The Delicate Touch in Cemetery Design

Cemeteries need to be more than just a place to lay a grave. They must celebrate life, family, history and individuality within a community. This requires a very delicate touch in Cemetery Design.

A cemetery should have a master plan that includes a detailed analysis approach, demographics assessment, marketing opportunities and options for expansion.

Master Plan

A cemetery master plan is a vital step in the overall design of a cemetery. It acts as a roadmap for future expansion and allows for the planning of road layouts, building sites, mausoleums, and niches to be constructed.

WC Fry Design understands the spiritual aspect of a Cemetery and the importance of connecting people to heritage and tradition. We offer sensitivity to this primary purpose of a cemetery, as well as creative and practical solutions for reviving landscapes.

Well-planned landscaping provides for cleaner mowing lines, easier maintenance, and lower cost of care. Ponds, natural and man-made, provide water that attracts wildlife and serve a double-duty role in managing drainage. Tree size and placement is also considered, as many of the existing trees on a cemetery property are already near grave sites and should be carefully evaluated for health and safety considerations. Grave site grades are set to achieve one predominant uniform slope within each Burial Section.

Landscape and Architecture

A cemetery needs to be more than a place for burial. It must be a vibrant celebration of life, family and history, and it should honor individuality. This takes a special kind of know-how.

A good design plan maximizes land utilization and improves the aesthetics of a cemetery. It also helps to increase revenues and marketability. For example, a columbarium with a view commands a premium over one without.

Mourners often leave flowers at the base of a columbarium plaque. Newer designs include a clip beside each plaque to allow for the addition of a small posy without damaging the stone or creating maintenance problems.

A cemetery can create an attractive, relaxing place to visit by introducing a variety of landscape elements. Ponds, for instance, attract wildlife and provide a scenic spot to stroll or relax. Incorporating sustainable elements into a cemetery design can also reduce operating expenses. For example, transitioning to permeable roadways saves on asphalt costs and planting native grasses reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and mowing.


In addition to creating a beautiful place to visit, cemetery design is also concerned with accessibility. The site must be easy to navigate and the cemetery signs should be clear, especially if the cemetery serves an elderly demographic.

Each type of cemetery reflects the religion, culture, traditions and habits of its community. These differences in burial traditions and regulations have resulted in several types of cemeteries, including monumental and memorial park cemeteries, garden cemeteries, religious cemeteries and full-service cemetery.

Gary: I believe it is important to revisit cemetery master plans on a regular basis, perhaps every five years. This can be done in a way that best fits the cemetery’s board’s available time, from a series of workshop sessions to a process of reviewing the plan with staff. The process should include a review of current trends and analyzing the long- and short-term goals for the cemetery. This may also include analyzing new cemetery products.


Whether a sign is used to indicate the rules of a Cemetery, identify a burial plot or to simply direct a visitor around the property it must be clear and easy to read both from a distance and up close. This is important for all visitors but particularly for those with mobility issues or for elderly families.

In the past, cast-metal signs proclaimed the number of deceased, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, or the words “Fugit hora” and “Memento mori.” Covered octagonal rostrums were built for Decoration Day speeches to remind people to remember their dead.

Cemeteries are often located in hard-to-develop areas that require thoughtful design and planning to create a cemetery that can be enjoyed by visitors for generations to come. This takes time to evaluate options, work within constraints, and to think outside of the box. But it also allows the cemetery to find creative solutions that are both interesting and functional. These innovative approaches can result in a better cemetery experience for all.

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