Switzerland’s largest cemetery and the central cemetery of the city of Basel exudes a monumental power with its clear axes and old trees. The redesign of sector 12 on the cemetery’s rearward slope allows the severe beauty of the old-established site to gradually transition into the contemplative tranquillity of unrestrained nature.
The formally designed cemetery based on the plans by the architects Bräuninger, Burckhardt, Klingelfuss, Leu and Suter, was inaugurated in 1932, after which it was steadily expanded. The symmetrically arranged garden area measures around 50 hectares in size and houses tens of thousands of graves. Between 1960 and 1963 sector 12 was created on the area ‘Im finsteren Boden’
– on a steep slope. In 1997 the complete overhaul of this part of the cemetery became necessary because its damp ground had caused it to become dilapidated.
The design transitions the symmetry of the cemetery to the neighbouring landscape. Departing from the imposing central axis, the path leads to the forest in wide, sweeping curves. Behind the building that houses the urns it widens surprisingly into an elongated square, giving the eye a captivating resting place in front of the backdrop of swaying groves on the hillside. Across a bridge the path climbs through the forest garden into gently oscillating meadows. Architectural symbols and the horizontal lines of the paths are woven into the space.
Between all of this unbridled nature maintains the upper hand; orchids and underbrush emit their scent. Cut strips of grass lead to the tomb slabs. Once arrived at the top, the open view reveals itself to visitors. The cemetery is a place of refuge for the grieving and for walkers – it is a place for the living.
Baudepartement Kanton Basel-Stadt,
Stadtgärtnerei und Friedhöfe
Project competition: 1995, 1st prize
Planning phase: 1997–1999
Implementation phase: 2001–2003
Area: 61’500 m²
Schoop Architekten AG, Baden