Cultural Landscapes Historic Urban Landscape

Rookwood Necropolis CMP

Premiership Room B, Melbourne Cricket Ground 06/10/2016 10.50 - 11.10

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Emma McGirr
Claire Nunez

In 2015, GML Heritage was commissioned by the Rookwood Necropolis Trust to prepare a Conservation Management Plan for Rookwood. The plan forms the first comprehensive and coordinated heritage management plan for the site and was prepared against a backdrop of increasing pressure for burial space and discussions about the commercial sustainability of the site. Rookwood Cemetery is Sydney’s preeminent burial ground. Totalling almost 300 hectares of diverse cultural landscape, encompassing over 100 buildings and structures and forming the last resting place of nearly 1 million people from over 90 distinct religious and cultural groups – Rookwood is literally the ‘people’s ground’. It is the personal stories, memories, connections and emotions overlayed on the sectarian layouts and formal gardenesque details of Rookwood’s original design that make the site such a significant and unique landscape in New South Wales. In the context of preparing the CMP it became necessary to contemplate the possibilities of Rookwood’s own afterlife as the site moves through an industrious life cycle towards full burial capacity in 2060, and ground itself becomes a rare and contested commodity. In this paper, John Dixon Hunt’s ideas on ‘the afterlife of gardens’ provide a framework for exploring possibilities to renew and refresh the way Rookwood is visited, received and understood as the site transitions into new and alternative uses. Rookwood has moved beyond its original landscape intent, as a design intensive ‘garden of ideas’ and a Victorian mourning landscape and transmuted into an urban sanctuary of unsurpassed scale in Australia, where natural and biodiversity values interweave and rise up to reclaim previously manicured landscapes. Insights from the project team, as well as valuable site management knowledge captured through the CMP consultation process, will be a highlight of this paper. A joint presentation by the project team will explore the potentialities of managing Rookwood as a ‘people’s ground’ and a ‘people’s garden’ into perpetuity.