St. John's Lutheran Cemetery - Chapel & Mausoleum

Columbia, South Dakota

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2019 PCI Design Award


Mekus Tanager is pleased to announce that our Chapel & Mausoleum project at St. John's Lutheran Cemetery was selected as the winner in the Religious Structures Category in the 56th annual, 2019 Precast Concrete Institute's Design Awards Program.  We are proud to have designed this project, and a congratulations to our client and the entire project team!



Project Description


A private client hired Mekus Tanager to design a new chapel and mausoleum building for St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery in Columbia, South Dakota. Situated at the corner of two county roads, St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery is a small local cemetery, and the new chapel and mausoleum building will be available to the local community for gatherings, memorial services, and to serve as a final resting place for church and community members.

At the request of the client, the new chapel and mausoleum building was designed to reflect a 19th century American prairie church. The building has: a steeple with an illuminated cross atop, a chapel and gathering space, kitchenette, restrooms, a storage room, and a utility room for cemetery maintenance. The entry space is open to the steeple above with windows, illuminating the interior entry with natural light. After the entryway, the chapel space showcases interior stained glass windows and an operable window wall (NanaWall) system, with exposed timber roof trusses above. The NanaWall system allows for a wall to be opened, leading to an outdoor patio for indoor/outdoor events or large memorial services, with an indoor/outdoor audio system. In the chapel there is a white-oak wooden columbaria stained with a medium walnut finish.  The columbaria features a custom cross centerpiece, created by Inspired Artisans, surrounded by 64 niches. In front of the niche cabinet there are 3 floor crypts, and there are 2 couch crypts in one of the chapel's walls opposite and facing the columbaria.

The new chapel and mausoleum building is designed to last as long as possible and to minimize maintenance. To that end, exterior walls are pre-cast concrete panels simulating wood clapboard lap siding, with metal stud framing on the interior. The roofing is made of lead, and was installed by skilled artisans from Europe. The lead roof is the third of its kind in the United States. On the interior are the exposed heavy timber trusses, porcelain tile floor throughout, and painted gypsum board walls and ceiling to create a bright yet tasteful environment. The building envelope is sprayed with closed cell insulation, utilizes a geothermal heating and cooling system, and is lit with LED lighting and fixtures throughout.  The grand opening for the Chapel & Mausoleum was held in the spring of 2017.


Special thanks to Mike Keller of Kyburz-Carlson Construction Co., the General Contractor, for contributing some of the beautiful photos of the project.


Quick Facts


  • Client: Private Client
  • Awards: 2019 PCI Design Awards: Religious Structure Winner
  • Project Size: 2,200 SF Chapel & Mausoleum
  • Services Performed: Architecture, Interior Design, Sustainability
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Mekus Tanager is a planning and design firm. Since 1984, Mekus Tanager has been helping our clients turn their buildings and spaces into well-designed strategic assets that maximize aesthetic beauty, function and purpose, and return on investment. We are committed to listening to and working with our clients as a true partner throughout the design process.


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