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From Funerary Architecture to Landscape Architecture:

A Project for the Cemetery of the 3rd Millennium


“The desire to find solace in nature has led humans to elect trees as the symbol of relentless rebirth, a constant renewal of life” 

(Simon Schama, Paesaggio e memoria)

Trees, stones and symbols which are recognized to have a sacred power can be found in the history of any religion of folk tradition.  Thus, in most of their beliefs men have always established a close relationship between burial and nature, giving a sense of immortality to the landscape and vegetation.

If the concern of the past for burials demonstrated a solid belief in an afterlife and the purchase of a tomb was of the utmost importance, in today’s capitalist society of chaos and spiritual uncertainty, people tend to remove the thought of death as much as possible from their daily lives.  Thus, today’s world is witnessing the disintegration of the funerary culture of the Romantic period, seen by contemporary society to be an obsolete and alien tradition; death has become one of the great taboos of our time, perhaps the last, and the most unseemly.  

The expansion of urban systems in the twentieth century became an “overflow” of existing populated areas, so cemeteries which had previously been built outside the borders of the towns at the beginning of the nineteenth century were inevitably incorporated into the cities; however, despite their physical vicinity to populated areas, the cemeteries have never been farther from the hearts of the population.

The spread of cremation in many European countries has now led to a substantial change in the traditional model of a cemetery, reducing the overall size.  So if architecture has always granted man, and his dimensions, the power to define space, cremation has definitively broken this link and stands as a valid answer to the shortage of space in cemeteries and to those who no longer identify with the monumentality of the past. 

The places that represent the traditions of the past must be renewed using a new language that is also an opportunity for the redevelopment of cities.


Arborvitae introduces a new culture regarding cemeteries and the practices connected to death, envisaging the burial of ashes after cremation in a special biodegradable urn and the rebirth of the body as a tree.  It is a cemetery-landscape in which funerary architecture gives way to trees, creating an urban park, a vital space for the population; a place of memory and respect able to eliminate the distance between the world of the dead and that of the living.  

In so doing, something that was destined to remain immobile continues to live and evolve over time. 


Arborvitae pursues the directive of the Kyoto Protocol (Agenda 21), which considers the spread of green as an extremely important element in improving the quality of life in cities. 



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