Cypress Lawn, originally Olivet Memorial Park, is one of the oldest cemeteries in Colma, California. Sited at the base of the San Bruno Mountains, with huge cypress and palm trees throughout, Olivet expanded its operations in 2019 with the opening of Olivet Funeral & Cremation Services. While funeral homes tend to be bleak and windowless, Olivet wanted their new building to reflect its mission of helping families honour the dead in meaningful ways. They enlisted San Francisco-based John Lum Architecture to design a light and airy space that would serve as a celebration of life, instead of a mourning of death.
The mid century modern design features a low, horizontal profile stretched across a gently-sloped lawn. Celebrating the cycle of life, the exterior is a composition of concrete pillars and wood-slat screens playing with shadow and light. A breezeway shelters the glass entry, guiding guests along a grass-swept facade, and culminating at a shou sugi ban wall; an emblem of preservation. Throughout, resting benches allow visitors to experience the hushed silence. Above, copper-trimmed eaves, which have started to patina, are a reminder of spiritual transformations.
Inside, is the funeral home’s centerpiece, a 2,100 sq ft multipurpose chapel that can accommodate 300 guests. Bathed in natural light, a wall of windows overlooking the zen-like garden, acts as a threshold to nature and place of contemplation. The interiors are awash in tranquil hues. Walls have a cloud-like ombre effect while clay-coloured carpet absorbs the whispering echoes. A soft glow emerges from the deeply grooved, geometric ceiling cut-out, and drop-down screens allow for memories to be shared.
To set the tone, the lobby features a welcoming skylight, stone gray terrazzo flooring, and a mid century colour palette. The facility also has two family-friendly arrangement suites, two smaller visitation areas, restrooms, a hospitality room with coffee bar, as well as staff offices.