Cultural Landscape Of Death English Literature Essay


The burial land or graveyard is one of the most bewitching cultural landscapes, turn toing society ‘s attitude towards decease and the hereafter. Michael Howe said that “ Throughout history the mode in which people dispose of their dead represents the highest aspiration of any society ”[ 1 ]. The American historian Lewis Mumford really suggested that the metropolis of the dead predated the metropolis of the life. In The City in History he wrote: “ The dead were the first to hold lasting dwellingaˆ¦ the metropolis of the dead is the precursor, about the nucleus, of every life metropolis. ” This thought “ no graveyard – no metropolis ” , could be expressed as: “ no graveyard – no civilisation ”[ 2 ].

Culture is built on adult male ‘s consciousness of his mortality, so if he of all time intended to make something that transcends finitude it is through his architecture of decease ; his memorials, graves and graveyards. Here, civilization is at work at its most cardinal, natural degree. Throughout history civilization has represented permanency, projecting an semblance of victory over decease ; of adult male over nature.

The bulk of civilisations throughout history commemorate their dead in some manner. All strive to observe adult male ‘s ability to withstand decease, runing from the Neolithic Gravess and graves of Djanet, Algeria, dating back 5 500 old ages, to the massive grave of the Aztecs. Elias Canetti captures this most articulately when he writes: “ The purest look of civilization is an Egyptian grave, where everything lies about futilely: utensils, adornments, nutrient, images, sculptures, supplications, and yet the dead adult male is non alive ”[ 3 ]

Across the Earth, the grave has ever served to reassure the significance of life. Against the depredations of clip and the changeless barrage from nature, it represents continuity seeking to commemorate the individual within.

Today, nevertheless, the presence of the funerary memorial and the graveyard has significantly diminished within society, due to our mutated relationship with decease. Despite the scientific discipline of decease being more clearly understood, it is now seen as an break to life, instead than its most unconditioned decision ; a apogee of a line as opposed to the completion of a circle. This freshly formed reaction to decease dubbed by psychologists and sociologists as the “ denial of decease ” in modern or late modern civilization has seen our burial evidences exiled to the peripheries of our metropoliss.

Many of our graveyards lie neglected, overgrown, dotted with fallen keystones and deep-set pedestals. Here, clip exposes the haughtiness of civilization by necessarily gnawing the memorial to dust. Even the most ambitious memorials that were intended to stand indefinitely will finally return to the Earth. This battle of adult male and nature is built-in in the battle of life over decease. The permanency of decease is likened to the intransience of civilization and its ageless conflict with of all time altering nature and life.

The architectural look of decease

Pere Lachaise is the largest graveyard in Paris and is an amazing illustration of adult male ‘s desire to make something immortal. With over 70 000 psyches, changing from affluent Gallic blue bloods to Oscar Wilde, resting in its huge 44 hectares, the graveyard now serves as a veritable who ‘s who of Gallic history. However, at its clip of construct it was simply a necessity for disposing of disease-ridden organic structures in an overcrowded metropolis. The state of affairs of the graveyard outside of the metropolis walls parallels the modern suppression of decease. Peoples feared the religious power of the dead and the repetitive presence of decease ; it was non viewed as an built-in facet of life, but that which must be avoided.

This turning away of decease bred fear amongst society, frightening civilization off from nature and making a demand to show adult male ‘s ability to withstand decease. This was most normally expressed through the constructing of indestructible rock grave. Row upon row line the cobbled streets of the Parisian cemetery making a “ sacred fane in the eyes of subsisters… an object of respectful involvement to aliens and aliens sing the city ”[ 4 ]. The tombs service as lasting resting topographic points for the castanetss of the deceased, the psyche coupled with the flesh of the organic structure, moves on with clip and nature, go forthing an semblance of immortality within the about unchanging rock landscape. Although these striking graves will doubtless outlive the most relentless of grievers, they pose an awkward inquiry: Do they truly exist to admit the presence, or the absence of the deceased?

Lewis Mumford, the societal historiographer, believed Pere Lachaise was but a “ muss of rock amour propres betokening disused beliefs about decease and infinity ” . He felt that graveyards and their memorials still offered little more than an image of “ petrified immortality, ” a feeling of the “ immobilisation of life ”[ 5 ]. Some Gravess are vandalised, some merely crumpling under the effects of clip, necessarily they will all degrade, but for now Pere Lachaise emblemises adult male ‘s laterality over nature.

A more modern illustration of adult male ‘s ability to flex nature to his agencies is the recent competition-winning entry by David Chipperfield for an extension to the Venetian graveyard, San Michele. This historic site, situated in the Venetian laguna, presently encloses a fifteenth century church and convent, and has seen legion changes over the past 400 old ages. David Chipperfield describes it to hold “ evolved to a point where the romantic image of its outer face is in blunt contrast to the slightly dogged municipal character of its inside ”[ 6 ]. The proposal sought to turn to this instability by returning to some of the graveyard ‘s former tectonic and physical qualities.

