The Roques Blanques Metropolitan Cemetery is contained with Collserola’s Natural Park at El Papiol, Barcelona. The cemetery expanded over the last 30 years since its founding in 1981. The changes allowed the cemetery to create new burial options that follow the needs of modern community members. Now, the Roques Blanques Cemetery is offering a new ecological burial area that is 100% biodegradable to protect the environment. The solution to the sustainability challenge of cemeteries filling up? A park that doubles as gravesites.
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Additionally, the new 8,600 square-meter park and cemetery is planted with pines and oaks, ready to host 1,500 new graves. The challenge was creating an accessible space for funerals that preserved the environmental integrity of the site and restored biodiversity to the natural park. The new phase of the cemetery has thus become an entry path to the forest. There is also a green terrace, a meadow that reflects the region’s agricultural history and a butterfly garden.
Related: Reducing and reusing via green burials in a Portland cemetery
The designers also wanted to protect the steep topography of the area. A vertical garden based on Krainer wall technology was proposed. It is a form of wall system based on bioengineering of wooden tree trunks set into a grid structure. It’s also a natural retaining system that creates a large green terrace, including space for new graves, that allows integration of existing trees while adding new local species.
What makes the burial system biodegradable is a technology called “live mesh,” which combines dead and living materials. This evolves over time by relating the degradation of dead elements (tree trunks) with the roots and growth of living elements (live shrubs and bushes). Thus, creating a natural, dynamic ecosystem inspired by the life cycle itself.
The terrace’s beautiful views of the meadows and surrounding trees becomes a pleasant and peaceful natural space for visitors to meet with their ancestors when visiting gravesites. To encourage the presence of butterflies in the garden, shrubs and herbaceous species with strong blooming qualities and bright colors have been chosen. Native plants, adapted to local conditions, were given preference.
The garden design is expected to last about 30 years until it will be allowed to revert to the natural forest of the region. It requires no watering and uses only natural materials. Batlleiroig led the project, a design studio concerned with using natural elements for sustainable and beautiful landscape designs.
Photography by Jordi Surroca