Graceland Cemetery Cremation Garden

Racine, Wisconsin

  • Graceland-Cemetery-CG-Entrance
  • Graceland-Cemetery-CG-Committal-Chapel
  • Graceland-Cemetery-CG-Pond-Looking-West
  • Graceland-Cemetery-CG-Scattering-Garden
  • Graceland-Cemetery-CG-Tree-Columbaria
  • Graceland-Cemetery-CG-Site-Plan

Quick Facts


Project Description

With cremation becoming more popular both in Racine and Wisconsin, Graceland Cemetery wanted to explore creating a cremation garden. Graceland Cemetery, which is a 100+ year old, 50 acre cemetery managed by the City of Racine, wanted to add the cremation garden adjacent to a pond that serves as a focal point for the surrounding burial sections and as a place of peaceful tranquility for contemplation and reflection. The cemetery’s goals for adding a cremation garden are to: expand the cemetery’s cremation burial offerings; add a committal shelter to provide a location for memorial services; have a combination of more formal areas and also areas that were more natural or organic in design; and to enhance the natural beauty of the area surrounding the pond. To explore these options and to accomplish these goals, Mekus Tanager worked with Graceland Cemetery and the City of Racine to develop and refine a schematic design for the cremation garden.

As visitors enter the planned cremation garden from the south they will arrive into the more formally designed columbarium plaza, which is designed along the visual axis created by a memorial building and flag pole to the north, and road intersection to the south. At the center of the columbarium plaza will be a committal shelter, which provides space for the cemetery to hold memorial / committal services or for visitors to use as a shelter for resting. Closer to the pond, the columbarium plaza will cantilever over the pond to provide another place for rest and reflection, or for visitors to enjoy the new fountain. To the west of the formal columbarium plaza will be a winding path which provides access to circular columbaria which surround a tree, small flower garden, and benches, helping form semi-private gardens. To keep the visual impact of the circular columbaria low and to foster a more natural look, these columbaria will be single sided and only 3 niches high. Along the path and between the circular columbaria are planned areas for cremation estates for in-ground cremation burials. To the east of the columbarium plaza will be a winding path flanked with columbaria and benches.

Across the pond, on the visual design axis, will be a scattering garden. At the center of the scattering garden is a planned location for a sculpture or other artwork. Protruding out from the scattering garden, a ledge with access to the pond can be used for the cemetery’s wreath laying ceremony every Memorial Day. Adjacent to the scattering garden will be columbaria which are oriented perpendicular to the pond’s edge so as to maximize sight lines to the pond from adjacent burial sections and for the wreath laying ceremony. Between the columbaria and the pond will be cremation estates. To improve the pond’s edging but to keep a more natural look, the design uses rip rap complemented with boulders and natural plantings. Materials and finishes for the cremation garden’s columbaria and committal shelter are intended to match or complement existing materials and finishes used on nearby cemetery buildings.

The resulting cremation garden will serve as a tasteful focal point to visually compliment the surrounding area of the cemetery. It also adds a centralized location for memorial services, areas for contemplation, reflection, and remembrance, and will add a diverse variety of cremation burial options for Graceland Cemetery to offer the public.

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Mekus Tanager is a planning and design firm. Since 1984, Mekus Tanager has been helping our clients turn their buildings and spaces into well-designed strategic assets that maximize aesthetic beauty, function and purpose, and return on investment. We are committed to listening to and working with our clients as a true partner throughout the design process.


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