As mentioned in 72 Hours in Stockholm, one of my trip highlights was visiting Skogskyrkogården, also known as the Woodland Cemetery. Located south of Stockholm, the cemetery is interwoven with nature. While many cemeteries focus on the beauty of crypts and monuments, this one’s beauty is squarely in the land. The tombstones are modest so as not to compete with their surroundings. This all gives way to a sensation of being in a preserve or park rather than a cemetery.
As I wandered the expansive paths, I was taken in by the sunlight filtering through the canopy of tall pine trees, the chatter of birds high above me, and the fragrance of flowers permeating the air. And, I wasn’t alone. The cemetery was rich with activity. Many locals could be seen strolling along the paths, riding bikes, or tending to the graves of loved ones.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, work began on the cemetery in 1917 after two young architects, Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz, won a design contest. The architects drew inspiration from medieval Nordic burial archetypes, letting the landscape dictate much of the composition of the design. Rather than force the land to submit to precision and grids, they instead embraced the beauty of imperfection, allowing for meandering paths and interspersed graves. This design by submission preserved and amplified the serene beauty of the land, creating a living tribute to nature, love, and life.