Cross Border Cemetery - Tijuana / San Diego, US-Mexico Border - Ioana Urma
main chapel complex wood model, proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego

Cross Border Cemetery

Placing a cemetery across the U.S.-Mexico border arose out of the desire to create a spiritual link between people on different sides of the border; to accentuate the artificiality of the borderline between Mexico and the U.S., that ignores geography and environment; and to accommodate Tijuana’s desperate need for open green space.
The central cemetery complex “free” zone - a symbolic erasure of the natural ground - straddles the border. It is contained by burial walls and planted with crosses. The central chapel grows off of these burial walls and consists of a light wood and glass meeting chapel and a heavy concrete burial chapel.

Architecture &
Landscape Design

Across the US-Mexico border at Tijuana/San Diego

For

MIT MArch Program

Background

The studio called for a project in Tijuana, with an open program. Ioana has always had a passionate interest in cemeteries - as they are essentially art parks (landscape + sculpture + public) - and in world religions.

 

When traveling to a new city, she will typically visit a cemetery in it. In high school, she used go strolling through Boston’s renown 19th C. Mount Auburn Cemetery, even though her high school just down the street was already adjacent to a 17th C. cemetery.
the US-Mexico border wall at Tijuana - San Diego in 2000
model detail, proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
burial complex model, proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
Placing a cemetery across the U.S.-Mexico border arose out of the desire to create a spiritual link between people on different sides of the border; to accentuate the artificiality of the borderline between Mexico and the U.S., that ignores geography and environment; and to accommodate Tijuana’s desperate need for open green space.
relationship of proposed, landscape-based cemetery across the US-Mexico border and the Tijuana River to the very straight borderline
plan of proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border
Monte Alban burial precinct plan in Oaxaca, Mexico, by Arthur G. Miller
Monte Albán Burial Precinct, Oaxaca, Mexico / Arthur G. Miller
the Central Cemetery of Bogota, Columbia plan by Oscar Iván Calvo Isaza
The Central Cemetery, Bogotá, Columbia / Oscar Iván Calvo Isaza
concept model detail of proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
concept model of proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
inside the Monte Alban burial precinct, Oaxaca, Mexico, by Arthur G. Miller
Monte Albán Burial Precinct, Oaxaca, Mexico / Arthur G. Miller
Temple of the Sun, Palenque, Mexico, by Arthur G. Miller
Temple of the Sun, Palenque, Mexico / Arthur G. Miller
People coming from opposite sides of the border first meet in an airy wood chapel which faces a garden, east, and has a view out through the complex’s wall. It sits raised on a thick concrete platform, inducing a feeling of weightlessness.
The central cemetery complex “free” zone - a symbolic erasure of the natural ground - straddles the border. It is contained by burial walls and planted with crosses. The central chapel grows off of these burial walls and consists of a light wood and glass meeting chapel and a heavy concrete burial chapel.
main chapel complex wood model, proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
tomb painting of 4 men in a ceremony on an orange background, Monte Alban burial precinct, Oaxaca, Mexico, by Arthur G. Miller
Monte Albán Burial Precinct, Oaxaca, Mexico / Arthur G. Miller
red symbols tomb painting at Monte Alban burial precinct, Oaxaca, Mexico, by Arthur G. Miller
Monte Albán Burial Precinct, Oaxaca, Mexico / Arthur G. Miller
main chapel complex wood model, proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
model of proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego, showing how packed Tijuana is and how empty San Diego close to the border is
The central chapel grows off of these burial walls and consists of a light meeting chapel and a heavy burial chapel.
Tex-Mex wooden grave marker with cross cut out, from Camposantos by Dorothy Benrimo, 1966
Tex-Mex Grave Marker / Dorothy Benrimo
flower-like Tex-Mex wooden grave cross with holes, from Camposantos by Dorothy Benrimo, 1966
Tex-Mex Grave Marker / Dorothy Benrimo
model of proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
main chapel wood model detail showing abstract cross created by roof break and roof slit, proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
From there, the mourners proceed into the large burial chapel where the spatial experience is an inverse of the previous, as all attention is focused down toward the ground. The burial chapel is heavy on top and around, with a large, stacked concrete roof and concrete walls hovering over a raw wood and dirt floor. The dead body is placed symbolically on this dirt floor, on Mexican soil. This chapel faces Mexico, South.
People coming from opposite sides of the border first meet in an airy wood chapel which faces a garden, east, and has a view out through the complex’s wall. It sits raised on a thick concrete platform, inducing a feeling of weightlessness.
main chapel complex wood model, painted orange, proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
skull in open village tomb, painted blue, Pomuch, Campeche, Mexico, from Maya Color by Jefferey Becom, 1997
Pomuch, Campeche, Mexico / Jefferey Becom
open village tomb, painted pink and orange, Xocchel, Yucatan, Mexico, from Maya Color by Jefferey Becom, 1997
Xocchel, Yucatan, Mexico / Jefferey Becom
main chapel wood model showing light through roof slit forming cross against horizontal slit window, proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
main chapel wood model showing floor peeling back to place dead body on Mexican soil, proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
From there, the mourners proceed into the large burial chapel where the spatial experience is an inverse of the previous, as all attention is focused down toward the ground. The burial chapel is heavy on top and around, with a large, stacked concrete roof and concrete walls hovering over a raw wood and dirt floor. The dead body is placed symbolically on this dirt floor, on Mexican soil. This chapel faces Mexico, South.
detail of model of proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
detail of model of proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego
inside tomb at Monte Alban burial precinct, Oaxaca, Mexico, by Arthur G. Miller
Monte Albán Burial Precinct, Oaxaca, Mexico / Arthur G. Miller
small wooden door in village red and black wall, La Venta del Sur, Cholutec, Honduras, from Maya Color by Jefferey Becom, 1997
La Venta del Sur, Cholutec, Honduras / Jefferey Becom
main chapel complex wood model, proposed cemetery across the US-Mexico border, Tijuana-San Diego

Work/Credits

Design & Program: Ioana Urma. Project Advisor: Ann Pendleton-Jullian. Reference Drawings & Photos: Arthur G. Miller (1-6 & 11), Oscar Iván Calvo Isaza (2), Dorothy Benrimo (7 & 8), & Jefferey Becom (9-10, & 12).
Research/Reference Books: