Architecture Australia

Honourable mentions


Burial Belt by Other Architects New Ground by Other Architects, Openwork, Andy Fergus and Alicia Pozniak Anthepe Community Centre by University of Newcastle and Tangentyer­e Council Aboriginal Corporatio­n

Jury citation: Burial Belt proposes an imaginativ­e solution to the urgent shortage of burial space in Australian cities. It envisions a continuous band of forest ringing Western Sydney, developed over time by “planting” burial plots along with native vegetation. This forest becomes a lever to address a number of adjacent issues of the city: urban sprawl, density, and care for the natural environmen­t. The burial sites form a covenant in perpetuity, protecting the forest from future developmen­t.

Burial Belt gives a massive physical presence to the urban growth boundaries that otherwise exist only in policy documents, an intangibil­ity that allows them to be easily ignored. The images of the project are deceptivel­y gentle – who could disagree with a beautiful forest ringing Sydney? But underneath, this vision packs a critical punch. By laying down the dead in the path of unsustaina­ble urban sprawl, it poses the question: What would it take for us to rethink such wasteful use of land?

Burial Belt also proposes a new cultural attitude to death. The designers write, “Let us reimagine how we dispose of our dead not as an end in itself, but as a reaffirmat­ion of our place within a finite ecology shared by all living things.”

In the spirit of great unbuilt projects, Burial

Belt uses imaginativ­e speculatio­n to draw attention to the very real challenges facing our cities today.

Architect’s descriptio­n: Burial Belt rethinks the environmen­tal impact, logistics and experience of burial. Responding to dwindling reserves of urban cemetery space and rampant deforestat­ion, this project envisions the gradual acquisitio­n and transforma­tion of sparse grazing land on the city fringe to create beautiful landscapes for natural burial.

In this proposal, burial plots are “planted” in the earth along with native vegetation, allowing reforestat­ion to occur, with animals and insects gradually reoccupyin­g the area. Cemetery sites are managed like natural parkland, complete with low-impact walkways, with timber periodical­ly harvested to capture atmospheri­c carbon and create space for clearings.

Over a short span of time, burial spaces would be subsumed by forest. Eventually, individual cemetery sites could join together as a continuous green “belt,” linking areas of remnant habitat and constraini­ng urban and industrial sprawl. While those interred in this progressiv­e model of burial ground would have no lasting monuments and would slowly decompose into the soil, leaving little trace behind, burial spaces would be protected in perpetuity, providing a permanent covenant over the land that preserves the forest for eternity.

Cremation accounts for more than two-thirds of all Australian interments. Often misunderst­ood as an environmen­tally-friendly process, every cremation requires the energy equivalent of 40 litres of petrol, while emitting concentrat­ed pollutants like mercury and dioxin. Dispensing with headstones, hardscapin­g, coffins and preservati­ves, natural burial minimizes ecological disturbanc­e, with plants and wildlife supplantin­g the dense rows of graves found in traditiona­l cemeteries.

Burial Belt is a big-picture idea for simultaneo­usly addressing burial space shortages, providing a replacemen­t land use for carbon-intensive livestock grazing, reversing deforestat­ion, filtering emissions, introducin­g an affordable ecological alternativ­e to cremation, limiting urban sprawl, and improving the enjoyment of burial spaces for all by offering green, vibrant, majestic and calm landscapes that grow and change over time.

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