Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Density of the Dead

A little cross-post from the Veg.itecture blog, where the concept of a vertical cemetery in Mumbai 'Vegitecturally Vertical Cemetery' was presented as a way to satisfy cultural expectations while efficiently utilizing scarce urban land. As we've become less likely to cross program or use cemeteries as quasi-public parks and open space - these areas (while heavily weighed down with much baggage) are literally urban dead space. A diagram of the amount of comparative density on a plot of land shows the inefficiencies of this horizontal infrastructure for disposal - at a density of 4000 bodies to 100 acres.

:: image via Inhabitat

Using similar mapping/datascape techniques of MVRDV (some info here) - it would be interesting to posit the acutal spatial impact of such a land use - even factoring in the differing cultural aspects. Even as we densify the planet, there's still a bunch of land in this big world of ours - at a rate of 1000 s.f. per body - that land surplus is gonna go away quickly.

:: image via Bellville Cemetery (Ohio)

So as we develop new cultural techniques for disposing of bodies - there still persists the need to memorialize - which inevitably leads to more use of space, often of the urban kind. I often wonder about the orderliness of the pastoral cemetery as an adjunct, in miniature, of the suburbs - as if in death we must live with a plot of land, a swatch of lawn, a marker worthy of our self-image, and a few neighbors. If life does mimic the hereafter, is there an appropriate correlation of living density and land use as there is for the dead?

:: image via cruelkev

Are we willing to use these spaces, either new or historic, as public or open space, perhaps even letting the lawn go for habitat. Or is a combined cemetery off the table as a way of urban cross-programming? Either way, does it not make sense to utilize this space more fully, and also come up with alternatives that at the very least have a significant multi-functional aspect - utilizing the square footage in a new, more efficient manner (going vertical? subterranean?

More on this for sure, as two things remain - the ideas of transforming urban density, and cemeteries - will continue to fascinate.

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