Mount Auburn Cemetery in Baltimore: Historic significance and future role in urban social sustainability

Document Type

Conference Paper


ARCC Conference Repository

Publication Date



Urban open spaces play a vital role in the social life of city residents. This paper presents a taxonomy of urban spaces and explores the role of cemeteries as an open space that may enhance the social sustainability of neighborhoods. As urban infrastructure, cemeteries provide a resting space for departed citizens and express historical continuity for evolving communities. As superstructure, cemeteries offer spaces for contemplation and chance encounters for the living, contributing to historically-grounded civic identity. Baltimore's Mount Auburn Cemetery was established in 1861 as a rural burial space on farmland outside the city and in time grew into a complex and evolving “City of the Dead”. Its significance as the first and a unique cemetery for and by the African American community is essential to recognize and safeguard in its redevelopment. This paper presents a socially sustainability framework for the redevelopment of privately-owned cemeteries into public memorial parks taking into account the full life cycle of urban communities. It posits the role of universities in engaging the varied stakeholders to redevelop these places as primarily a place for the dead that provides designed spaces for meditative contemplation for the living.




Urban Studies and Planning