Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum
Minneapolis, MN, USA
Joan M. Soranno FAIA/HGA John Cook FAIA/HGA
Craig Halvorson/Halvorson Design Partnership (Landscape Architect) Paul Asp/HGA (Structural Engineer) Craig Lemma/HGA (MEP Engineer) Rich Bonnin/HGA (Interior Designer) Nicholas Potts/HGA (Project Designer)
Ronald Gjerde, President, Lakewood Cemetery
The Mausoleum minimizes the visual impact on its historic context by nestling more than three-quarters of the building into an existing south-facing hillside. A green roof discretely extends the northern sweep of lawn over the burial chambers, with each room marked on the ground plane through a single bronze-trimmed earthen mound or oculus. Along the southern facade, a series of pavilions breaks down the scale of the garden wall, defining intimate columbarium and crypt gardens. Entering through the street-level building pavilion, visitors descend to the garden level under a rhythmic sequence of top-lit clerestories before entering a corridor flanked by intimately scaled crypt and columbarium rooms for quiet reflection. The material palette calls upon visual and experiential senses while recalling centuries of memorial tradition. Granite, marble and bronze—selected and detailed to last centuries while celebrating contemporary expression—frame each change of material through precise detailing and subtle tactile changes. While mausoleums historically have been dark, introverted spaces, the new Mausoleum inverts this paradigm with light-filled rooms connected to its new 4-acre landscaped garden. Daylight strengthens the relationship between the spiritual and the earth-bound while offering a serene and healing environment. Each crypt and columbarium room uniquely frames a view through a singular element, capturing the changing angles of sunlight through large windows or rotating, shifting skylights, comforting the eye with the presence of near or distant gardens, the tree canopy, or the sky.
Addressing the intimacy of personal grieving and the shared rituals of commemoration, the design for the new Garden Mausoleum at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis revisits an ancient building type whose setting demands contextual sensitivity and attention to materiality. The building and its landscape became a study in duality: communion with earth and sky, simplicity and ornament, mourning and celebration. Located in one of North America’s most significant nineteenth-century garden cemeteries, the new Mausoleum uses efficient space planning to address a shrinking inventory of available acreage for traditional in-ground casket burial. With a mere 25 out of 250 acres remaining of undeveloped land, the Mausoleum adopts a strategy of higher density memorialization, enabling Lakewood Cemetery to judiciously maintain its greatest assets: its pastoral landscape and its landmark architecture, including a 1910 chapel with neo-Byzantine mosaic interiors by New York architect, Charles Lamb. The 24,500-square-foot Mausoleum is anchored by a two-level building housing a committal chapel and reception space for communal activities that unfolds into a series of garden-level chambers for over 10,000 interments. With 4,800 columbarium niches (burial for cremated remains) and 750 full-body crypts, the Mausoleum embraces a growing market for cremation while preserving the undeveloped 25 acres for future generations. Occupying less than half an acre, the building footprint takes up only a fraction of the 7 acres required to accommodate 10,000 in-ground casket burials.
Lakewood Cemetery is a non-profit, non-denominational burial and park grounds open every day from sunrise to sunset in South Minneapolis. Upon its creation, local community leaders worked together to establish a cemetery in Minneapolis where “the encroachments of the city would never seriously interfere.” Dense residential, commercial and recreational development has since surrounded the cemetery yet the land remains coveted by local residents as a peaceful and expansive natural escape. Even in a city known for its extensive urban parkland and lakes, the cemetery has maintained a dominant presence with its 250 acres of meandering paths and green-scape. In addition to drawing a new generation whose loved ones are interred in the Mausoleum, the new 4-acre landscape and development draws people from all walks of life, re-activating the site to align with its original purpose: a place of community gathering and restorative refuge. The two-story Mausoleum is designed as a series of spatial experiences in which a play of light and materials emphasize the progression from our own earthly lives to one of contemplation and remembrance. Visitors and family members move from the public, community-focused street level which houses reception, catering kitchen, offices and restrooms to the more spiritually focused private spaces housing the crypts, columbarium niches and committal chapel on the lower garden level. The design recognizes that in contemplating death – as in living matters – people have diverse perspectives and desire uniqueness. It respects that in designing a final resting place for ten thousand people, individuality, human scale, and a sensory connection to the natural world are paramount.