Pattullo, James. THE GHOST BRIDE CEMETERY : MLA scheduled for completion December 2012.
Abandoned coal mining towns leave enormous scars upon the landscape once the minerals have been removed and the thriving populace has moved onward. These scars upon the landscape encourage further erosion and further destruction. The Chinese government is dedicating US$7 million to attempt to rejuvenate one such site, the abandoned Haizhou Open Pit Coal Mine in Fuxin, China. Currently this site represents the world’s largest abandoned man-made mine – the largest “hole” in Asia. It is 20m lower than the lowest land point in China. The Chinese government is seeking a means by which a thriving populace can be encouraged to repopulate the damaged site. The northern provinces of China are its coal-mining heartland. Pit accidents in these mines typically take the lives of many men too young to have married; yet Chinese tradition demands that husbands and wives always share a grave or the young man will wander forever alone in the afterlife. So sometimes when a young coal miner dies unmarried, his parents procure the body of a woman, hold a “wedding” and bury the couple together. The custom of “ghost marriages” has a two thousand year history, and with the decline of Marxism the tradition is having a strong resurgence resulting in “cemeteries of ghost brides” inhabiting the abandoned mining towns.
This thesis proposes to engage the “ghost bride cemeteries” as a metaphoric vehicle with which to address the recovery of such devastated sites. The ghosts live beneath the earth, and they symbolically represent the ones aware of the spirit of the landscape, its natural systems. The ghost cemetery metaphor will form a basis for a master plan for the City of the Dead, which gradually the City of the Living is meant to inhabit – an infrastructural framework for a new city. The remnants of the City of the Dead will form the infrastructure necessary for the City of the Living to take root. The graveyard of the ghost brides forms ephemeral traces for the City of the Living to infiltrate. The major landmarks of the City of the Dead will stand as markers, witnesses, which are implicated eventually into the City of the Living. The ‘routes’ of the City of the Dead become the future roadways of the City of the Living, but they are not routine orthogonal grids. They will follow the spirit of the land, the contours of the earth, the flow of the rainwater, the acknowledgment of what lies below. The ghosts understand all this in their graveyard; and their pathways invite the City of the Living to be designed in response to the land, not in denial of it. The thesis argues against the traditional applied orthogonal urban grid, in favor of site-specific urban frameworks that fundamentally acknowledge natural landscape systems. The thesis becomes a manifesto about contemporary solutions to urban infrastructure.