Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends A Landscape of Remembrance and Reflection | Page 8
Celebrating the Persistence
of Memory and Nature
By Laura Solano
Partner, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
ount Auburn Cemetery is a place of complex connections and layered experiences.
It is a renowned historic landscape but also part of the natural world; its timeless
qualities have always been tied into its ability to adapt and grow, like nature itself.
Since the creation of the 1993 Master Plan, over ten new projects have been built in the
Cemetery including Hazel Path, a project that my landscape architecture firm Michael Van
Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) designed in 2016 and completed in summer 2019. When
MVVA first started working on nearby Harvard Hill in 2014, Hazel Path was not much more
than a steep, narrow path that visitors used as a shortcut between Consecration Dell and
Washington Tower. At the end of every Harvard Hill site visit we took together, Mount Auburn
President Dave Barnett would escort me to the bottom of Hazel Path, point up, and say, “We
just have to do something about this path.” I would nod in acknowledgment of the problem, but
quite honestly I thought that he was just looking for ideas for how to make the existing path a
little less onerous and homely.
I should have known that Dave never approaches anything about the Cemetery with such
a narrow interpretation and that his overseer’s mind was already thinking big. He imagined
a place that would contribute to the Cemetery’s on-going plans for interment expansion
and financial stability, but most importantly would fulfill its mission to sustain “a landscape
of exceptional beauty.” Once we were hired to study how Hazel Path could be improved, I
understood that Dave wanted to create a new kind of place at Mount Auburn. In response
MVVA proposed a Woodland Sanctuary for the interment of cremated remains, where visitors
could pause, reflect, and be within nature.