Thorbjörn Andersson with Sweco Architects: A memorial grove is a place for those who were left behind. It is a place to visit in search for consolation, and for reflections and memories of the beloved ones.
When the parish in Askim, southern Gothenburg, planned to extend their burial grounds, they took the decision that the new grounds should be a memorial grove instead of a traditional coffin cemetery. In Askim, the church from 1879 sits on top of a hill where also the old cemetery is. The hill has a distinct border to the north formed by an old retaining wall in granite, about 5 meters high. At the lower level lies an area which was formerly not specifically used. It has the shape of a basin and used to be a shallow ravine with a brook. The ground was moist and the place filled with dense shrubbery.
In the project, the vegetation was cleared out and the landform made into a regular bowl. A place with possible new qualities appeared. Along the sloping sides, we introduced grass terraces to enhance a formal character and to create horizontal places for the ashes. These are put anonymously under a turf. A paved terrace with seating facing south points in direction to the church, supplying a visual contact with the upper level. The back wall of the terrace is detailed with stone flags of limestone for name plaquettes of the deceased ones and is the commune place also for candles and flowers. The focal point of the bowl is a shallow pond with a still water surface, creating a reflection of the sky above. The grove is in parts planted with clumps of trees, selected for their seasonal change, such as crab apple, cherries and autumn-colored acers. The memorial grove is circumfered with a rustic granite wall, creating a sense of enclosure to permit a quiet atmosphere enhancing individual reflection. At the western edge, a new parish building forms a spatial limit.
The ambition for a memorial grove should be to create a place enough inviting and beautiful so that it metaphorically works as a meeting point between the living and the dead. It should be a place that speaks to us and where we can recall the memories of the deceased ones. A memorial grove is an important place in modern society. It should transmit to us that even if life is hard today, there is a possibility of a brighter future. It is a place not ultimately for the dead, but for those who were left behind.
Project: Askim Memorial Grove
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
Landscape architect: Thorbjörn Andersson with Sweco Architects
Design team: Staffan Sundström, Malin Unger, Charlotta Löfstedt, Tobias Phersson
Area: 3500 sqm
Photos by Åke E:son Lindman