Designing with the Landscape

Date Published: 
May, 2006
Original Author: 
Ron Wolfe, SMBW Architects, Richmond, Virginia
Blair Hines, Hines, Wasser and Associates, Boston, Massachusetts
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, May 2006

Ron Wolfe
It's kind of cliché, but I think it's important to talk about the demographic and social realities of where we are today, primarily looking at the impending demand on your sites of baby boomers as they age.

That demographic is more self-aware than many previous generations, which leads to a sense of individuality, a reflection of trying to look beyond the status quo. How do we do things that are both different and represent our sense of life in our representation of death?

That is an important market than can be addressed. My experience in dealing with the baby boomer generation is they have a much different sense of values and deeper needs that have to be achieved or at least resolved.

Since the '50s, we've been going very homogeneous in our buildings and our developments, and I think it's important, both as a way of articulating that place and as a way of marketing yourself differently, to push quality architecture.

Blair Hines
Many of the cemeteries established in the 19th and 20th centuries are starting to run out of available ground for burial, and there's a great need to provide new burial space.

This has led many cemeteries to construct large community mausolea, and many times we find that these buildings insert fairly urban elements into what was originally designed as a garden cemetery, as a landscape.

Also, sometimes these designs are prepackaged designs bought off the shelf, and they are inserted into an existing garden or rural cemetery without any relationship to the local character of the place.

The first critical aspect of a master planning effort engaged in the development of new interment space is what we call "visual character analysis," which is understanding the elements of the landscape that are pleasing.

If you're going to try to develop something new, it needs to fit in with the existing place, and you need to understand what it is that makes this place attractive and beautiful.

This article compiled from an address presented by the authors at the 2006 ICFA Annual Convention