small, yellow, lily-like flowers
Genista anglica Needle whin reaches an average length of 1 meter. The plant grows long strands with dark-green needle like leafs with small yellow flowers at the end
1 yr. 5 yr.
/ / / / / /-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/ / / / / /
500 m. 1 km
Native species on decline Second are plants that are decreasing in numbers in yearly plant censuses. They are native to the area, but increasingly out-competed by exotic species or unable to adapt to changing soil conditions. (KNNV 2006) These plants often grow in the vicinity of other heath plants, although it has not been statistically proven, biologists presume that these plants form collaborations with other heathland species and need them for survival. (Haveman and van Ravensberg 2003) 110
Although these species are vulnerable, they have the capacity to spread relatively far beyond the natural burial ground through the wind and by growing sandy patches along roads and fields. The timeline under the plant species indicates how far the plant is likely to spread over time as calculated using the estimations for plant spread from Vittoz and Engler (2007). What these distances mean in the context of the site can be seen on Fig. 54.
Calluna vulgaris The common heather usually grows between 20 and 50 centimetres. The plant has small green leafs and grows mauve/purple flowers
Genista pilosa The Hairy greenweed usually grows between 30 and 45 centimetres. The plant has small green leafs and grows pairs yellow flowers about the same size as the leaves.
Spergula morisonii The pearlworth spurry usually grows between 3 and 40 centimetres. The plant grows distinctive dark purple stems and small start shaped white flowers.
1 yr. 5 yr.
/ / / / / /-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/ / / / / /
500 m. 2 km.
Regulare heath species These species grow in abundance on heathlands and are often used as indicator species for the identification of ecological associations. (KNNV 2006) A thin base of species like this will stimulate the rare plants to grow. Although they travel fast, these plants will soon blend in with the rest of the site.
and Engler (2007). What these distances mean in the context of the site can be seen on Fig. 54. It has to be noted that the selection of plants is a starting point from which a larger selection must be chosen, this should be done in collaboration with both the bereaved and local experts.
The timeline under the plant species indicates how far the plant is likely to spread over time as calculated using the estimations for plant spread from Vittoz 111
1 KM 750 M 500 M 250 M
Fig. 54 Over map of the area 1:20.000
Not only do the plants on the grave site indicate a location on the site, they just as much radiate outwards. This allows visitors to have a different kind of relationship with their grave site, one that allows the grave site to appear to the bereaved off-site through the spread of the more distinctive species.
Fig. 55 Still from the short film â€˜Adding to the sensesâ€™ displaying the discovery of seeded species off-site
The design proposal that has been laid out in the past few chapters must be seen as the starting point of the formation of a landscape. It is not meant to function as a recipe that can just be followed for the next 30 years. Instead, the burial ground will have to be assessed and reconsidered from time to time, to see if the dynamic processes generated by this project still resonate with the landscape. If not, the planners responsible for the burial ground will need to steer these processes in a manner that they find suiting at that time. Many of the physical interventions in this project are generators (or â€˜seedsâ€™), that influence the processes of the site and change the character of the atmosphere. These generators are temporary and disappear or need to be removed after they have played their part. I see this temporality as an opportunity. Every time when a generator is implemented or has played its role on the site, be it small like the placement of cloth over a burial mound or big like the removal large amounts of roofing panels from the central dome, it should be seen as a moment of reconsideration. In each of these moments of reconsideration, planners, visitors and bereaved need to ask themselves if the development of the site still makes sense. Whether the natural processes still generate an atmosphere that resonates with the visitors and whether the atmosphere of the site still positively impacts the natural processes. When this is no longer the case, the the atmosphere and the natural processes need to be readjusted accordingly.
Preparation of the regeneration of the heathland Off-site plant spread Pine development Heath development Dome Natural burial site Burial mound Burial mound Burial mound Burial mound Burial mound Burial mound
Moment of reconsideration
Burial mound Burial mound 1 yr.
