Cemetery Design – More Than Just a Place to Lay a Gravestone

Cemetery Design

Modern cemetery design must be more than a place to lay a gravestone. It must be a vibrant celebration of life, family and history integrated within a community.

Cemetery lot sizes should be sized during the master planning process so that they can efficiently accommodate burials without exceeding the space limitations of the site conditions.


Cemetery landscaping has the unique challenge of promoting a serene environment while embracing the primary purpose of the space – to serve as a place to remember and mourn. The landscape elements must honor the past while allowing the future to unfold.

Cemeteries are usually designed with high end areas with family mausoleum gardens, bench estates and individual graves surrounded by natural features like streams, boulder outcrops and scenic vistas. They may also include cremation gardens with columbaria and ossuaries or scattering gardens.

Increasingly, the landscape must incorporate sustainable practices to reduce the site’s impact on the environment and reduce maintenance costs. Examples of these are incorporating more natural vegetation, transitioning roadways from asphalt to permeable surfaces and reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and chemicals. The LA Group works with clients to understand their goals and budgets to evaluate options for the best built result. This often includes a collaborative approach which combines historic context, value of place and site functionality to achieve the most effective built solution.


In addition to flowers, people decorate their loved one’s final resting place with all sorts of personal touches. Some choose to leave country flags, solar lights or even stuffed animals. Others leave trinkets, coins and other small tokens of affection.

Many mourners prefer to leave a burning grave candle – known as a znicz in Polish. This is a common practice on All Souls’ Day and at Jewish war graves. Newer columbarium wall designs take this into account and incorporate metal clips beside each plaque designed to hold a single flower or posy.

Another simple yet touching option is to fill a mason jar with string fairy lights and spike it in front of a grave. These are typically solar powered and charge during the day, shining through the night. Wetting down a tombstone with water can also make the carvings stand out more than when dry. Aluminum foil can be used in a pinch as well.


Traditionally, cemetery management has mainly involved the allocation of space for burials, the digging and filling of graves and the maintenance of headstones & monuments by families. More recently, however, the design and construction of new memorials, including columbarium walls, has become a service offered by many cemeteries.

The entry gates to a cemetery are usually highly crafted pieces of art. This is a sign of respect for the dead, and it also shows people that they are about to enter another world.

Vaults and grave liners protect the casket from the ground as it settles. A “natural” or eco-friendly option involves not using any outer container at all, and simply burying the body in the earth. A burial site may require a concrete slab or a fence to mark the boundaries. Alternatively, a stone bench can be provided to sit at while visiting the grave. In war graves, a small timber remembrance cross with red poppy or a Star of David is often placed on the grave.

Columbarium Walls

A columbarium is a final resting place for cremated remains. It may be a mausoleum or a collection of niches, and it can either be indoors or outdoors. The niches are usually encased in marble or granite and can be engraved with names and epitaphs. A single niche typically measures about 9 inches cubed. However, niche design and size will vary between cemeteries.

The interior of a columbarium has urn spaces known as niches where loved ones’ ashes are stored. A double niche can fit two urns side-by-side. The urns are kept in a zinc lined container that is labelled and hidden behind the black granite facing of the niche.

A well-designed columbarium can provide a serene and dignified place for family members to come remember their loved one following the West Valley City, UT cremation. WEA offers a range of cemetery design services including Columbarium and Niche Wall design, site selection, concept planning and detailed design of custom and pre-manufactured columbarium walls and paving solutions.

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