Skogskyrkogården's history begins at the beginning of the 1900s, when it became apparent that Stockholm’s cemeteries were insufficient and needed complementing. Stockholm City Council decided to build a new cemetery south of the existing Southern Cemetery, in modern-day Enskede. At the time, cemeteries were generally considered “Gardens of the Dead”, with grandiose parks, tree-lined avenues and impressive headstones raising a kind of memento to the dead. The city’s cemetery committee had a desire to move away from this ideal and to instead create a cemetery centred on the underlying landscape.
In1914, the cemetery committee announced an international architecture competition in which entrants were to take advantage of the local topography and woodlands. Nonetheless, this did not mean that entrants needed to restrict accessibility, architectural design or artistic flourish. All elements were to blend in harmoniously. It was also to be easy for visitors to find their way.
No fewer than 53 entries were received, some from Germany, the foremost architectural power of the time. However, due to World War I, most entries were of domestic origin, and most went straight in the wastepaper basket. Most entrants had quite simply failed to understand the “thinking” behind the new cemetery. 1940 witnessed the grand inauguration of Skogskyrkogården’s crematorium, The Woodland crematorium and its three chapels — those of Faith, Hope and the Holy Cross.
The unique cemetery was now complete. It formed a harmonic whole combining nature, architecture and artistic ornamentation — in stark contrast to the usual metropolitan burial grounds with their endless rows of monuments.
Instead, first prize was awarded to Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz, two thirty-year-old architects. Their entry, “Tallum”, was the only proposition centred on the Nordic woodland experience. Though even their creation needed a great deal of tweaking before work on Skogskyrkogården could begin in 1917.
Together they created a unity of landscaping and buildings that has become one of the world’s leading architectural sites. Lewerentz was responsible for much of the landscaping. He also designed the classicist Chapel of Resurrection in the southern part of Skogskyrkogården. Asplund designed the other main buildings: the Woodland Chapel, the Woodland Crematorium with its three different chapels, and the Tallum Pavilion. Asplund and Lewerentz both came to be seen as leading architects of the 20th century.
In 1989, the Stockholm cemetery committee received an inquiry as to whether they wanted to nominate the Skogskyrkogården to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The inquiry was unique, as a World Heritage Site comprises cultural or natural heritage that is considered to be of great importance to humanity. [text http://skogskyrkogarden.stockholm.se]