Reflecting on natural burial grounds At the end of this thesis I would like to repeat the James Corner quotation I used in the introduction. “Most who accomplish [the implementation of their design] can only do so through the typically unimaginative and uncritical techniques of design as a service profession. On the other hand, the visionaries, it would seem, are always provocative and interesting, but their utopia’s continually evade the problem of an operative strategy.” (Corner 2006, p. 31) Throughout this project it has been my aim not to fall into either type of practice whilst trying to articulate the unarticulated goals and intuitive notions of the municipality of Epe by considering what distinguishes a natural burial ground from any other type of burial ground and analyze the atmosphere of the site as well as the processes that form this atmosphere. I did this in order to provide the municipality with a design proposal for a natural burial ground that resonates with these unarticulated goals and intuitive notions. Moving away from the image Because of the interviews with proprietors of natural burial grounds it became clear that natural burial grounds should be seen as a reaction to cemeteries that were based on a static image of what a cemetery should be. These images became more detached from what was actually going on in a cemetery, as culture changed and time moved on. This detachment of the image of a cemetery and the experience of being in one should be seen as the loss of nearness. The manifesto by Ken West made it clear that the natural burial movement has had the aim of creating ‘cave-like’ spaces, spaces more open to appropriation and less dependent on certain types of actions of visitors than traditional cemeteries. Nature was a framework to break with the image of the traditional 118
cemetery and allow people a place of burial that they could appropriate in their own manner. A framework to regain nearness, regain the idea of being in a space by allowing people to connect with the space. Nature provided a narrative to explain what was happening, on a natural burial ground. However, in places like Farum Skovkirkegård and in most natural burial grounds throughout the Netherlands, the narrative of nature has become the main focal point and the regaining of nearness is no longer prevalent. In order to retain the image of untouched nature, visitors were no longer allowed to mark their grave site. Their relationship had become less important than this image. Reconsidering the natural However, nature is not unavoidable in the practice of creating nearness. I propose the use of the concept of atmosphere as formulated by Gernot Böhme as the new central concept in the creation of natural burial grounds. An awareness of the instant, subconscious and holistic perception of the visitor leads to different considerations during the creation of a burial ground. It forces the designer to ask the question; Do my design interventions really result in the spatial experience I’m aiming for? Atmosphere can push planners in the early design stages to be more aware of the qualities of the landscapes they are using and help them formulate requirements and expectations for landscape architects that join the design project at a later stage. I think that atmosphere can have are large impact on site selection for natural burial grounds as site processes are more relevant for the formation of an atmosphere than the overall image of a space. I could easily envision a natural burial ground in places that are not commonly considered natural, as a vacant lot in between New York’s high rises or an abandoned
industrial site in the Ruhr area for example. As the perception of a burial ground changes with the mood of a bereaved visitor, a dynamic site in transition forms a more suitable foundation for a natural burial ground than a site in nature, that is static because of many preservative restrictions. Epeâ€™s natural burial ground In my analysis I shifted away from the consideration of individual elements towards finding out the collaborative processes that established the senses of liveliness, exploration and bewilderment. My analysis of the site in Epe and its surroundings clearly indicated that the atmosphere of this natural site was dependent on both human and natural processes over time. The interplay between three ecological communities, Heathland, Pine forest and Oak/Beech forest turned out to be important for the establishment and maintenance of the senses. The heathland community especially plays an important role in the creation and maintenance of biodiversity and the establishment of the senses of liveliness, exploration and bewilderment. This community is largely dependent on human intervention and would benefit from the integration of human and natural processes in the landscape. The heath provides an opportunity for a natural burial ground to be implemented on the site in Epe. Leaving a positive footprint The design proposal explores this possibility to integrate human and natural processes. The proposal establishes a positive line in the development of heathland and formulates the atmosphere of the burial ground. The design process became a balancing act with on the one hand the ekstases (or impact on the perception of the visitor) of the design interventions, and on the other the impact of these interventions on the development of the processes of the site.
In this context, the burial mounds form generators in every sense of the word. They re-generate the heathland by starting the process of removing the top layer of the soil and their demarcation establishes the atmosphere of a burial ground, i.e. their demarcation immediately clarifies the purpose of the site. The final design proposal strengthens and add to the initial perception and interpretation of the site of both myself and the municipality. However, in order to stimulate and work with these senses, the proposal adds a distinct layer to the landscape. This layer interferes with the natural processes and has a clear human fingerprint, instead of an invisible, low-impact layer the municipal rules and regulations seemed to strive for. Relating to the burial site More than anything else, this proposal should be seen as an urging to bring the relationship between the bereaved visitor and the burial site back into centre focus again. This should also be seen as the most important unarticulated goal of the municipality. The site visit to Ă–stra kyrkogĂĽrden made it clear that the traditional way of dealing with these relationships were too static and incapable of change. I have tried to propose an alternative. Not only does the demarcation of the graves become more dynamic, the whole site with the procession of the burial mounds, dome and re-generation of the heathland are all able to adapt to the evolving relationships of the bereaved, all interventions press the bereaved to occasionally think about their interactions with the site. Although no part of the process is specifically designated as ritual, every part of it could be appropriated as one if visitors would so desire.
