Cemeteries in transformation: a Swiss community conflict study

Klingemann, Harald (2022). Cemeteries in transformation: a Swiss community conflict study Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 76, p. 127729. Elsevier 10.1016/j.ufug.2022.127729

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For the first time, this study presents a natural experiment describing and explaining selected stakeholders’ attitudes toward the transformation of cemeteries into urban green spaces. In 2020, a real-life community conflict unfolded in Bern, the capital of Switzerland, over plans to close the smallest of its three municipal cemeteries by 2023. This study analyzes a representative sample (N = 519) of the city’s adult population and that of the adjacent town, Ostermundigen, capturing the views of residents of the conflict district and contrasting them with those of people living outside the district. It also compares attitudes of cemetery visitors and non-visitors. Survey interviews were conducted via telephone and through an online panel. The study focuses on conflicts triggered by alternative land-use plans, highlighting the need to include groups that are both familiar and unfamiliar with cemeteries. Interestingly, the latter group proved to be more open to change. The local meaning of cemeteries and municipal green urban-space policies are crucial context parameters, as demonstrated by the strong opposition to cemetery transformation in affected areas. The underlying beliefs of opponents and proponents are explored qualitatively and found to be complex and multidimensional. Individual attitude predictors include age and personal emotional attributes. Finally, factor analysis is used to develop a typology of users. The four emerging user types are linked to different perceptions of “the nature of cemeteries” and attitudes toward innovative plans (e.g., whether to create burial spaces for pets or a restaurant within the cemetery grounds, both of which received significant support). The findings inform policy decisions related to urban green-space management while balancing the interests of various groups. User perspectives should be reconciled by focusing on “dialogues of values” and participatory approaches, which complement information-centered municipal policies.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


Bern Academy of the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute of Design Research > Environmental Communication Design
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute of Design Research > Social Design


Klingemann, Harald0000-0003-0957-7220


H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)








Marie-Eve von Allmen

Date Deposited:

28 Sep 2022 15:50

Last Modified:

02 Oct 2022 01:36

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Alternative land use, Burial space, Municipal planning, Natural experiment, Neighborhood, Urban green space





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