The Importance of Cemetery Design

Cemeteries have to deal with issues ranging from maintenance of existing graves to funding the restoration of old ones. Lyon points out that wealthy families sometimes leave money to take care of their family grave sites, but these funds are often swallowed into general cemetery budgets or used for other community purposes.


Landscape design is tightly interwoven with most other cemetery development projects, including surveys, concepts, clearing and cleaning, memorial monuments, fences and walls, and signage. Because of this, it is important to include a landscape specialist early in the planning process so that they can take a fresh look at the site with a broader perspective.

Well-planned landscaping provides for cleaner mowing lines, lower maintenance and better aesthetics. Plantings should be thoroughly researched for climate, soil conditions, flow and aesthetics. Water features, including ponds, should be carefully designed to provide visual interest, infiltration of storm water and wildlife habitat. Dead wood should be regularly removed to prevent disease and hazard, especially in specimen trees.

A Cemetery should be a place that elevates the spirit. Effective cemetery design creates a sense of calm, order and beauty that attracts visitors. Burial plots near scenic and beautiful spaces and features command premiums for lot owners. Good cemetery design is a cost-effective way to increase revenue.

Master Plan

The cemetery master plan must include a thoughtful analysis of burial options and quantities, mausoleum needs, cremation spaces and the overall site. In addition, it must take into consideration local zoning requirements and land use regulations.

The design must also work in harmony with the 4 natural systems on the site. This may involve designing ponds that serve multiple functions, such as providing aesthetic elements and water habitats. It may also include storm water retention structures that infiltrate or detain storm waters for re-use and enhance the landscape and vistas.

Modern cemetery design moves beyond simply laying out graves to a vibrant celebration of life, family and history while honoring individuality within a shared community. This requires a deep level of know-how that incorporates everything from design, architecture, landscaping and planning to horticulture and the arts. Our experience allows us to deliver these complex installations on time and on budget. The result is a high quality, timeless installation that meets the highest standards for your families and communities.


As a cemetery site grows and evolves, the signage aspects of the design must also evolve. For example, signs may need to be replaced when new information becomes available or old ones are damaged or become obstructive due to wear and weathering.

In the absence of established cemetery signage standards, some activists aim to create designs that promote informal guidelines. For instance, the proposed directional road signs at Rohatyn follow the Ukrainian national standard for sign size and corner radii, arrow form, typeface, and bilingual text but substitute brown coloring and use a custom symbol to identify the Jewish burial site.

Signs to aid pedestrian wayfinding at individual mass grave sites are less common but still important. They should be scaled and designed specifically for such uses, to be viewed and interpreted at close range, installed on sidewalks and walking paths. They should correspond closely to directional signs that lead to the burial site, as shown here in the identification sign for a mass grave at Bolekhiv (Ivano-Frankivsk oblast). Likewise, they should be placed near key road or walking path junctions adjacent to the site.


Cemetery markers can be found in many different shapes, sizes and materials. They range from traditional headstones to statues, tablets and obelisks. Monuments are typically larger than traditional markers and can include anything from angels or saints to lions.

Upright Markers – These are the typical gravestones seen at most cemeteries and come in a variety of styles from a simple upright to a taller, more ornate memorial. They also feature various inscriptions and carvings that can represent a loved one’s life.

Flat Markers – These lie flush with the ground and feature a minimalist design that includes essential information like names and dates. Most cemeteries regulate the size, finish and color of these markers.

Bevel Markers – These lay flat on the ground but have a back edge that’s raised higher than the front. They often feature a more modern design and can be made from a number of different materials. Niche Markers – These are plaques that attach to the wall outside of a mausoleum niche.

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