- The City of the Dead: The Place of Cultural Identity and Environmental Sustainability in the African-American Cemetery
- Landscape Journal: design, planning, and management of the land
- University of Wisconsin Press
- Volume 30, Number 2, 2011
- pp. 226-240
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- Additional Information
Mount Auburn Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland is more than a place of rest and reflection. It is a place of environmental and cultural sustainability and an expression of an attitude toward nature and environment unique to African-American culture. Through the more than hundred-year cultivation of an African-American cultural overlay, the Cemetery has been transformed from graveyard to a unique burial ground. Founded in 1872, Mount Auburn Cemetery is the last remaining African-American burial space in Baltimore, and it celebrates this transformative layering. Holding the remains of some 43,000 Baltimoreans, the cemetery represents the paradoxes of a culture defined by a century of interaction with the sacred as defined by rural experience, and that has favored the urban landscape as a necessary post-slavery gesture. In addition to its cultural and historic burial functions, Mount Auburn creates an ecological balance by providing designed green spaces, a cultural connection to nature and landscapes of memory, and a respite from the urban setting in which it is consciously located. This paper proposes that the African-American expression of form visible in Mount Auburn is marked by improvisation and an often superficial, chaotic appearance. This expression of form contributes to the sustainability and preservation of a uniquely diverse urban landscape, creating an attitude and perspective about place. This complex environmental attitude is defined by both positive and negative feelings toward the natural surroundings of humankind, including air, water, land, wildlife, and the systems existing between the natural environment and human society (Parker, 1999).