Treptow Krematorium – Axel Schultes/Charlotte Frank

In the afternoon the day before heading to Prague and the Sonisphere Festival (I’ll write about that at a later date) I decided to skip the big Germany game during the World Cup and head out to the Altes Friedhof (Old Cemetery) and visit the Treptow Krematorium by Axel Schultes and Charlotte Frank.

Entry from Alte Friedhof Gate

This building has popped up from time to time in various classes and precedent studies, so I was more than willing to spend 40 minutes on the U/S-Bahn and a store clerk cursing at me for not knowing German to see the building. The Krematorium is a chapel and gathering place for the cemetery completed in 1998, although it looks much newer as the concrete has held up very well (the only real signs of aging are the vines growing on the sides of the building in an attempt to soften up the building so that the only strong reads of the building are along the main axis).

Entryway and Chapel treatment. Chapels are glazed to allow views out to final resting places.

The program and layout of the building is very simple. Two service bars (restrooms/storage/mechanical/etc…) are located on the sides of the building adjacent to the cemetery (providing the solid walls on which the vines grow). The central space is a gathering/reflectance/memorial space that relies on abstract allegories to imply importance, and to create a non-denominational space while alluding to a higher being. This central space and the three chapels off of the space are located along the main axis of the cemetery.

Entry Sequence forces a turn off main axis to enter building, as to signify entry into sacred space.

Central Space with the “Perfect Egg” – an allegory to a story in the Bible

An allegory of life and death – We return to the dust and sand

The best feature of the building in my opinion is its play on light. The way the mass is split to bring in light, and the attention paid to the joint between columns and roof slab is what sets the building apart. This light play is of course another allusion to a higher being (although one that has been used since the time of the cathedrals). The way the columns meet the roof slab is extremely interesting, especially in the way that the connection disappears/appears to be connected by light. By controlling the form of the connection, it is made to appear that the light is the connection, and allows for a notion of passage of time within the space (both ideas bringing the light of God into the space).

Overall, I really liked the building for its clarity in construction and the phenomenological aspects of it. There was an appropriate feeling and mood within, which drew me to spend quite a bit of time sketching in the space. It is definitely a very respectful and peaceful place for a final celebration of life before interment into the earth.


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Josh Mings

Architect and painter. Columbus, IN born, New Orleans educated, Chicago living and trying to leave the world better than I found it.