DAMNED EARTH, AWAKENED DUNES
— Jared Edgar McKnight
The Future of Burial Space: Within the framework of Aroussiak Gabrielian’s studio brief, this studio project encouraged us to turn our attention downward, to the literal foundation of the landscape – the soil. As living matter, soil is composed of billions of micro-organisms in a symbiotic collective that plays a vital role in establishing the supportive foundations for our functioning ecosystems, but with increasingly catastrophic environmental contexts projected for the next century, and looming threats of mass extinction, could the future of burial landscapes facilitate a new form of co-existence through mortuary composting procedures? Can our landscapes of life and death reconcile and reconfigure our roles and responsibilities in the context of one’s own body as a measure of resiliency? Death amidst a pandemic further restricts our ability to emotionally engage. In a time where our physical space has become fractured, and our proximities enforced and conditioned, not only should we critically engage the spatial cue of six feet apart, but also that of six feet under. Within this framework, “Damned Earth” began with a re-territorialization of the global interfaces of soils, researching salinity in semi-arid endorheic basins. Grounded in the Owens Valley, California, where excess salinity is exacerbated by severe access to water issues, and centuries of water politics and constructed infrastructural conditions that have further depleted regional resources, the proposal defines phased parameters for site remediation, while redefining rituals of death to progressively restore the habitat through resilient green burial processes for rebuilding soils. This responsive system of dune morphologies thus awakens an interconnectedness between the burial plot and its dormant context, through an emotive, healing, and emergent topography that unfolds and temporally evolves with one’s own stages of grief and acceptance [or decomposition] over time. Can the future of our burial spaces redefine our discourse on resiliency?