In 1914 a competition was announced to find an innovative concept for the new southern cemetery. Central themes were the Romanticism of the 19th century as well as society's progress towards the democratic ideal.
The movement grew as a reaction to the Enlightenment’s rational world view. The ideal encompassed the inspiration of nature, the prophetic power of art, and the world of folk tales and mysticism. New national states in Europe needed to showcase their unique and traditional characteristics. Travel also brought impressions from other cultures and a fascination for the exotic. The competition found interest in the human unconscious and the emotional sensibilities of the individual.
The Competition Program
Underlying the phrases were innovative ideas on architecture as harmony and nature as a dominating experience:
“The area is to be disposed so that without compromising artistic views and without drastic alterations in the terrain or transformation of the landscape’s character, a clear and lucid plan can be produced…”
“Much weight is to be on giving the area a thoroughly dignified character”
“Even regarding detail, the artistic viewpoint must be the basis for the construction and grouping of the structures, the arrangement of shrubs and flowers, and the placement of gravestones, so that the area when ready and in use has the best possible harmony”
“It is to be noted that not only the area’s existing, varied pine forest but also several viewpoints possess great aesthetic value”
“The existing gravel pits … are still being used to the extent possible, although in such a way that valleys are being formed that will prove advantageous for the future cemetery or its ceremonies”
Fifty-three entries were exhibited in May of 1915. The prize jury unanimously nominated ‘Tallum’ by Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz.
The proposal was praised for harmonising with the existing topography and for its mix of grave types and ignoring status demarcation. From the citation: “…did not raise its voice…”, “…the stamp of dignity…”, “…the austere Nordic nature of its contours…”, “…something delicately poetic…”, “…should encourage quiet peace…”.
The proposal needed adjustments and in 1916 there was a first revision. An evaluation committee subsequently found the plan “clarified with extraordinary care…” and “…should be an uncommonly splendid cemetery both as a unity and in its details…”. In 1917, work began on forestry clearing, roads, plotting the grave areas, and a main entrance from Sockenvägen.
Financial and practical considerations led to plans for a small chapel initially instead of a larger chapel-crematorium.
The Woodland Cemetery 100 years
Skogskyrkogården, The Woodland Cemetery, celebrates its 100th anniversary with a new outdoor exhibition. September 19—November 1, 2020. Free admission.