Salten Crematorium, Bodø, Norway; design by Lusparken Arkitekter (2003)

R.J. Preece
artdesigncafé - design | 15 March 2010
This article was previously published in Interior Design, December 2003, p. 50.

A small Norwegian city above the Arctic Circle, coastal Bodø seems a more likely place for migrating moose than innovative architecture. But not if Lusparken Arkitekter has anything to say about it. The firm’s Salten Crematorium is the product of an invitation-only competition run by the Bodø communal government, which had charged participants with creating a design to accommodate cremation facilities as well as a space for funerals of all faiths.

The 8,600-square-foot single-story structure addresses those two requirements, with cremation facilities, a ceremony room, and administration at ground level. Technical areas are predominantly below grade.

Upon entering a gravel driveway, hearses are directed to the administration gateway. Mourners, meanwhile, pass through a foyer to the 1,200-square-foot ceremony room, a double-height white-plastered cube. "The whiteness and height stress the importance of the event," says principal Kjell Kristiansen.

There are no religious symbols in the airy ceremony room, with its floors of white oak and Carl-Evert Ekström’s simple beech seating for 120 people. Instead, the room’s uplifting quality derives from dual sunlit exposures. The entry wall, which faces west, is built of glass and acoustic panels of Norway spruce; standing in front of the east-facing glazed wall is a white plastered plane with stained glass set into square niches. "The east-west orientation aligns with the rise and fall of the sun— and the start and end of the life cycle," explains Kristiansen. During the dark winters, outdoor spotlights replace the sun’s illumination.

The cremation facilities occupy a separate 1,600-square-foot structure, divided from the ceremony room by a double wall of plaster, brick, and aluminum panels. An 8-foot-tall aluminum smokestack helps balance the building’s asymmetry as well as dispersing exhaust— though the Norwegian government’s strict filtering regulations ensure that smoke is never visible.

What was it like for Kristiansen, whose previous projects include schools, residences, and a courthouse, to design a crematorium? "It was tough," he recalls, "The ceremonies that take place here are grave and emotional. We had to respect those experiences."