Erik Gunnar Asplund Woodland Chapel, Woodland Cemetery, Stockholm, Sweden, Side elevation c. 1918-20

  • Not on view

In 1915, Erik Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz, now recognized as two of Sweden's leading twentieth-century architects, won a competition to expand the South Stockholm Cemetery. The commission would span their entire careers, reflecting stylistic developments and shifts over a twenty-five-year period.

Asplund's early sketch of the Woodland Chapel, which he was directly commissioned to design, reflects the influence of Swedish Romanticism. His proposal—"a synthesis of temple and hut," according to the architectural historian Caroline Constant—was directly inspired by a vernacular cottage in Liselund, Denmark, which he visited on his honeymoon in 1918. The chapel is set in a pine forest. A path leads through the wood to the entrance, where the dominant form is a steeply pitched shingle roof, a massive shape like a truncated pyramid supported by columns. The deep portico continues the darkness of the forest. Only when the doors to the chapel are open is the visitor presented with a light-filled interior.

This preliminary sketch has a childlike quality, but nevertheless captures the essence of the building's strong geometric forms. It also reflects Asplund's initial interest in making the form of the chapel follow the terrain, so that where the land dips it exposes a visible and directly accessible basement level. He later changed this design in order to reinforce the cubic volume of the chapel itself.

Publication excerpt from Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 47.
Graphite and crayon on tracing paper
8 1/4 x 10 1/2" (21 x 26.7 cm)
Marshall Cogan Purchase Fund
Object number
Architecture and Design

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