Shortlisted designs for the future of Highgate Cemetery

Shortlisted designs for Highgate's West Cemetery

The four shortlisted landscape designers have produced artists' impressions showing what their schemes for Highgate's West Cemetery could look like - Credit: Highgate Cemetery / competition entrants

New images of visions for Highgate Cemetery, by four shortlisted landscape designers, have been released.

A decision is due this month after a competition was launched in 2020 to come up with designs.

The four finalists are Colvin & Moggridge, Gustafson Porter + Bowman, J&L Gibbons and Periscope.

Colvin & Moggridge's sketch of Highgate West Cemetery

Colvin & Moggridge's sketch of Highgate West Cemetery - Credit: Colvin & Moggridge / Highgate Cemetery

Colvin & Moggridge's sketch of Highgate's East Cemetery

Colvin & Moggridge's sketch of Highgate's East Cemetery - Credit: Colvin & Moggridge / Highgate Cemetery

Colvin & Moggridge's proposal, the designers said, would be summarised as "evolution not revolution".

The firm's presentation says: "Our masterplan responds with sensitivity and imagination to its myriad interests and users, to reverse the slow erosion of significance and resolve existing conflicts."

It would contrast a "pragmatic, structured" East Cemetery with the more picturesque West, and work to use landscaping to reveal views of St Paul's in the distance.

Gustafson Porter + Bowman imagine the future of Highgate West Cemetery

Gustafson Porter + Bowman imagine the future of Highgate West Cemetery - Credit: Gustafson Porter + Bowman / Highgate Cemetery

Gustafson Porter + Bowman's impression of Highgate East Cemetery

Gustafson Porter + Bowman's impression of Highgate East Cemetery - Credit: Gustafson Porter + Bowman / Highgate Cemetery

The team at Gustafson Porter + Bowman say they want to "create a topographical experience". They would focus on using the landscape to help tell the "inexhaustible wealth of stories" of the cemetery. 


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Discussing the East Cemetery, GPB add: "We wish to emphasise the major north south paths with new avenues of trees, framing meadows of graves, woodland bosques and mosaics of flowering perennials."

J&L Gibbons' artistic impression of Highgate's East Cemetery

J&L Gibbons' artistic impression of Highgate's East Cemetery - Credit: J&L Gibbons / Highgate Cemetery

J&L Gibbons imagine Highgate Cemetery's future

J&L Gibbons imagine Highgate Cemetery's future - Credit: J&L Gibbons / Highgate Cemetery

J&L Gibbons describes its masterplan as "an extraordinary mosaic of culture and ecology". The firm's Joanna Gibbons said: "We want it to be a source of great delight but we also want to enhance the biodiversity of the place by drawing in light, by diversifying the flora."

Periscope's impression of the Highgate West Cemetery

Periscope's impression of the Highgate West Cemetery - Credit: Highgate Cemetery / Periscope

Periscope's artist's impression of plans for Highgate's East Cemetery

Periscope's artist's impression of plans for Highgate's East Cemetery - Credit: Periscope / Highgate Cemetery

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And Periscope has a more unusual vision. The firm wants to see Karl Marx "joined by the last white rhino" in being memorialised, and would have the cemetery "managed as a circular, zero-waste woodland". 

Periscope's exhibition would highlight how nature and humans have co-existed. Daniel Rea from Periscope said: "We would take a seven generation look at the life and death cycle of the cemetery."

He said the proposal would address the climate crisis along "how the culture of burial and death will change in the future".

Dr Ian Dungavell, chief executive of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery, which manages the site, told the Ham&High the project is going to be "really exciting" and that a decision will be announced in "late May".

He said the finalists had produced "engaged, ambitious" designs to consider how best to manage the cemetery in the future. 

After the winning landscape designers are chosen, they will have to come up with a complete "landscape masterplan" governing how the cemetery's extensive grounds will be managed in the medium and long-term future.

Meanwhile, six architectural practices have been shortlisted as part of the parallel competition focussing on how the cemetery's buildings and facilities can be conserved.

They are Caruso St John Architects, Dow Jones Architects, Hopkins Architects, Manalo & White, MICA, and Purcell. The designs in that competition will be showcased later in 2021.

Currently passing through the Commons is the Highgate Cemetery Bill which, if passed, will give the Friends the power to "renew" abandoned graves or unused burial plots. 

The management are determined to keep it as an active cemetery and both the private bill and the competitions aim to ensure the cemetery continues to be sustainable .

"I wouldn't have necessarily timetabled this to be all happening together," Dr Dungavell said. "But of course they are linked. The private bill gives us a good, sustainable way of managing for the future. 

"Although it's never going to be possible to keep everyone happy."

On Thursday May 6, Alan Dein is giving this year's Marx Memorial Lecture, entitled 'The Plot for Karl Marx', discussing how Marx came to be buried in Highgate. To attend, visit highgatecemetery.org/events

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