Mount Auburn Cemetery in Baltimore
Historic significance and future role in urban social sustainability
Urban open spaces play a vital role in the social life of city residents. This paper presents a taxonomy of urban spaces and explores the role of cemeteries as an open space that may enhance the social sustainability of neighborhoods. As urban infrastructure, cemeteries provide a resting space for departed citizens and express historical continuity for evolving communities. As superstructure, cemeteries offer spaces for contemplation and chance encounters for the living, contributing to historically-grounded civic identity. Baltimore's Mount Auburn Cemetery was established in 1861 as a rural burial space on farmland outside the city and in time grew into a complex and evolving “City of the Dead”. It is more than a place of rest for the dead and expresses the importance of ritual and ceremony over form and related Euro-American concepts of perpetual maintenance (Jones, 2011). Recognizing its uniqueness as an African American cultural landscape, this paper presents a socially sustainability framework for the revitalization of this privately-owned cemetery into a public memorial park taking into account the full life cycle of urban communities. It also posits the role of universities in developing Partnership and Revitalization Plans through community engagement with varied stakeholders to take care of these resting places and design spaces for meditative contemplation for the living.
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