Jane Van Velden
Advisor: Brittany Utting
Thesis projects

Death and dying, once a visible part of life in the home and public realm, increasingly became privatized in for-profit institutions. With American burial, bodies are preserved with embalming fluid, placed in a decorative casket, displayed to family and friends at the funeral home, and buried within a concrete vault in a grave, and marked with a tombstone. A practice dating back three centuries. 

Walk through any American burial space today, and you will find markers with the words “perpetual care.” This designation refers to the maintenance and aesthetics of a plot. I believe this concept should be expanded to include the maintenance and care of local ecologies, and an archive of all who lived in a city. This thesis proposes a new department in Boston’s city government, the Department of Death. Reporting to the Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space, the department would be responsible for providing an expanded set of death-related services to residents. A network of two buildings types work in a reciprocal relationship for the purpose of providing these services. A municipal building which will house administrative functions and the archive, and a network of scattering gardens for new memorial spaces within the city.

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