An island will be constructed parallel to the bing graveyard. This island will have multiple graves with a series of gardens, all at H2O degree to “ supply a greater sense of topographic point non merely for the graveyard but for the laguna and Venice as a whole ” .[ 7 ]One must observe the sarcasm of holding to import dirt in order to bury the dead. Man ‘s desire to rule nature in order to accomplish a symbolic act of take downing the dead into Earth, in such an inappropriate site, is typical of traditional cultural beliefs bearing more importance than natural restraints.

The ageless battle between Earth and H2O is peculiarly evident here, as the land will be flat with the environing river. If sea degrees were of all time to lift, as many scientists predict, so this new memorial to the dead will be consumed by nature, drowned in the Waterss from which it emerged.

Other 20th century graveyards have drawn on this figure of speech of ruin, pre-empting their ain sorry destiny. By calculating their ain death and predefining the effects of nature it adds an dry cultural significance to these architectural memorials. Alternatively of enduring everlastingly, proudly denoting the grave beneath and projecting an endless image, they yieldingly cooperate with the elements, clip and nature.

The graveyard at Igualada, Barcelona harbours this built-in cognition of the damaging effects of nature. It appears that the designer, Enric Mirralles, is seeking to show the daintiness of human life through the infirmity of architecture, given how architecture itself is invariably built and demolished throughout clip. The burial niches appear to be dug into the ancient river bed that historically flowed across the site. The niches are all embedded in the dirt, proposing a twenty-four hours when they will be buried wholly and reclaimed by the Earth ; a clip when nature and the elements will hold made an reliable ruin out of the designer ‘s imitation.

The architectural signifier of the seating on the path that negotiates the different degrees can be likened to that of fallen keystones that normally stud our ain state ‘s ruined cemeteries. This return to nature could take merely a affair of old ages ; if the wire mesh back uping the environing drop was to neglect the whole site would be buried. The workss that have already begun to infringe would steep the graveyard, wholly encapsulating it in nature. In some ways it is inordinately appropriate for a topographic point of burial to bury itself. However, this impression of ego devastation goes against the cardinal nature of a graveyard: to contradict the temporal universe and undertaking an semblance of infinity, exposing it to be impermanent and destructible.

By sing such bold architectural undertakings as Igualada graveyard, it becomes evident that incorporating the awkward topic of decease into the public kingdom is less troublesome than efficaciously accommodating a natural landscape with an architectural strategy that addresses the predicament of human mortality, through which adult male ‘s extinction or disappearing over clip is foretold. This leads to the inquiry: how can we plan a strategy that actively backs nature over monumental civilization? Particularly when the really raison d’etre of a graveyard is to supply the semblance of immortality to those left buttocks. Should one conclude that the undertaking does non run into its built-in brief, neglecting at its most basic degree? Or should we see that nature is possibly non merely the antonym of civilization ; that no longer is decease the mere antithesis of life?

Cemeteries and memorials are the premier illustrations of how civilization expresses new attitudes towards human mortality and nature, every bit good as how we perceive attitudes already prevailing. The cardinal inquiry is how can architecture re-examine and review this cultural landscape to let for a strategy that can be seen to endanger the really being of civilization, conflicting with the preservationist nature of human civilisation?

A solution is that by re-orientating the architectural look of decease towards ruination, collaborating with the elements every bit good as clip, in a similar mode to Igualada, we can do prevailing the dateless thought of the “ circle of life ” . This is a cosmopolitan construct, peculiarly important in the Hindu religion, where the rhythm of birth, growing, decease, decay and reclamation is embraced. This thought of a cyclic return to nature is possibly what has lead to the addition in popularity of the forest entombment, frequently within a dense wood, supplying the dead with a topographic point of slumber.

On the southern outskirts of Stockholm, Sigurd Lewerentz and Erik Gunnar Asplund sought to permeate their new forest graveyard with a “ sacred quality by utilizing landscape as the indispensable point of going for their architectural solution ” .[ 8 ]By encompassing the construct of life being cyclic, much like many oriental beliefs, Asplund and Lewerentz rejected the bing paradigms for graveyards. Alternatively of conforming to the thought of “ the metropolis of the dead or paradise garden ” they used “ signifiers incarnating more crude Nordic affinities with nature in order to locate their design within regional cultural traditions ” .[ 9 ]

The designers began by analyzing the site, a wooded piece of land encircled by agricultural land, dotted with quarrying cicatrixs and ruptured by a granite ridge. By planing in concurrence with nature, a symbiotic strategy evolved, where nature and civilization could be in one harmonious landscape. Nature was no longer the enemy of civilization. Alternatively, low waies lined with Gravess were threaded through the pine wood ; big burial hills arose to “ reaffirm the crude quality of the terrain ” .[ 10 ]The designers enhanced the natural properties of the landscape, arousing associations of decease and metempsychosis through the usage of contrasting elements, such as the ridge and the vale, the Earth and the sky and the wood and the glade, making a landscape of religious dimension without being limited to traditional Christian iconography.

