The archaeology of memory Sigurd Lewerentz and Stockholm’s South Cemetery By 1924 building of the Chapel of Resurrection was almost finished. The chapel was the first solo work by Sigurd Lewerentz (1885-1975), within the celebrated designs elaborated with Erik Gunnar Asplund (1885-1940) for the Skogskyrkogården in Stockholm (1915-61). The designs for this architecture of the sacred provide a unique opportunity to investigate the dynamic vitality of memory and to explore the various associations which disparate images of time and place can blend together in the cohesion of the architectural project. The project, with its tension between time and space, redefines the identity of the place in question, by means of temporal allusions capable of revealing at one and the same time distinctive signs which are given coherence by the structure of the overall design. The landscape is the place of the action, an impressive palimpsest which can be relied on to generate elements which define sequences of scenes; the project projects the intangible into space and introduces a temporal rhythm on a different matrix compared to the natural rhythm. A new work creates a fracture in the felt structure of space, revealing different meanings and defining fresh memory; every single architectural project, being an act of transformation, emerges from the line of tradition to plough its own furrow which in some cases bring out a place's cultural as well as formal archaic matrix: the original paradigm. The fracture opens up excavation of the 'the well of the past', where certain archetypes, forms and mythical patterns are waiting to be taken up thanks to a continual process of never-ending return. What exactly is the relationship between the investigation into works of architecture such as those created by Asplund and Lewerentz at the Enskede Cemetery from 1915 onwards and the contemporary architectural scene? The nub of the question remains the relationship which a new work of architecture creates with existing structures, of a lost past, of the ancient which is still visible, and naturally with contemporary works. In fact such a relationship is unavoidable, and it is down to the architect to determine whether to translate it into a tension capable of generating inventive possibilities or else to try and get round it by being stubbornly self-referential. It is less about the relationship between artistic invention and tradition than tackling the urgent issue of the total lack of perspective which in the last two decades has bequeathed us an excess of unbridled individualism. For all these reasons the study of the compositional process guiding the project for Stockholm's South Cemetery, and particular the designs of Sigurd Lewerentz for the building of the second of the minor chapels, has contemporary relevance. In this instance, it is not a case of “building in an ancient land” but rather, through the construction of the landscape project, of creating an identity for a collective whole, which here finds the possibility of recuperating the primordial archetypes of its own culture. Working in the Nordic Forest, which extends into the project site, the two young Swedish architects were unable to rediscover visible traces of an ancient origin on the site, and accordingly used the project to give visible form to the image of the “true beginnings” and the idea of a never-ending return. To this end they set up a process of rewriting ancient architecture, citing various elements in the composition of radically anti-academic works, testimony of a new path towards modernity. As such it is not a case of recuperation of the classical language as a syntactical system governing the entire architectural structure but rather of the precise “setting the scene” for an “archaeology of memory”. This operation is not designed to give body to the detailed image of a precise reference world so much as to evoke in an extremely graphic synthesis a distant primal wider world thereby capturing its symbolic essence.
Torricelli, C. (2015). Archeologia della memoria. Sigurd Lewerentz e il Cimitero Sud di Stoccolma. In Luigi Franciosini Cristina Casadei (a cura di), Architettura e Patrimonio: progettare in un paese antico (pp. 176-187). ROMA : Mancosu Editore.