The LA Group – Planning and Designing Cemeteries

Cemetery Design

Cemeteries provide a special place to remember a loved one. But they require thoughtful planning and design to be both beautiful and accessible.

Unique upright monuments with sculpted shapes or stunning etchings can add beauty to a cemetery. Cremation and estate gardens need well designed hardscapes, pleasant textures, natural patterns and water features to enhance their aesthetic.

Master Plan

The cemetery is an iconic part of the urban fabric that carries with it many social, historic, and environmental responsibilities. It is a prime example of limited urban real estate that must be effectively managed to serve its citizens’ needs while paying respect to the past.

Scenic vistas within the cemetery are punctuated by various landscape structures, gravestones and significant monuments. These elements create visual terminuses – family mausoleum at one end, funeral chapel at the other, and cremation gardens with pavilions and water features in between.

Natural or constructed ponds reduce weed growth, improve soil quality and serve as a habitat for beneficial wildlife. The hardscapes of pathways, curbs and bituminous pavement are deteriorating due to age, exposure and vehicular traffic. A new parking system with dedicated spaces and signage would help remedy the negative effects of vehicles on the cemetery landscape.

Landscape and Architecture

With community or volunteer groups taking over a cemetery, The LA Group works to help develop a strategy for financial support as well as development of the physical site. Funding opportunities, grant writing, volunteer development and public education workshops are just some of the avenues that a municipality may want to explore.

Designing a landscape that reflects the personality of a cemetery is crucial to its success. A cemetery has a responsibility to the community and the future generations that will utilize it, but if it doesn’t create an identity of its own, it will become just another landscape.

Designing the cemetery landscape feasibly can save money in maintenance costs. For example, converting asphalt roads to permeable ones saves on expensive paving bills, and planting native grasses reduces the amount of chemicals required for mowing. In addition, good design adds value to the site. Burial plots in close proximity to beautiful or interesting features and spaces command premium prices.


Signage is a crucial aspect of cemetery design. It should identify the site, direct visitors and keep people out of private property areas. It is important to consider your visitor demographic when designing your signage.

Directional road signs, particularly those directing drivers to Jewish heritage sites in western Ukraine, require a specific design approach. There is a limited amount of information space on signs that are practical in size and legible in an outdoor setting, whether printed or etched. This means that the project leader and sign designer must prioritize what should be included. Additional information in digital formats without size constraints may be included on web pages linked to physical signs at burial sites via QR codes and mobile phone applications.

Identification signs for individual Jewish cemeteries and mass graves can be incorporated into the memorial marker or placed at a cemetery entrance or boundary fence, or they can be installed at the site itself. Ideally, they should match the style and characteristics of directional road signs used to direct people there.

Grading and Drainage

The burial ground must be accessible for all visitors. A cemetery should have walkways and wheelchair-accessible paths throughout the property. It should be well-lit for safety and security. It should be easy to navigate by car or on foot and there should be ample parking.

Burial sites should be arranged in areas of low-risk ground water pollution. Graves should generally conform to existing terrain and final grades should range from two percent (the minimum for positive drainage) to a maximum of 15 percent with one predominant slope. Burial sections should be clearly defined with section markers.

Re-using graves is an issue that many cemeteries face as the number of burials increase. This is because contacting family members that purchased a plot many years ago can be difficult and costly. Alternatives such as vertical burial or sharing coffins have been implemented in some countries to avoid this problem. Harboring the lands to prevent water runoff and retrofitting impervious surfaces with green infrastructure are also possible solutions.

Related Posts