Lakewood Cemetery has been the foremost resting place for Minnesota’s distinguished citizens since 1871. This treasured haven of beauty, art and history, wherein broad sweeps of lawn are punctuated by fine stone monuments, trees and meandering roadways, is an archetype of the quintessential American “Lawn Plan” cemetery.
Recognizing the value and importance of their landscape, the Trustees of Lakewood commissioned a team led by Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc to produce a Historic Landscape Report and comprehensive Master Plan. The goal was to identify significant features of the cemetery and guide future management and development, addressing a problem confronting historic cemeteries nationwide: the need to generate continued revenue while preserving the values of their beloved landscapes.
The planning effort evolved into an ongoing relationship with the Garden Mausoleum. Working closely with the client, a series of massing and landscape studies were prepared to respond to the primary project goals. First and foremost was the development of a state-of-the-art mausoleum expansion that provided a service to the community while integrating into the landform and character of the space. Visual character and critical viewsheds were to be preserved, opportunities for outdoor gathering and contemplative use enhanced, and facilitation of access, circulation and parking designed in anticipation of increased use of the central core of the Cemetery. These early studies guided the design process, culminating in a built landscape that earned ASLA’s 2013 Professional Award of Excellence.
The discerning Board of Trustees of Lakewood Cemetery were particularly concerned with each architect’s sensitivity to the Cemetery’s principal asset, its landscape. The successful collaboration between Halvorson Design Partnership and Minneapolis-based architecture firm HGA resulted in a profoundly integrated building and landscape design solution that transformed what had once been a deteriorated, “sunken” space.
Surrounded by groves of majestic trees, the project site consisted of a bowl shaped space approximately 20 feet below the surrounding cemetery. The sunken space, the forecourt for a four-story-high mausoleum constructed in 1967, offered little in terms of spatial definition and desirable gathering opportunities. The green expanse was bisected by tall evergreen trees on the axis between the large mausoleum and Lakewood’s jewel like Byzantine-style chapel. High, monolithic walls comprised of “garden crypts” stood on either side of a monumental stairway ascending to the chapel.
With an extensive program including burial space for over 10,000 people, a committal chapel, a reception space for post-service gatherings, and a new central garden space, the team strove to integrate the new facility harmoniously into the historic landscape. The gradients that bordered this underutilized area afforded the perfect opportunity to nestle the building into the slopes under stately bur oaks. The cemetery’s “lawn plan” aesthetic extends over the building as a green roof, punctuated with bronze framed earth forms containing skylights to the crypt rooms below. The formal lines of the building’s southern façade extend into a new central landscape space at the lower level, providing order to the surrounding gardens. This cohesive relationship between interior and exterior space heightens the experience of each.
The new central landscape space is the unifying feature for the new facility, existing mausoleum and chapel. A large central lawn designed to accommodate Memorial Day events for as many as 350 people is scaled and defined by allées of specimen maples, providing a sense of enclosure while providing filtered views to the grand monuments beyond. Low ornamental flowering trees preserve views to the iconic chapel, while creating a beautiful, soft edge that ameliorates the impact of the imposing garden crypt walls. Shaded spaces under the tree canopy, overlooking a new zero edge reflecting pool, offer seclusion conducive to quiet contemplation, solace and healing. Granite walkways navigate the edges of the central lawn, embracing one end of the reflecting pool. Raised bronze and granite curbing frame a series of sacred spaces, providing a polite separation between the walkways and the mausoleum or garden niche rooms.
Asymmetrically placed, the zero edge reflection pool responds to important axial relationships among the built elements of this landscape while creating a dynamic focal point. Rising mere inches above the lawn, the pool appears to swell from the earth while mirroring the sky and surrounding landscape.
Lakewood Cemetery’s new Garden Mausoleum exemplifies the union between architecture and landscape. The unabashed contemporary design expression seamlessly integrates into the historic fabric of the cemetery, resulting in a landscape of quiet, respectful reflection, embracing a fundamental human need with dignity and grace.
Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum | Minnesota, USA | Halvorson Design Partnership
Landscape Architect of Record/Firm | Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.
Client/Owner Contact | Lakewood Cemetery Association
Architect Fountain Designer | HGA Commercial Aquatic Engineering
Civil & Structural Engineer Cemetery Planning Consultant | HGA Elizabeth Vizza Consulting
Owner’s Representative Horticultural Soil Scientist | Nelson, Tietz & Hoye Pine & Swallow Environmental
Image Credits | Paul Crosby unless noted as Lakewood Cemetery