Welcome back to my blog! As previously mentioned, however my latest blog post was still about United Kingdom, I have moved to Stockholm since the past October. I didn’t have much time to explore a more “architectural side” of Stockholm, except for the most obvious places such as Gamla Stan (the old town), the city centre, the Vasa Museum, the Fotografiska museum and few other places.
Today I decided to get to know my new city a little more, by visiting Skogskyrkogården, a cemetery designed by Swedish architects Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz in the early nineteen twenties. Not only the cemetery has been praised for its landscape architecture, winning several prizes including Carlo Scarpa “Garden” award in 1995, but its also been recognized as Unesco World Heritage place, meaning that the cemetery will always been conserved as it looks like. This award is quite incredible, as the Woodland Cemetery it is only one of the two places belonging to modern times to have been put in the list, while all the other Unesco sites are all considerable more ancient.
What strikes the most, it is the incredible connection of this cemetery with nature (both vegetation and animals): Skogskyrkogården inspires more as a place of growing and life, than a place of death and silence.
It is definitely the scale and the proportion of making this place a real monumental opera. The scale it is in the distances, in the height of the old pine trees, the length of the paths, almost carved in between the nature. The -again- monumental weight and size of the granite fence wall, which surprisingly stands open without gates to give a final closure to the perimeter. Only its size is enough to give a stop to unauthorized passage.
We started our visit by walking up to Almhöjden, the meditation garden. The hill offers an incredible view of the surrounding green and landscape, but it is also used as a place where to scattered the ashes of the deceased. Some objects and little heart stones are placed above the side walls, ad people are also welcome to sit and enjoy the view fro the wooden benches or from the grass. Having myself a very relaxed vision of death and after life, I really loved the fact that this cemetery is viewed more as a garden and as part of the city, not as secluded area where people should be afraid to walk through.
On the same line, I was very impressed of finding a little shop and cafe within the Visitor Center inside the cemetery ground. The building, built in 1924 as service staff area, “was designed by Gunnar Asplund and has puzzled many people due to its, to say the least, unusual design.”
The building is designed with a symmetrical floorplan, and four square rooms on the side topped by long roofs, cladded with green copper tiles. The shape, however unusual and playful, makes it look quite integrated with the surrounding nature, possibly because of an echoing of imaginary traditional shapes, especially when it comes to shelters in the forest.
Renovated in 1998 it houses now a visitors and information center, and it is renamed the “Tallum Pavilion”, after Asplund and Lewerentz’s competition entry “Tallum”.
The visitor center offers an interesting free exhibition regarding the cemetery’s architecture, including the original entry design of the two architects, and few pieces which were custom-made design such as the chairs of the chapels, but also the fountains used to watered the flowers on the tomb stones.
The interiors are simple but nice, cladded with timber from walls to ceiling, stressing on the funny shape of the conical roof.
Other places of mention within the woods are the Chapel of Resurrection, quite classical on the outside architecture, but modernist on the inside; the children’s cemetery and Greta Garbo’s tomb.
On our way back, we visited at last the outside of the Woodland Crematorium. The simplicity, yet extremely poignant, design strikes you for its size and strength as you walk from the inside of the terrace, the landscape peeking from column to column. The roof is beautifully cladded in timber, opening with a square to the sky, letting the sculpture by Bror Hjort emerge toward the blue and the clouds with plastic movements. The play of shadows of the long columns give the large terrace a great pace, making it a very interesting inside-outside architectural space.
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