Reimagined Harkness Cemetery to Serve as a Place of Care, Connection, and Progression

Architectus, Aurecon, McGregor Coxall and Greenshoot Consulting, a consortium of architecture and landscape design firms, has been appointed by the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (GMCT) to work in partnership to design Stage 1 works of Harkness Cemetery. A brand new, 128-hectare greenfield site in Melbourne’s west in what is Melbourne’s largest public cemetery project in over 100 years.

The design embraces Wurundjeri culture, fostering an ongoing respectful relationship of reciprocity with Wurundjeri as Traditional Owners of the land – championing cultural awareness, knowledge exchange and understanding.

The reimagined cemetery will also embody fundamentals of Circular Economy – Regeneration, Resilience, Sustainability – to combat climate change in service of communities now and into the future.

The new site at Harkness is a place that respectfully examines our relationship with memorialisation. It strives to be a place of care, connection, adaptation, and progression woven into the fabric of Melton and Melbourne’s greater western growth corridor. This project and site provide a significant opportunity to invoke action, to preserve memory and celebrate life with a design that supports individual journeys of growth and acceptance. A regional destination for those seeking a unique open space experience, the reimagined cemetery will be a place that repairs Country, and connects Country to people and people to one another. A place that adapts and reflects our changing society.

The masterplan response reflects such ambition for the new site at Harkness, responding to the needs of its community, nurturing, and guiding the path through life and beyond.

The design comprises three axes – ecological, cultural, and community – each playing an important role in supporting the journey and connecting the site to its surroundings, people to one another, and repairing Country. The Cultural Line presents a dramatic threshold that contrasts and amplifies the vastness of Melbourne’s West. The Natural Axis, Arnolds Creek, demonstrates the commitment to Caring for Country and a sustainable future. The centrepiece of the cemetery is the Core, which is positioned at the confluence of the three axes and celebrates Country and elevates the beauty of the landscape.

The reimagined cemetery will embody the fundamentals of Circular Economy – Regeneration, Resilience, and Sustainability – to combat climate change in service of communities now and into the future. The new cemetery aspires to be off-grid, utilising on-site sources for energy and water. A site-wide integrated water management plan will be created to capture, cleanse, infiltrate and detain water onsite for reuse.

Image Credits: McGregor Coxall

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Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at