Reflecting on my work Throughout this thesis I have worked with three approaches. The first was the placing of the concept ‘natural burial ground’ in a theoretical framework so that goals and aims for the design proposal can be formulated and the resulting proposal can be discussed. The second was a filmic investigation of existing burial grounds in order to formulate, test and reconsider the statements of the theoretical framework. Third was an analysis of the site and its surroundings in order to articulate the atmosphere perceived by Henk Posthuma and I, and to embed the design proposal within its surroundings. These three lines of investigation have been unfolded simultaneously and in relation to eachother. I think that the simultaneous work on all three approaches allowed me to go more in-depth than working with any of the methods individually would have allowed me. Where the theoretical framework prompted me to see that nature was not the leading discourse for a natural burial ground, the site analysis forced me not to dismiss the ecological discourse altogether as it was still part of the dynamics of the natural burial ground. Where the concept of atmosphere lead me to consider design interventions as generators, did work on the design proposal make me realize that these interventions also served a steering purpose in the landscape beyond their perceptions and radiating qualities. The filmic explorations stood as a constant comparison for the other working methods and insights from the other two working methods allowed me to gain a deeper insight into the burial grounds I explored. Atmosphere Working with the theoretical framework allowed me to seize the opportunity of the format of a thesis to ask the questions that often cannot be answered within the commercial practice of landscape architecture 120
because of time and monetary reasons. During an internship at a landscape architecture and urbanism firm I often asked myself questions like ‘What is it exactly that has to be designed?’ and ‘Why does it need to be designed in the first place?’. The theoretical framework established during this thesis now allows me to phrase these questions more precisely as ‘What is the atmosphere the client envisions for this project?’ and ‘Why do the processes of the proposed site need to be altered?’. I think that in a more general sense, ladnscape architecture as a discipline could benefit from working closer with the concept of atmosphere and the discourse of the loss of nearness. Atmosphere allowed me to present a nuanced understanding of the site, by analyzing my own instantaneous, subconscious and holistic perception of the landscape I was able to avoid the oversimplification of the site. And a reflection on this perception helped me find a framework to comprehensively explain the complex landscape that I found. The concept of atmosphere worked as a mediator between abstract scientific explanations of the processes of the site and my experiences and intuitive reading. Film In the introduction of this thesis I established film as an “Intimacy Projection Environment” (Munck Petersen and Farsø 2016). A ‘virtual space’ able to project bodily experience onto a viewer and place the viewer in the space where the film is recorded. Throughout the thesis I have used it as such. The films that resulted from the site explorations of Östra kyrkogården and Farum Skovkirkegård do not present a complete space, but a specific experience of the space that influenced my thoughts and reasoning. I attempted to steer this virtual space with a voice over technique and a filmic collage of different stills of the sites. Both the editing of the film and the formulation
of the voice-over allowed me to take a closer look at the site and re-experience transient qualities. In the two films related to Epe’s natural burial ground I attempted to work more consciously with the polyphonic perception of the space by restricting myself from using a voice over and working purely with the imposing of editing techniques onto my filmic documentation of the site. I did this in order to create a flow of images as described by Pallasmaa. A flow that does not halt “for analytic observation” that instead needs to be appreciated “as an enhanced haptic sensation” (Pallasmaa 2012, p. 40).) Furthermore, I used the overlaying of Photoshop edits onto my films and the addition of images and sounds from elsewhere to speculate on the effect of my design interventions on the atmosphere of the site. This was effective, as I have reconsidered and altered many interventions, like the burial mounds and dome because the photoshop overlays looked strange in the film. Film had a significant impact on the procession and outcome of this project. The use of film as documentation allowed me to capture the experience I wanted to capture more completely and freely. It also allowed me to genuinely discover new things when reviewing my documentation a lot more than photography, for example, ever had. I see film as a tool with a lot of potential for architecture and landscape architecture. Although it is increasingly used by bigger firms for presenting advertisement-like animated renders, a more aware use of film as a design tool and as a virtual space would allow landscape architects to discuss and work with atmosphere more easily.
prompted me to work in a non-linear fashion, reconsidering the concepts and films I used with every step I took. It allowed me to gather new insights and altered my outlook on landscape architecture. From this intertwining an unconventional design proposal developed, a proposal that could almost be seen as a strategy. The combination of working with the instantaneous and holistic perception of space and the long-term processes of a landscape created an awareness of both the instantaneous impact of my design interventions and the more gradual processional change that flows forth from these interventions over time. This proposal will require a different type of implementation and a different approach from a planning perspective. Instead of having a large team that works intensively on the project at its conception it needs just a few people that work extensively with it over time. I think that the implementation of this type of experimental project is beneficial for the development of landscape architecture as a profession, and relatively small projects like this one in Epe are the perfect casestudies to do so. Theoretical footing However, the large amount of time this process took did prevent me from experimenting more with my on-site findings and created material. For future projects I would try to work with the site analysis and design proposal more intensively from the start of the project, in order to go more in-depth with the practical considerations of the project. Yet it was this project and especially the intertwining of my methods that have given me a firmer theoretical footing to do so.
Intertwining For this project I have really jumped in the deep end regarding my methods and theoretical framework. The complexity of working with so many new concepts 121
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The dissertation for my Masters thesis in Landscape Architecture at the University of Copenhagen
Published on Oct 17, 2016
The dissertation for my Masters thesis in Landscape Architecture at the University of Copenhagen