Last Landscapes: The Architecture of the Cemetary in the West

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Overview


Last Landscapes is an exploration of the cult and celebration of death, loss and memory. It traces the history and design of burial places throughout Europe and the USA, ranging from the picturesque tradition of the village churchyard to tightly packed "cities of the dead", such as the Jewish Cemetery in Prague and Père Lachaise in Paris. Other landscapes that feature in this book include the war cemeteries of northern France, Viking burial islands in central Sweden, Etruscan tombs and early Christian catacombs in Italy, the 17th-century Portuguese–Jewish cemetery "Beth Haim" at Ouderkerk in the Netherlands, Forest Lawns in California, Derek Jarman’s garden in Kent and the Stockholm Woodland Cemetery.

It is a fact that architecture "began with the tomb", yet, as Ken Worpole shows us in Last Landscapes, many historic cemeteries have been demolished or abandoned in recent times (notably the case with Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe), and there has been an increasing loss of inscription and memorialization in the modern urban cemetery. Too often cemeteries today are both poorly designed and physically and culturally marginalized. Worse, cremation denies a full architectural response to the mystery and solemnity of death.

The author explores how modes of disposal – burial, cremation, inhumation in mausoleums and wall tombs – vary across Europe and North America, according to religious and other cultural influences. And Last Landscapes raises profound questions as to how, in an age of mass cremation, architects and landscape designers might create meaningful structures and settings in the absence of a body, since for most of history the human body itself has provided the fundamental structural scale. This evocative book also contemplates other forms of memorialization within modern societies, from sculptures to parks, most notably the extraordinary Duisberg Park, set in a former giant steelworks in Germany’s Ruhr Valley.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
British urban planning pundit and author Ken Worpole (Here Comes the Sun: Architecture and Public Space in Twentieth Century European Culture), together with spouse and photographer Larraine Worpole, takes us on a historical grand tour of cemeteries of the West, with emphasis on Great Britain and continental Europe. In what amounts to an exercise in free association, the text ranges widely through time and place as the author muses on the significance of grave markers, memorial architecture, cemetery layout, burial customs, and all else related to treatment of the dead. If there is a message here, it's that the contemporary cemetery has devolved into a commercialized, sanitized, and marginalized piece of real estate, devoid of the rich, cathartic symbolism and aesthetics of Victorian and earlier cemeteries. In stark contrast to the Worpoles' book, David Charles Sloane's The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History is a conventionally chronological, academically sound survey of the subject from the American perspective. Sloane's history is suitable for all public and academic libraries, while Last Landscapes is an optional purchase for academic collections.-David Soltesz, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781861891617
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 10/22/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,008,262
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.75 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Ken Worpole is the author of a number of influential studies of the contemporary urban public realm and other aspects of urban policy. His books include Towns for People (1993), Libraries in a World of Cultural Change (1995), People, Parks and Cities (1996), and, most recently, Here Comes the Sun: Architecture and Public Space in Twentieth Century European Culture (Reaktion, 2001). He is married to Larraine Worpole, photographer.
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Table of Contents


Introduction
1. Living with the Dead
2. Landscapes and Meanings
3. Death's Compass
4. Cities of the Dead
5. Libraries in Stone
6. A Walk in the Paradise Gardens
7. The Disappearing Body
8. A Place at the End of the Earth
References
Bibliography
Acknowledgements
Photographic Acknowledgements
Index
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