How to Design a Cemetery

Cemetery Design

A cemetery is a place to mourn and remember. It should be designed with sensitivity to the primary purpose of the place.

The lot layout should be adapted to local conditions and the desires of the lot buyers. Generally, lots should be 17 feet front and 18 feet in depth.

Site Analysis

The site analysis is a key step that helps inform every other aspect of the design process. It helps you identify opportunities, constraints and the main design considerations moving forward.

It should cover all relevant information that relates to the specific site including its location, size, topography, existing buildings, zoning regulations, infrastructure and climate. You should also consider any cultural landmarks, historic sites or other contexts that could influence the design.

Once you have gathered all this information, the next step is to examine your findings and find relationships between them. This can be a visual or iterative process that combines a number of tools to help understand the site. You should then make a list of the main information points that are most important for your project.


Cemeteries are an intriguing cultural collision point. They straddle multiple concerns such as crime, historic preservation, environmental problems and burial traditions.

Another issue is the desire to re-use older graves. While the authorities may assume that a family no longer cares about their ancestors’ graves and that re-use will not cause distress, many people view this as desecration.

More sustainable cemetery designs include green burial sections that retain native vegetation and minimize the need for excessive irrigation. These also allow for re-use of space more quickly than traditional lawn cemetery sites. However, there is a trade off between sustainability and the need to mark graves with some form of memorialization. In general, family members want to place flowers and other items on their loved ones’ graves. This reintroduces clutter to lawn cemeteries and is difficult for staff to maintain with their smaller mowers.


A cemetery or memorial park needs a variety of hardscape features to create visual impact. These include entrances, directional and cemetery rules signage, memorial plaques and personalized memorial benches.

As a result of the growing preference for cremation rather than burial, many cemeteries are offering columbarium walls. These are a space-efficient alternative to a grave and each niche in the wall can be marked with a small plaque.

Historically, the cemetery landscape was designed to be dreary with little room for native grasses. Over time, families have come to expect a manicured lawn in a cemetery. This can make it difficult for the cemetery staff to maintain the grounds. In addition, flowers and other items are often placed on the graves. This can cause distress to some family members.


The layout phase is where the cemetery design begins to take shape. The various program elements are placed in areas amenable to development and related to each other based on functional relationships.

Once a section has been laid out, it should be divided into plots of sizes adapted to the desires of the lot buyers. This is not an easy task and must be based on accurate knowledge of local conditions.

The design should consider decorative features, different shades of green and various species of flowering trees. The layout should also include directional signage to help orient visitors. In addition, the layout should provide hardscapes in proportion to softscapes, and fencing designed to follow standard protocol. The landscape should also feature special water features and memorial furniture designs.

Master Planning

Cemeteries and memorial parks need signs that help people navigate, share information, and create connections. These can include entrance signs, directional signage, cemetery rules signs, and personalized memorial plaques.

A well designed master plan optimizes land use, allows for the future expansion of a cemetery based on inventory and enables a client to balance development costs with revenue. It also increases the marketability of a cemetery by creating a beautiful and cohesive design.

Adding sustainable elements such as natural vegetation, native trees, and a green burial section can help to make a cemetery more attractive and less expensive to maintain. A green burial site uses shrouds instead of caskets, reducing the amount of grave preparation and soil erosion. This type of burial is becoming more popular as people seek to honor their ancestors in environmentally sensitive ways.

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