Chapel, Crematorium, and Columbaria

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Virginia Tech

Modern park-cemeteries have overcome the problems associated with cemeteries in past centuries. They usually are located away from population centers. They are designed for efficiency and are operated by professional caretakers. When loved ones are laid to rest there, we can be confident, as it is possible to be that their rest will not be disturbed by human beings.

But for all we have gained in peace of mind, we have lost as much or more of the trappings that reminds us of our connections to our ancestors. Cemetery landscapes usually are banal. Neither their settings nor their designs evoke memories or renew our spirits. When we visit cemeteries, we visit another suburb, another mall, a place that "sells" us with promises of security and efficiency, a place that keeps its promises but nevertheless disappoints. Except for individual graves, there is no focal point either in the landscape or architecture of a park-cemetery to help us honor the dead or to rejoice in life.

The Chapel Building is a focal point for a cemetery, the place where the dead and the living co-exist, however briefly. The ground floor of the Chapel houses the business of death. There is a place for preparation of bodies for burial, as well as a crematorium. The retaining walls cutting a section in the earth in an "L" shape is the columbaria.

Cemeteries, Landscape