Cemetery Monument


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This project was completed in 1976. Evergreen Memorial Gardens is owned by Arbor Memorial Corporate, a national company, with cemeteries in every major Canadian city. At the time, the company was concerned about vandalism of their traditional Christian-themed Carrara marble sculptures that were common centrepieces in their cemeteries. They wanted centerpieces that were resistant to abuse and, at the same time, more universal in theme.

The historic Edmonton post office was demolished circa 1974 and the stones from the tower were acquired by Evergreen Memorial Gardens. The architects were asked to prepare concepts for how the stones could be incorporated into an indestructible cemetery centerpiece. A number of alternative concepts were prepared and the theme of a timeless classical temple was selected. The ‘temple’ was designed to be deliberately incomplete, as if it were a ruin, to support the timeless quality. This universal centre piece serves no function except to be a landscape folly that provides focus and inspiration for one of the many sectors in this cemetery.

The stone pieces from the old post office tower were carefully examined. See photographs of the old post office taken in 1968 that clearly depict the tower stones in their original location. The ring of one of the clocks forms the base of the new dome. The dome was designed by structural engineer Max Berretti and includes an oculus, a tribute to classical temples (e.g. the Pantheon in Rome) that provided a small opening at the peak of the dome for a connection to the universe.

Although the centre of the ‘temple’ was to become a repository for cremation ashes, this has never come about. The cemetery has constructed a more practical columbarium for that purpose. After 35 years, this monument remains a testament to the longevity of the idea of a universal timelessness and the useful repurposing of wonderful architectural artifacts that would have been otherwise lost to the public.

The Team

Architects: David Murray and David Lieberman

Structural Engineer: Max Berretti

Contractor: Carlson Construction

Facilitator: Karen Wilkin, Chief Curator, Edmonton Art Gallery