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Rafael Bloch

Burial Practice as a Land Transformation Tool: Crafting Ecological Reverence Through Challenging the Burial Landscape


Death is inevitable. As is the demand for burial grounds. But contemporary burial practices are ecologically unfriendly and place strain on land and resources. Conventional cemeteries use large portions of land which become neglected and stagnant once they reach capacity. Knowing that there are legal considerations with building over burial grounds or cemeteries, these landscapes can become wasted space where there is little to no public engagement. This is despite literature and government documents ascribing cemeteries as ‘public open space’ (City of Cape Town, 2018). This is an unfortunate condition that is common throughout the world. 


Considering the COVID pandemic, there has been an increase in global deaths which has placed further pressure on an already strained burial system. There has been a global shift around burials, to a more ecological way of thinking about death, but is that enough? This thesis will locate and design a future burial site that can transform degraded land and soil into a mature ecological landscape by harnessing the unique opportunities burials can provide. Ecology is at the forefront of this thesis and will provide the structure to challenge conventional burial ground design.


By harnessing the unique ecological opportunities that arise from burial practices, this thesis will show how burying can be used as a tool for ecological transformation and conservation. In the same way that organs are donated, and bodies are used for science, the body can be used as a conservation tool. The final design will encourage a sense of deep reflection, expanding reverence and provide tranquillity for the living and the dead.

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