#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
A
Z
A “Plan in Impossible Perspective”
Current
list Article list

A “Plan in Impossible Perspective”

Posted 22.03.2018
By James Taylor-Foster

In 1915, Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz (1885-1975) submitted a single competition entry for a new woodland cemetery in Stockholm, Sweden. It comprised a vast and intricate site plan in which each individual pine tree was inscribed on the drawing, peppered with towers, chapels, crematoria, clearings, and avenues. Borrowing from myth and Nordic folklore, the proposal reflected on—and subsequently defined—the nation’s attitude to death and remembrance.

To realise Skogskyrkogården the architects moved heaven and earth. New, if not subtle, approaches to cosmic symbolism were established and shaped in brick, mortar, stone and wood, while earth itself—the very mass of the landscape—was excavated and recast to form a gentle, undulating topography of interlocking forests, vistas, and ritual sequences. While many of their original ambitions were lost to years of incremental refinement, one chapel—Lewerentz’s Uppståndelsekapellet (Chapel of Resurrection)—represents the spirit of an imaginative synthesis of northern aesthetic traditions and burial practices in the context of a rapidly modernising world.

The Way of the Seven Wells, a long axial pathway that stretches from an elevated elm grove to the Uppståndelsekapellet, is among the few gestures that survived the (often brutal) iterative design process. While the wells themselves were never completed, the pathway forges a long, processional avenue from the entrance of the cemetery to the freestanding canopy of the chapel; a direct line of movement, sided by a tall wall of pine trees, sheltered from open sunlight and the slightest breeze.

In a 1923 drawing, Lewerentz—or, some maintain, his sometime collaborator Kurt von Schmalensee (1896-1972)—sought to articulate the complex spatial arrangement that sprung from the termination of the Way of the Seven Wells and the spaces—both interior and exterior—that make up the chapel. Described by one researcher as a “plan in impossible perspective”, by another as “Lewerentz’s naivistic [sic] drawing”, and by most as merely a “site plan”, the drawing is in fact a logical representation of an intricate and symbolic orchestration of funerary movements.

For most services that take place in the Uppståndelsekapellet the deceased arrives by way of the road that slices this drawing horizontally, intersecting the Way of the Seven Wells. From here, gathered mourners assembled in the enclosed square adjacent to the chapel, prior entering. Or, in case of rain and snow, beneath the Pillar Hall or in Lewerentz’s waiting room – a later addition, positioned on the site of the semicircular clearing. Once the first phase of the service is complete, the deceased and their mourners exit the space by way of a second door on the western side of the building, descending a shallow staircase toward the place of internment.

In this drawing, an entire pattern of sequentially interwoven rituals and movements are penned with remarkably precise representational language. Landscapes—contained, compressed, and open—are articulated with implacable functionalism while, at the same time, reference an entirely unique and highly nuanced corporate understanding. In this way, the drawing is in itself a masterful example of the rich conceptual potential of the architectural drawing.

 

This post forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture. The winning and shortlisted drawings are being exhibited at Sir John Soane’s Museum 21 February – 14 April 2018.