Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Lethe and Mnemosyne Revisited: Presence and Absence in the Modern Day City

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posted on 2022-07-28, 04:14 authored by Wilson, David

Urban planner Roger Trancik refers to central urban areas that are effectively impossible to use as “lost sites”. Lost sites are often located in association with large infrastructural systems such as motorways, railways and waterfronts, where these regional systems disrupt the urban fabric on a local scale. Another form of lost site in many cities is a cemetery. The cemetery is by default a lost site that cannot be used to help repair the urban fabric or promote urban growth. However the cemetery makes a vital and active contribution to the heritage of a city, and often increases the available green space that can be vital to a city’s environmental systems. Therefore as a lost site a cemetery is still contributing.

The Wellington Urban Motorway removed one ‘lost site’ of the Bolton Street Cemetery and replaced it with another ‘lost site’ – a section of motorway that does not even serve its original purpose because it was never completed. This thesis investigates how both of these lost sites can be reconceived through design to actively contribute to the urban context and help restore what the original community lost. The investigation looks for ways to help reengage the site with its surrounding context by bringing back the cemetery as a fundamentally green space – and important heritage element – within the city. The thesis proposes to reconceive what a cemetery can be, inviting it to act as a vital and engaging public space that still maintains the important heritage characteristics and memories of a traditional cemetery. By relocating the cemetery back within reach of the city, what other urban issues can the site look to address to continue to give back to the life of the city, making it a dynamic, multi-functional space, while creating a unique way to address life, death and the workings of a city?


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Landscape Architecture

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Brown, Daniel; Connolly, Peter