Design for the Afterlife: A Catacomb Tour
Westminster Burying Grounds & Catacombs, Baltimore
Thursday, November 18: 5pm or 6:30pm EDT
A hybrid event: attend either tour in person or virtually at 5pm
Life-centered design looks to nature to consider the health and future of ecosystems. But in a world increasingly facing anthropogenic environmental destruction, increasing numbers of climate refugees, and ever more violent resource wars, life as we knew it is changing, and it doesn’t look good. What might it mean to practice “death-centered design”? Humans (and other animals) have long made elaborate efforts to prepare for death and dying. And in our contemporary global society, scholars have identified ways that state and economic institutions exert necropolitical power to enforce how some may live and how some must die.
Confronting death and what comes after (both materially and spiritually) as conceptions of “life” fall apart requires a resolute wrestling with what it means to die well. We may even be seeing a “death-turn” in the field of design, as practitioners consider how best to shelter underground by creating subterranean spaces that “bury architecture alive.” How might death-centered design reorient the stakes of living? Or is all design today already death-centered design, based upon a supposition that devalues life?
Join us for a unique tour of the Westminster Burying Grounds and Catacombs, one of Baltimore’s oldest cemeteries. Tour guides from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law will guide us through this awesome, eerie, and historic space alongside and beneath Westminster Hall, a former Presbyterian, Gothic Revival church.
Established in 1786, the Westminster Burying Ground is a historical and cultural treasure of local, state, and national significance, and placed on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1974. It is the resting place of nearly 300 veterans of the American Revolution and War of 1812 — many of whom generals, heroes, civic and political leaders — as well as literary legend Edgar Allan Poe. The Burying Ground features decorated tablets, slabs, and granite vaults, some simple piles of granite blocks, others elegant works of renowned architects. Among these are Maximilian Godefroy’s exceptional Egyptian Revival Gates, widely recognized as works of real artistry. Some of the vaults are the work of Robert Mills, the architect of both the Washington monuments in Washington, DC, and in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon.
The Ecological Design Collective has arranged for two FREE, one-hour tours at 5:00-6:00pm and again at 6:30-7:30pm EDT on Thursday, November 18th. Only 10 people are allowed on each tour, and we’re taking RSVPs on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please sign up here to attend in person. Or, log into your EDC account and FOLLOW THIS LINK to join us virtually for a live-stream of the 5pm tour.
Westminster Hall & Burying Ground
519 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21201
Limited street parking is available, or visitors can park in the Baltimore Grand Garage located at 5 North Paca Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.
- Wear face mask
- Stay six feet from others
- Limit groups to 10 or less