Date of Award

Spring 6-3-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture

First Advisor

Colgate Searle

Second Advisor

Michael Blier


The traditional funeral service industry has enormous environmental and financial costs. In contrast, green burial, and Natural Organic Reduction (NOR), accelerate the human body’s degradation and reduce toxic substances in the land, assuming responsibility for our burden on the earth. They provide a gateway between us and the processes of nature and ask us to set aside self-consciousness to accept our oneness with the universe. By gifting our bodies back to the earth, where decomposition enriches soils and nurtures the growth of other life forms, we honor those who have transitioned to another state by continuing the cycle of renewal.

Available land and land values largely determine modern burial locations; migration and relocation have increased the distance between people and their family cemeteries, making it even more challenging to visit cemeteries that were once easy to reach. In response to limited land availability, cremation has gradually become the mainstream for burials. In the 1960s, 3.56% of burials were cremated, compared to 60% today. This thesis examines the intersection of burial and memorialization rituals, land practices, and ecological regeneration, focusing on how NOR can expand the cemetery’s boundary, which in turn could fill the local community’s multiple ecological, social, and spiritual needs.


View exhibition online: Siqiao Zhao, City as Cemetery



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