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Mapping Cemeteries

Park & Open space

The distribution pattern of urban cemeteries in Hong Kong seems to conform to urban boundaries whereas designated public open spaces are integrated between blocks forming a green network. The negative images of cemetery as NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) program and need of urban cemetery for ancestral worship seems to equilibrate on the boundaries of urban area.

Cemetery is an urban phenomenon. A city of the living always have a need of space for the dead too. As a city grows, the cemetery becomes a collection of accumulated layers over generations created by each era of the living society. And it is a valuable and important public site not just because it is a historical heritage but it relates living members of the city through generations. Through this process of layering, cemeteries in many different cultural contexts have been reflecting the society’s identity as an urban dual throughout history. Different attitude on death and socio-economical context of different cities have resulted its own typology of cemetery.

The necropolis is the reverse side of the metropolis. Which side is which depends on one’s point of view. For the cemetery, an idealized double of this city, appears at the same time as a perfect reproduction of the socio-economic order of the living.

In comparison with western cemeteries like Pere-Lachaise in Paris, the reasons why such an important public institution, cemeteries in Hong Kong, are not well accepted as public spaces in our daily life is mainly due to Chinese attitude on death and desirable requirements for the cemeteries. Moreover, extreme urban situation driven by economic values have lead urban cemetery typology to more spatial-efficiency driven one without proper consideration of activities accommodated by cemeteries.

1. Michel Ragon, ‘The Space of Death’

Categorised as: Architecture

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