Site A parklike, suburban location in Schiedam, the Netherlands, next to a river with mature trees and extensive vegetation.

Program The monolithic, 21,000-square-foot building is divided internally with large and small ceremonial halls, separate entrances and reception areas for family and guests, meditation areas, a crematorium, and office space.

Solution The Beukenhof Crematorium and Auditorium not only provides the city of Schiedam with a modern facility to mark the passing of loved ones, it also creates an uplifting setting for musical performances, art exhibitions, and other cultural events. Its abstract qualities celebrate the diverse religions and cultures of the region while accommodating the unique rituals and sensibilities of the different faith communities who will use the building. The curved, womblike envelope merges easily with the landscape, with human-scaled plazas, gardens, and pools mediating the connection.

Outside, the marble-clad, reinforced concrete shell—perforated with structural steel tubes of varying diameter, each fitted with insulated glass that allows light to penetrate the spaces inside—features a lacelike pattern recalling Islamic architecture. Inside, the skylights create scattered pools of diffuse light that lend a transcendent quality to the space.

Jurors called the design “stunning,” “gorgeous,” and “spectacular”—while also praising its calming, contemplative nature. “I think it will be a profound and beautiful project,” Joan Soranno said. Juror John Frane noted the convincing way in which the skylights work at the detail level, yet aggregate successfully into the larger form. And while, as a whole, the jury cited an aversion to purely formalist solutions, they were swept away by this scheme. “We’re not being fair if we don’t admit that we’re seduced by its formal characteristics,” juror Reed Kroloff said, noting that “it is an elegant, reserved building that resolves the rectilinear and non-rectilinear geometries in a way that seems perfectly natural and without artifice.”

Beukenhof Crematorium and Auditorium
Location  Schiedam, the Netherlands
Client  Piet Sanders Foundation
Architect  Asymptote Architecture, Long Island City, N.Y.—Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture (principals); Josh Dannenberg (project manager); Duho Choi, Oliver Dibrova, Brian de Luna (project designers); John Hsu, Chris Johnson, Susan Kim, Ryan Macyauski, Penghan Wu, Shi Yun (design team)
Structural Engineering Consultant  Knippers Helbig
Size  1,977.10 square meters (21,281 square feet)
Cost  Withheld