Architect Gert Wingårdh Builds a Dazzling Emerald Office in a Swedish Cemetery
The heart of Stockholm’s Sundbyberg Cemetery is full of life. It’s not what you’d expect from such a place, yet it’s what project architect and Wingårdhs’ managing director Gert Wingårdh and his team set out to accomplish when tasked with designing a low-impact and low-key administration building on the grounds. The result is "calm and utilitarian," says Wingårdh. To achieve that effect, much acuity went into the project’s material selection, construction, and palette.
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It started when the administrative staff of Sundbyberg needed more space to expand: offices, meeting rooms, staff locker rooms, as well as space for office equipment and a workshop. In addition, the existing space was not compliant with accessibility needs. The location in the park-like cemetery demanded a building that wouldn’t call too much attention and would preserve the garden character of the site.
"We were asked to do something low-key and to make a small impact on the site," says Wingårdh—not an easy feat when your project site is small in scale and at the center of a cemetery. With glass and wood being the most common materials in Sweden, and needing to reduce construction disturbances on the sensitive site, the team opted for a cross-laminated and prefabricated approach to allow for rapid assembly and minimal site impact.
"Having constructed multiple wood-finished buildings (left to natural greying, and in one case, charcoaled), we decided that a cemetery was not the right place for decay," says Wingårdh. "Glass is a very permanent material, and given the windows, a natural choice in a minimal palette."
"It was key that the building should look tidy, timeless, and undecayed. It is simple and dignified."
That palette—that bold, emerald tone—was intended to serve as a complementary approach to the surrounding gardens. "We usually try to get iron-free glass in order to not ‘stain’ the impression of the wood behind it," says Wingårdh. "This time, we accepted the iron and instead worked with the impurity. This led to the search of a deep multi-layered surface." The green glass reflects the surrounding vegetation, integrating the building into the garden spaces framed by the cemetery’s hedges.
The building, which will be unveiled on May 16, is surprisingly calm in nature, despite its jeweled hue. "It was key that the building should look tidy, timeless, and undecayed," says Wingårdh. "It is simple and dignified."