Asplund and Lewerentz planned the main construction together but building was postponed for financial and practical reasons. And in 1936, the Stockholm city council gave Asplund sole responsibility. Modernism had become fashionable in both architecture and the attitude towards funerals, so the Woodland Crematorium was to be functional, permitting parallel ceremonies in the chapels.
The large building sits discreetly to the side on a gentle slope. The crematorium is at the back with the chapels at the front, low with serried façades to blend gently with the landscape. The building incorporates the softer modernism that Asplund preferred after the strict functionalism of the 1930s. The chapels have more daylight and the interior ornamentation is a varied mix of stone, ceramics, wood, glass and metal. By now it had become appropriate to manifest a stronger sense of new life and hope.
A competition for the decor was held in 1937 and Sven X:et Erixon won with ‘Life-Death-Life’. The fresco was painted with water colours on wet stucco, with many different pigments giving it a special lustre. The Chapel of Hope was given Otte Sköld’s mosaic mural ‘The Good Earth’ and the Chapel of Faith a wall relief by Ivar Johnsson. The altars had removable crosses by the artists. The exit doors were decorated with bronze reliefs by Bror Hjorth.
Small gardens and waiting rooms separate the chapels and the mourners. The entrances are narrow and the exits wide. The exit from the Chapel of the Holy Cross is an 18-metre-wide glass wall that can be descended before or after the ceremony to extend the chapel into the monument hall.
The hall was in the architects’ combined sketches. Asplund modified the form with a Roman compluvium, an opening in the roof. It lets in light and created a space for the ‘Resurrection’ sculpture by John Lundkvist. The unusual lights originally had both lightbulbs and gas lighting.
Granite crossAsplund designed the cross, financed by an anonymous donation, with some reluctance. He gave the cross unusual proportions, perhaps more as a symbol for a burial site.
The Woodland Crematorium was inaugurated on 21 June 1940 and was Asplund’s last completed work. He died on 20 October and the funeral was held in the Chapel of the Holy Cross. He is buried in the columbarium beside the Chapel of Faith.