A leader in cemetery and park design since its inception—an inspiration, in fact, for Central Park—Mount Auburn Cemetery continues to be a bellwether. Now the cemetery would like to become one of the nation’s first major urban burial grounds to explore natural burial, a sustainable and biodegradable form of burial. The cemetery, placed at the edge of the growing city of Cambridge, was to be not simply a burial ground but a haven from urban life, a place of natural beauty and abundance in the Picturesque style, which featured soft, pastoral landscapes adorned with neoclassical buildings and sculptures.
“It was much easier to speculate about ecological functions than it was to understand whether revealing these processes in the ways we suggested would actually appeal to people’s sense of beauty and the sacred. Coming to understand how a site works, and could work, came to seem less like a boring obligation before the design real work got under way, and more like a process that reveals how a site is already charged with latent meanings and artistic possibility.” Katharine Gehron ’09, working on a plan for green burial at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.