The ‘Gävle Krematorium’ is an isolated cremation complex made from concrete on the outskirts of Gävle, Sweden. Designed by architecture firm ELLT, the structure is a stunning example of Brutalist architecture that merges design and nature together to create a contemplative fit for the wide spectrum of human emotion.
Hidden in the middle of the pine forest right next to the Forest Cemetery, the ‘Gävle Krematorium’—also known as the Skogsljus Chapel Crematorium—has been in operation since the 1960s. The project was the subject of an international competition in 1954, and was awarded to the four young designers who started the architecture studio ELLT. Now it has been transformed into a modern facility updated to meet contemporary standards of health and safety, yet the building remains, decades on, untouched in its architecture and emotionally-charged aura. Brutalist in its structure and materials, the crematorium is carefully detailed and sophisticated. The spaces—two funeral chapels, a cremation department, and an office—are connected by vertical profiled concrete walls. Floors are made of slate while partitions and ceilings are constructed in pine wood, giving the rooms a natural feeling. The lighting plan is especially refined. Long glass windows wrap the top of the building, letting sunlight into the gap between the slightly raised ceiling and walls. A number of full-height glass openings give views out to the backyard and woods, offering a welcome respite from what is, inevitably, an austere interior, with simple furniture in wood and luminaries in brass.
Despite its rough-presenting exterior, the building still manages to provide a spiritual calm. ELLT’s architectural intervention is perfectly integrated with the forest landscape—the surrounding pine trees create an undeniable feeling of stillness around the concrete structure, while the incorporation of natural materials ensures that the architecture complements the woodlands. Swedish photographer Andy Liffner has captured this place of devotion and dignity in all its beauty and complexity in the series of images below.