Gunnar Asplund studied at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts from 1905-1910, after which he went on to study under the architects Ragnar Östberg and Carl Westman at the Klara Skola (Klara School) in Stockholm.
In 1912-13 Asplund worked as an assistant lecturer at KTH while also designing the secondary school Väggaskolan in Karlshamn (finished in 1918). During 1913 and 1914 he went on a grand tour to France, Italy and Tunis, a trip that is said to have inspired him monumentally.
In 1917 he was represented at the Home Exhibition at Liljevalchs, arranged by the Swedish Society of Arts and Crafts, today Svensk Form. From 1913 and onwards Asplund worked on several architectural projects that often included furnishings. Among these, the Gothenburg Court House (1913-25 and 1934-37), Skogskyrkogården, the woodland cemetery (together with Sigurd Lewerentz, 1915-40) and the Skandia Theatre (1922/23) are some of the most prolific. Asplund’s magnus opus is said to be the Stockholm City Library opened in April 1928. The building itself is regarded as the most important of the Swedish 20th century and a peak of the Swedish Grace style. The library is also the first Swedish public library, where the visitor could pick and choose by themselves.
Together with the furniture designer Gustaf Bergström, Asplund also made all the furniture to the Stockholm City Library, including 19 different chairs, in which the circle and square from the building itself, reoccurred as decorative elements.
Eight years earlier, Asplund had also designed furniture in the neoclassical style produced by NK Verkstäder, for the Stockholm City Hall and in 1925 Asplund had made interiors and furnishing for the World Exhibition in Paris. In 1930 Asplund was one of the supervising architects for the Stockholm Exhibition and co-author of the functionalistic propaganda pamphlet Acceptera in 1931.
During the last ten years of Asplund’s life he was professor of architecture at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, while also creating architecture and furnishings such as the boardroom for the Swedish Society of Arts and Crafts (1931), his own summerhouse in Stennäs (1933-37) and the State Bacteriological Laboratory in Stockholm (1935-37).
In 1938 and 39 Asplund won the first prize in competitions for his proposals on the State Social Welfare Offices and the Stockholm City Archives. He also completed the Skogskyrkogården, woodland cemetery before dying in 1940 at the age of 55.