Planetizen - Urban Planning News, Jobs, and Education

Austin Master Plan to Transform Municipal Cemeteries

Could it be that places for the dead might be a new source of urban innovation? Austin provides an example of new thinking regarding urban resting places.
March 5, 2015, 5am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments

Anna Clark undertakes an examination of the land use and design challenges presented by cemeteries and other sites for honoring the dead.

First Clark establishes the challenges:

"As the meeting point between the living and the dead, cemeteries are peculiarly fraught ground. That makes them easy for cities to ignore. Crime, environmental problems, historic preservation, social class, religious traditions, and the thorny legacy of who is included in cities, and who is not, all come crashing together in urban cemeteries. It’s a toxic tangle of priorities that often contradict each other, and when the cemeteries are on public land, they are an endless drain on city budgets. If no descendants are around anymore to care, if eroded grave markers make it hard to even tell who is buried where, is there any harm in letting nature run its course?"

In Austin, Texas, however, planners are looking for new ways to negotiate these tricky questions:

"The city is creating its first-ever master plan for five municipal cemeteries, the oldest of which dates to the founding of Texas’ capital city in 1839. The proposed plan — a 542-page behemoth — debuted in January. It details a rehabilitative approach to historic cemeteries: protecting their character through repair of gravestones, relics, and plant life, expanding visitor services, and developing interpretive programming that, in effect, returns cemeteries to their origins as public parks."

Scott notes that the cities of Sacramento, California and New Braunfels, Texas are the only cities in the country with cemetery master plans, so Austin's planners don't exactly have a great deal of precedent to go on in their efforts.

The long article goes into a lot more detail about the design and planning solutions that Austin, and other cities, could potentially devote to their cemeteries. 

Full Story:
Published on Monday, March 2, 2015 in Next City
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email