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Lakewood Cemetery Mausoleum

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Project Description

1968 P/A Awards
Like people, architectural projects can die, and yet, in remembering them, we can also bring them back to life. That happened with Ralph Rapson’s 1968 P/A Award–winning design for a mausoleum in Minneapolis’s Lakewood Cemetery. His scheme remained unbuilt—and largely forgotten—until HGA Architects and Engineers received the mausoleum commission nearly 50 years later. The two designs do differ in important ways. Notably, Rapson envisioned a glassy, concrete-framed entry pavilion on axis with the cemetery’s Neo-Romanesque chapel, while HGA’s stone-clad, crypt-like structure stands more reservedly off to one side.

The ideas in both projects, though, still resonate. Both the Rapson and HGA schemes have a relatively small structure at grade but lead down to partly buried internment chambers, clad in marble and opening out to a sunken garden. Both have dynamic, asymmetrical layouts. Both use courtyards and skylights to illuminate the subterranean rooms. And both integrate building and landscape so well that the two seem inseparable. Although HGA’s vision got built and Rapson’s didn’t, both deserve the recognition they received.

The similarities between the two speak to the response of equally talented architects to a particular site and program. By respecting the scale of the cemetery’s other structures and by taking advantage of the elegant sunken garden, both Rapson and HGA’s lead designer on the project, Joan Soranno, FAIA, beautifully honored the place and the people buried there. —Thomas Fisher, Assoc. AIA
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