Queen Mary University: Novo Cemetery – Environmental Improvements

Case study

Queen Mary University: Novo Cemetery – Environmental Improvements

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Sykes were appointed to complete environmental improvements to the Novo cemetery on QMULs Mile End campus.

The Novo cemetery was once the main burial ground for Sephardi Jews in London, opened in 1733 and closed in the 1920s.

Much of the original cemetery was excavated and removed to provide building land for the University. With its rows of flat grave stones symbolising the equality of all people in death, the cemetery has become the unusual centrepiece of the modern university campus.

The project was initiated in order to preserve the site and improve the aesthetic and use of the surrounding area and reinstate it as a place of remembrance and contemplation.

Works included the construction of a 40m cantilevered footpath and piazza area, new planters and benches, feature lighting and relocation of plant and services. Sykes worked in close partnership with the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Congregation (SPJC) to complete works in a sensitive manner, and ensure that no graves were disturbed.

The unusual conditions of the job meant that no machine digging was permitted; every shovel was to be inspected by the Rabbi, no excavated material was to leave the site, all materials had to be hand balled onto the site including over 50 tonnes of bespoke paving flags and 125 tonnes of gravel.

The project was completed in February 2012 to coincide with a series of Jewish history events and the opening of the new £21m ArtsTwo building. HRH the Princess Royal, the Chancellor of the University of London, was invited to officially open the new ArtsTwo building on Friday 9th March 2012. The Royal party also took time to view the newly re-developed perimeter of the Novo Jewish Cemetery.

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