No. 145 . 07 May 2003 
ArchitectureWeek
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From Vernacular to Modern in Sweden

by Olof Kallstenius

The history of architecture in Sweden over the last four centuries is one of "functionalistic eclecticism," with traditions borrowed from other cultures, molded by national politics, and blended into uniquely Swedish form.

Sweden's traditional building culture was anonymous, exemplified by the Bjoerkvik storehouse, a nobleman's showpiece. But in the 1600s, Sweden began to fight its way to a position of international influence that spurred huge architectural ambitions. The traditional artistry continued and coexisted with high-profile architecture.

Yet the older forms were considered unworthy for the sought-after self-esteem, and nobility made a massive effort to furnish their estates with modern architecture. An educational program was set up, and promising youth were sent on government-sponsored tours of Europe to learn about classical art and architecture.

The first steps to create a truly national style were taken by 17th-century architect Nicodemus Tessin the Elder. He renounced the joyful individuality seen in early Swedish baroque and tried instead to turn the whole of the country into his own Città ideale.

Tessin used what he believed was the best of European art. From the Renaissance he brought serene and timeless expressions to his churches. In his secular buildings he combined contemporary French, Dutch, and Italian motifs with older Swedish ones. His artistic will and talent was devoted to expressing the glory of God, king, and country.   >>>

 

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