Lacee Barr, of LEES+Associates, is a Landscape Architect based in Victoria, BC who specializes in cemetery planning and design. Her experience with cemetery design began during her master’s degree at the University of British Columbia, where she researched and wrote a thesis on current cemetery and death care trends and the future of the urban cemetery.

Lacee Barr

Lacee Barr

Lacee’s work is guided by the principle that cemeteries are spaces of the dead for the living. She takes a holistic approach to her cemetery designs to ensure families feel comfortable and welcome in the cemetery. Lacee is a board member of the Green Burial Society of Canada, where she advocates for sustainable and environmentally conscious end-of-life practices.

When Lacee is not exploring or designing cemeteries, she can be found mountain biking, knitting cozy sweaters or exploring the local trails with her two dogs.

This Q&A is a part of an ongoing TalkDeath series titled Careers in Death Care, where you can read about the ins and outs of various careers in the funeral and death care industry.

Careers in Death Care: A Day in the Life Series

Careers in Death Care – Your Career Options
A Day in the Life of an Aquamation Tech

A Day in the Life of a Cemetery Planner
A Day in the Life of a Cemetery Programs Manager

A Day in the Life of a Cremation Technician

A Day in the Life of a Gravestone Conservator

A Day in the Life of a Death Doula

A Day in the Life of an Embalmer
A Day in the Life of a Forensic Artist
A Day in the Life of a Funeral Director
A Day in the Life of a Funeral Celebrant
A Day in the Life of a Green Cemetery Director
A Day in the Life of a Hospice Nurse
A Day in the Life of a Hospice Physician

A Day in the Life of a Pathologist

Careers in Death Care: A Day in the Life of a Cemetery Planner

cemetery planning career architect

Tell us about yourself and what brought you to become a Cemetery Planner?

I have always found cemeteries to be fascinating places that hold so much history. It wasn’t until my first history class in my master’s program that I discovered the significant role landscape architects play in the planning and design of cemeteries. This newfound interest led me to dive deeper into the history and design of cemeteries, ultimately inspiring me to conduct my thesis research on their importance and the future of urban cemeteries. Today, I work for LEES+Associates, a Landscape Architecture and Planning firm that specializes in cemetery planning and design.

What inspired you to become a Cemetery Planner?

cemetery architect

Cemeteries are places of the dead, for the living. They hold a lot of meaning and are significant to the grieving process. Not only are they important places for people, but they can also be extremely beneficial to urban wildlife including bird and insect populations. Unfortunately, because of the stigma that surrounds cemeteries, they are often neglected on a municipal planning level and end up placed on sites that are removed from the urban population, and are unsuitable for other types of development.

This is very unfortunate because they play such an integral role in the cultural fabric of a community. Cemeteries are places to remember and celebrate our loved ones – and they are maintained in perpetuity, meaning they are protected and will be around forever! I felt the best way to make a change and promote the importance of cemeteries was to specialize in cemetery design.

Cemeteries are the forgotten landscape. It is often not until a cemetery is nearing capacity that a municipality will begin to plan for expansion, or development of a new cemetery. This often leads to reactive planning and design rather than proactive design, resulting in cemeteries that look like they were patched together. These cemeteries lack coherence and sense of place, which contributes greatly to how comfortable visitors will find the space.

What is the biggest misconception about Cemetery Planning?

cemetery planner

When I tell people I specialize in cemetery planning, most are shocked to discover it is a real profession, and then quickly realize that someone has to do the planning and design for these spaces.

The biggest misconception is that there are no new cemeteries being built, when in fact we are at a point where a lot of cemeteries are nearing capacity. Much of the work we do includes recommending ways to infill within cemeteries that are at capacity, helping to find and assess new suitable cemetery lands, and creating master plans for those spaces.

Run us through a typical day as a Cemetery Planner. 

The days vary, depending on the projects I have on the go. The best days include site visits to project cemeteries or potential locations for a new cemetery.

My projects have taken me all across Canada and the USA to visit cemeteries. I would be visiting cemeteries in my spare time anyway, so its pretty great I get to incorporate it into my job.

When I am not on site, my work ranges from loose concept design sketches, bylaw writing, researching demographics and current tends and developing detailed construction drawings.

What was one of the most challenging projects you worked on as a Cemetery Planner? 

The most challenging part of my work is something that comes up in many projects: convincing clients, municipal councillors and the public that cemeteries are important, relevant places, and that cemeteries do not need to be desolate space shoved to the corner but can play a key role in the park, open space and habitat infrastructure of a community.

What was one of the most memorable projects you worked on as a Cemetery Planner?

I am currently working on a Perinatal Memorial Garden. With this project we did an extensive stakeholder engagement process that included interviews with parents who experienced perinatal loss. These interviews were emotionally challenging, but the response from the parents when we told them about our ideas was extremely positive. It was a great reminder that safe spaces to grieve and remember are so important. Our clients for this project have been the most ardent and enthusiastic group of people I have worked with, making it a pleasure to work on.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as a Cemetery Planner, or interested in becoming a Cemetery Planner?


My professional designation is Landscape Architect, and my specialization is in cemetery planning and design.

The most common educational path to become a Landscape Architect is to complete a Master of Landscape Architecture degree, and then complete the registration process, which will vary depending on which province or state you plan to work in.

Specializing in cemetery planning is very niche. Most Landscape Architecture firms focus on planning and designing residential landscapes, parks and trails. I was lucky enough to make a connection with Erik Lees, the founder of LEES+Associates, during my Master program. He became an external advisor for my thesis project, which was focused on the future of the urban cemetery. I was offered a job at LEES after graduation, setting up my path to specialize in cemetery planning and design.

For those who are wanting to specialize in cemetery planning, the first step is to enrol in a post-secondary program. There are two options available: a four-year undergraduate degree program or a three-year master’s program. Once you complete your education, try to find a firm specializing in cemetery design and planning. If you incorporate cemetery history and design into your education through a graduate or thesis project, you will have a leg up on the competition and learning curve. Since it is a niche area, reaching out to firms while still in school will help you land a job once you graduate.


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