entertainment • presentation • installation

New lease of life for Malmö's Old Graveyard

7 March 2006

Sweden - Malmö's Old Graveyard is the first Swedish cemetery to feature an architectural lighting scheme. It has been carefully crafted to communicate the spiritual calm and natural aesthetics of the environment, to define the natural architecture and to meet the functional requirements of providing pleasant night lighting for a busy urban thoroughfare.

The scheme was the original idea of Malte Sahlgren, the Swedish Church's manager of Malmo's 18 graveyards. The Old Graveyard, first consecrated in 1822, is located in the centre of town and its East-West running avenue connects the key areas of Gustav Adolfs Square and Kings Park, and it also houses the remains of some of the city's most famous citizens.

Sahlgren initially discussed his idea with both Malmo City Council's lighting designer Johan Moritz (currently developing an ongoing lighting strategy for Malmö) and Spectra Stage & Event Technologies' Bertil Göransson. Göransson and Moritz created the design, and then Spectra realised the project, supplied the equipment and oversaw and commissioned the installation.

Sahlgren had secured funding for the project from Malmö Förskönings och Planterings Förening, a society dedicated to the furthering of public art and raising awareness the city through aesthetic impact. The challenges facing Göransson, Moritz and Spectra were enormous. The design itself had to be extremely tasteful, reflective and subtle - almost imperceptible. However it also had to be utilitarian, and make the space lighter and more inviting to walk through or sit in after dark.

Coloured illumination would have been too gaudy, so soft white light sources were chosen from the start. They also didn't want to erect any boxes, poles or wires, or anything that interfered with or invaded the environment. They came up with several different options - some of them seasonal - from which Sahlgren chose the final scheme.

The only vertical elements in the graveyard apart from the graves, which couldn't be lit, are the trees. So it was decided to light key elements of the impressive collection of mature Oak, Ash and Beech trees lining the main pathways to give vertical form and structure to the installation. 54 trees were selected to be up-light in the first phase - all of them lining the East-West route. This is achieved using IP67-rated Bega 8089 in-ground fixtures with a swivel-mounted rotatable optic for focussing. Moritz also wanted the trees to act as reflectors - and he and Göransson tested several different fixtures in situ before deciding that these were the right ones.

The fixtures are loaded with 35W CDM long-life lightsources with a colour temperature of 3000°K. They were also chosen because of their quality build, their robustness, ability to withstand extreme temperatures in the winter, and their shallow 120mm mounting depth. It was vital to have minimal impact on the tree roots once installed.

Off to one side of the cemetery is a 40m spherical memorial area bordered by a short copper Birch hedge, where people lay candles and floral tributes. Wanting to retain candle-light as the primary after-dark lightsource, Moritz has elegantly accentuated the circular form by outlining it with a softly glowing ring of light. This is created using a continuous length of standard, weatherised, long-life white rope light embedded in a special trough, made form quick rusting steel, which was designed and fabricated by Spectra. The rope light was sourced by Göransson form France.

All fixtures are linked to a dusk/dawn triggered lighting controller that turns them on and off.There were also other logistics - like cable laying and the digging up of consecrated ground - which had to be contended with - the latter of which was undertaken by the church's own team of experienced gravediggers. The lighting installation itself was completed by electrical contractors overseen by Göransson and the Spectra team, who commissioned the installation once complete. The whole process was interrupted several times by heavy snowfall!

Everyone is delighted with the results: "It's great to work on a project like this with so much depth and meaning to it, with such a unique atmosphere and with a dedicated and meticulous team of individuals" comments Göransson.

(Lee Baldock)


Tag Cloud

Malmö's Old Graveyard Swedish cemetery lighting scheme natural environment idea consecrated East-West key city Sahlgren Malmö created design Spectra project commissioned installation dedicated impact Göransson itself white light chosen several vertical elements trees lining form fixtures Moritz long-life depth rope team

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