The future of memorial parks

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ARCHITECT FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

MEMORIAL parks are places where we celebrate humanity. They should not only be places for remembering our loved ones who have passed on, but where we celebrate life and living. After all, whenever we visit memorial parks, we attempt to relive the life and memory of the person we are visiting.

With this mindset, we can begin envisioning what our memorial parks could become. They will not only be isolated places of grief and pain, but places where life and death can be respectfully celebrated. New sources of operational income can also be developed so that parks can be maintained to be more conducive, contemplative places to visit. Memorial parks, after all, are in the industry of memories, celebration, and tradition.

As cities in the Philippines become more urbanized, the need for parks has sadly become less of a priority. There is a lack of parks and open spaces. These memorial parks, especially public memorial parks, are spaces that can be developed to accommodate other activities that only have minimal noise. The challenge in cities like Metro Manila is mounting, in the sense that the availability of open green spaces and walking spaces is becoming scarcer. Some of the places that we can develop or redevelop are our existing private and public memorial parks.

Memorial parks as active spaces
At all times, contemplation and serenity should be maintained throughout the area. But certain activities can complement a serene environment. There have been many ideas around the world on how to make memorial parks more appealing, dispensing with the idea of their being places of dread and horror. They can become places for walking, jogging, biking, praying, reading, and putting up art installations. On the boundaries of the park, food spaces, convenience stores and restaurants can be put up. These can help the memorial park fund its operations, especially public memorial parks in the Philippines that look rundown.

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Picnic groves and picnic areas can also be made because it is already part of Filipino culture to eat at the park during All Souls’ Day, and to visit their departed loved ones during important family gatherings. Some places in the Philippines have festival-like celebrations around this time in November.

Creating memory walks, walls and family heritage
Memorial parks can be more creative to make the experience of the visit more engaging. Memory walks can be pathways that are filled with engraved names of significant people that are laid to rest in the area. A memory wall on the other hand can be dedicated as a narrative wall for the life of the person. It can be an area where love letters, family pictures, and other objects that are dedicated to remembering the person and the family are displayed. In other countries like Japan, new technology is being tested and adapted. Using GPS, stored videos of the loved ones are accessed when gadgets are within range of a specific location.

It can also be a good place for grandchildren to remember their grandparents and other family members whom they did not really get to know. There are many creative ideas that memorial parks can do to make the experience more memorable and more meaningful, and those experiences do not necessarily need to elicit grief and sadness.

Not only November
The memorial park spaces are only most utilized during November. Most of the time, these spaces are idle in the sense that no one or barely a few are using the green open space.

Another idea is to transform memorial parks into heritage areas. A good example of converting cemeteries into a heritage area is the Waverley Cemetery in Sydney Australia, located in the eastern suburbs. It is one of Sydney’s oldest cemeteries which opened in 1877. Apart from the place having a beautiful coastal scenery, it is visited because of the significant personalities who are laid to rest there. Some visitors simply pay their respects, and some are curious to know about certain personalities. The Waverley Memorial even offers walking tours.

Another beautiful memorial place is Montujic Cemetery in Barcelona, Spain which was built in 1883. It is also a hillside memorial overlooking the sea. What made this place a tourist destination are the art works and art installations commissioned by the families who laid their loved ones to rest in the area. The place is rich with diverse architecture of mausoleums, stained-glass paintings, sculptures, and landscaping.

Often, memorial parks are not visited or used. With the lack of open spaces in the urban areas, memorial parks serve as the closest comfortable walking and contemplating space. With the right amount of development, creativity, art, and architecture, the idea of memorial parks being places to regularly visit can be more attractive.

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