Networked Urbanism

design thinking initiatives for a better urban life

Design critics: Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo, principals of Ecosistema Urbano
Death Cafe MenuAlthough mortality is humanity’s common ground, the subject of death has become taboo and the spaces of death are treated with morose reverence that often excludes them from the public realm and society’s consciousness.  Cemeteries no longer function as vital urban spaces; they are Terra Mortis, dead land, set aside to memorialize our loss.  However, even more disturbing than this underutilized land is the waste generated by postmortem processing. Society’s efforts to produce an illusion of permanence after death has resulted in an industry that defies, consumes and contaminates nature at the cost of public health, environmental security, urban green space and our overall spiritual well being. My project asks if we can transform cemeteries into a common, fertile ground that allows people to understand death as an integral part of life. We will begin the session with a Death Cafe in the tradition of Funeral Celebrants – be ready for Death & Donuts!
-Jennifer Lee Mills


My network thus far (includes people and proposals).

My network thus far (includes people and proposals).



The following are speculations on why people fear death and their body’s decay:


The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman’s portrayal of death seems very classic, with his flowing black robes and intimidating features.  The main character in the movie later states that he fears dying because he wants a guarantee that heaven awaits him.


The Hearse Song

Don’t you ever laugh as the hearse goes by,
For you may be the next one to die.
They wrap you up in a big white sheet
From your head down to your feet.
They put you in a big black box
And cover you up with dirt and rocks.
All goes well for about a week,
Then your coffin begins to leak.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle in your snout,
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.
A big green worm with rolling eyes
Crawls in your stomach and out your eyes.
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus pours out like whipping cream.
You’ll spread it on a slice of bread,
And this is what you eat when you are dead.

This song was a popular “scary story” used to frighten friends at sleepovers.  When my aunt explained that she wanted an airtight casket because the thought of worms eating her body terrified her, this is what came to mind.  Through my conversations with people outside of the funeral industry I have found that many people do not understand the process of decomposition, especially the fact that it is inevitable.  Many still operate under the misunderstanding that embalming preserves you for eternity, when, in fact, it merely used a highly toxic fluid to preserve your body for the short amount of time between your death and internment.  Everything from your body to your “airtight casket” will eventually decay and return to the earth. is a platform for sharing knowledge and design thinking experiences with the world around us, breaking through the walls of academia in an attempt to improve the society in which we live.