Although the relationship of civilization and nature is addressed efficaciously at the metaphysical degree through the elusive integrating of object into the landscape, the physical gravestones are still a really lasting reminder of adult male ‘s desire to commemorate the asleep. Although little, these memorials clash with the initial cyclic vision. Many historiographers, including Mumford, complained that memorials such as gravestones “ sprang non out of life and its renewing urges, but out of decease: a desire to palisade out life, to except the action of clip, to take the contamination of biological procedures, to except the active attention of other coevalss by a procedure of architectural mummification ”[ 11 ]

This leads to the inquiry of whether the memorial could be redefined as a testimonial to the temporalty of life, with a position to life and clip being the same procedure[ 12 ]. By sing that civilization decays into nature, one can appreciate that they are non complete antonyms, but nodes on the same journey, so this procedure or journey can be more interesting than either node.

Bearing this impression in head, we may reconsider Miralles ‘ Igualada graveyard. Time is present here in all facets from its eroded rock surfaces to its uneven topography, and even in the rusting of the trappingss. Weathering and impairment are visibly promoted, they are combined with its ageless ruination and invasion of flora. Nature ‘s barrage is unconditioned within its design no more evident than in the designer ‘s intervention of the flooring. Boards of wood float through the crushed rock symbolizing the Stygian shade of the antediluvian river that one time flowed through the vale, a haunting reminder that decease transports us into the underworld. Igualada ‘s most appealing struggle of civilization and nature has nil to make with romanticizing the picturesque garden or the ancient temple, nor the fact that it fails to conform to the Catalonian graveyard slang of walled gardens, such as the Montjuic dramatically enforcing itself of the metropolis ‘s hillside. Alternatively, we find the most piquant facet to be the struggle in the figure of speech of ruin.

It is the really act of ruination that intrigues us ; it is so visually piquant, so absorbing, that even the least architecturally minded of us who view the site can non assist but be intrigued by its ephemeral nature, its “ temporal ambivalency and its function in the rhythm of decay and reclamation ” .[ 13 ]Everything about this strategy implies a clip when the graveyard may hold completed a full circle and no longer exists. Could the memorial be redefined to move as a testimonial to the breakability of life as opposed to an ageless symbol of immortalisation?


Since adult male foremost constructed shelter, so excessively would he try to make shelter for his psyche, lingering testimonials to the asleep reflecting spiritual beliefs that were frequently intended to repeat through infinity. Over clip these memorials, these imitations of immortality, have become more lasting, more indestructible, driven by an addition in modernist ideals coupled with the rise of Christianity. They symbolise the illimitable extents of adult male ‘s accomplishment, by suppressing decease and projecting an semblance of victory ; civilization appears to rule nature.

Pere Lachaise and San Michele are but two of 1000s of illustrations in the Western universe ; massive metropoliss of the dead, admiting the deceased for old ages to come. Igualada belongs to a clip, non of this universe but besides non of the following, proposing an integrating of civilization with nature and clip. It is the journey that makes the undertaking so successful ; the act of ruination. By returning to the Earth piece by piece, Igualada accepts civilization struggles with nature, showing this built-in conflict to the bereaved in a elusive mode that can merely be found when looked for. The attractively landscaped forest graveyard seeks to unite civilization with nature far more evidently, although still showing adult male ‘s desire to contradict the temporal universe and withstand the depredations of clip through the medium of keystones.

Researching this subject has thrown up many combative issues environing decease. Whether life continues after decease is a topic that can ne’er be scientifically proven, and hence will ever bring on conflicting positions, but by sing this threshold we can polish our ain sentiments on current civilization.

I believe that nature is the most complete and unconditioned terminal for civilization ; at some point it will devour adult male and all that he has built. Therefore, by pre-empting this decision and giving our dead back to nature along with any physical memorial to them we are finishing the godly circle of life. Can we non return to a clip when Gravess were denoted by a little lumber cross that decays with the deceased? Once the organic structure has decayed, so excessively has the memorial, leting all natural landscapes to be commemorations of the dead.

Man is one with nature: nature forms the edifice blocks of adult male ‘s organic structure, and the disintegrating organic structure of adult male becomes constructing blocks of nature. When we view anything in nature, allow it be a reminder of those that have passed. Truly accepting civilization as portion of nature, is accepting nature as the cultural landscape of decease and of life.