The Creative Space: Nicki Hearne, Senior Interior Designer for 5plus Architects

Nicki Hearne of 5plus Architects is an experienced Senior Interior Designer who leads multiple projects across a variety of sectors and today, we explore a space that has encouraged her creativity recently.

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Nicki’s role is broad, ranging from work winning and client engagement to design and delivery of workplace, education, residential and hospitality projects, both new build and refurbishment. 5plus Architects itself, is an award-winning firm operating out of Manchester and London and they have an enviable track record of high quality design.

Nicki, is there a space outside of the UK that has recently inspired you and how?

During a recent visit to Stockholm, I was invited to visit Skogskyrkogården, commonly referred to as The Woodland Cemetery and considered by some to be Gunnar Asplund’s greatest achievement. I knew nothing about the place before my visit and found it a rather quirky proposal. I was intrigued, of course, and within just a few seconds of arrival I began to see what was so special about this place. Or, rather, to feel it.  I was enchanted.

In 1915, a young Asplund along with fellow architect, Sigurd Lewerentz, won a competition to transform the site, south of the city centre, from former gravel quarries into what it is today. They undertook their commission with an attention to detail that is truly moving.Skogskyrkog_2009 credit Holger Ellgaard web

Photo Credit: Holger Ellgaard

Equal care and thought has gone into moulding the landscape as it has into tiny, hand-chiselled notches in stone columns. Each of the (very different) chapels on the site has its own bespoke lights and chairs, designed by the architects to sit in perfect harmony with other elements of the interior design.

Dense pine woodlands have been gently sculpted to create open air theatres flooded with light and huge sweeping avenues connecting the various features of the site. There is something about the landscape that won’t let you look down for long. Your eyes are always guided towards the light. Every detail of the way you move through and around the site and its buildings seems to have been considered.woodland chapel webThe crematorium and chapels are all very distinct and bear little, if any resemblance to each other. The Resurrection Chapel (the only one by Lewerentz) is fascinating, not least as it is almost confrontational in its style and proportions. At the other end of the spectrum, the Woodland Chapel looks like a quaint little woodcutter’s hut from the outside and conceals a remarkable surprise on the inside…I won’t spoil the surprise in the hope that you’ll visit someday!

Its roof is adorned with an Angel of Death sculpture which some consider shocking, not because it is gruesome or frightening but because she is shown to be soft, gentle and almost cherub-like – a far cry from some people’s mental image of what death should look like. Similarly, the internal doors are made of unusually beautiful, delicate wrought-iron…it takes a while to notice the skulls.IMG_1850 webI’m a big fan of the Swedes and their approach to life (and death, apparently). They are pragmatic and efficient but with a relaxed manner, lightness of spirit, and great humour.

Skogskyrkogården is testament to this. The site was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1994.


About Alys Bryan

Alys' experience as a furniture designer, along with her in-depth marketing knowledge, makes her uniquely placed to work with the BCFA as the Editor of Design Insider and run her marketing business, Method Communications.
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