MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015Our Neighborhood Church, from the 1100's
A few weeks ago Carl and I made the short walk to our neighborhood church for the first time. It’s been on our list for three years, but we’ve just never quite made it there, despite the fact that it is a historic monument from the 1100’s. I just love the fact that our neighborhood church is from the 1100’s!
Like Bromma Church, which I wrote about a while back (see below), the original, round section of Solna Church was built in the 1180’s as both a church and as a defensive outpost. Today, both churches are quite a ways inland, but in the 12th century they were quite close to the water and in strategic positions to defend the waterways in toward the then-prominent town of Sigtuna (toward Uppsala) from pirate attacks (Stockholm hadn’t even been founded at that time). The defensive nature of the original tower isn’t hard to discern as the walls are about seven feet thick!
Like Bromma Church, which I wrote about a while back (see below), the original, round section of Solna Church was built in the 1180’s as both a church and as a defensive outpost. Today, both churches are quite a ways inland, but in the 12th century they were quite close to the water and in strategic positions to defend the waterways in toward the then-prominent town of Sigtuna (toward Uppsala) from pirate attacks (Stockholm hadn’t even been founded at that time). The defensive nature of the original tower isn’t hard to discern as the walls are about seven feet thick!
The altar was enlarged with an addition to the round tower in the 1200’s, and by the 1300’s the church wasn’t needed for defenses any longer as Stockholm with its walls and towers had been built further downstream. The population had grown by that point, and a new nave was added, connecting directly with the round tower.
|From the nave, looking through the round tower, to the altar.|
The interior of the church was painted by the region’s most prolific and famous church painter Albertus Pictor in the 1400’s (most of the paintings are lost but a few remain).
|A young man on his deathbed is being tempted by both angels and demons.|
In the 1600’s, the church became part of Karlberg Palace (see below), so it was suddenly graced by royals and nobles. Several coats-of-arms from the 1600’s are in the church, including those of King Karl X Gustav and Queen Hedvig Eleonora. I found it interesting that the queen’s coat of arms has the king’s squished on one side, and then another (her father’s?) squished to the other side.
|King left, Queen right|
I am jealous of whoever gets to live in the old preacher’s house (the church sold off most of the clergy houses a while back). What a beautiful, generous house and green leafy garden!
MONDAY, OCTOBER 06, 2014Gripsholm Castle
One of the main attractions of Mariefred is a visit to the fairy-tale like Gripsholm Castle.
Gripsholm is named after the first owner (in the historical record), Bo Jonsson Grip, who built a small fortification on a small island (holm) just off the mainland in the late 14th century. Soon after, the area was donated to the church and it was used as a cloister. When Sweden became protestant, all church-owned land was confiscated by the state, and King Gustav Vasa used these strategic pieces of real estate to create a new national system of defensive castles. Gripsholm Castle is one of these, although it was also built as a grandiose royal palace in the latest Renaissance Style—guests were meant to be impressed and intimidated.
Using building materials from the cloister as well as a lot of new bricks and such, the castle was completed in only seven years.
In the 1600’s the castle was the seat of two Dowager Queens, and some interiors were updated to the latest styles. The original kitchens had been in pavilions over the lake, but the pavilions eventually succumbed to the elements and sank, so a new extensive kitchen wing was built on dry land.
Apparently, the castle wasn’t large enough and a new living wing, known as the Queen Wing, was built. Through the centuries, the Queen Wing was enlarged and additions were built on to the kitchens, creating an entire castle forecourt.
|The castle forecourt with kitchen buildings.|
In the late 1700’s, Sweden’s most culture-interested king, Gustav III, built a theater in one of the towers. The theater was designed by Erik Palmstedt and even today it is impressively well preserved.
|Some of Palmstedt's drawings.|
|The stage with an original set from the 1700s and the theater seating. Servants and actors' families could watch the performances through peep-holes in the rotunda.|
Being gigantic, draughty, and cold, the castle eventually fell out of favor and it was more or less abandoned by the royal family during much of the 1800’s. At the end of the century, however, a renewed interest in national history compelled a large-scale “renovation” of the castle where many of the rooms were stripped of their layers of history and the original Renaissance style was “recreated.”
There were, of course, original Renaissance rooms on which the architect could base the new Renaissance designs, so the recreation wasn’t quite as Disney-esque as it could have been.
|Architect Fredrick Lilljekvist's drawing for one of the "Renaissance" interiors.|
Walking around the castle grounds, one can see parts of the extensive estate that once supported the castle. Farms and orchards as well as storage buildings and barns are still in existence and operation today.
Today, in addition to being a destination of historic interest, the castle also houses Sweden’s national portrait gallery with portraits spanning from the 1500’s to today. Anyone who was anybody in Swedish history is pictured in the castle, although the collection is quite hard to appreciate due to limited lighting, nonexistent signage, and the tight-packed, seemingly random nature of the exhibition.
All of the above photos are mine except the Renaissance interior photo.
TUESDAY, APRIL 15, 2014
Karlberg Palace, located just at the edge of downtown Stockholm, is rarely seen by tourists but is one of Stockholm’s most impressive sights. Situated along the canal between the mainland and the island of Kungsholmen, the main body of Karlberg Palace stretches an amazing 720 feet, not including the disconnected side wings. The gleaming white palace is so long that it is hard to fit into a camera view even from across the water.
The original (small) palace was built in the 1630’s when the King’s half-brother and admiral Carl Carlsson Gyllenhielm bought three villages and turned the property into a noble estate. Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie bought the estate in the 1650’s and hired architect Jean de la Vallée to “renovate” the house, keeping the core but expanding the original rectangular building into an H-shaped palace rivaling Stockholm’s many palaces from that period in both size and grandeur and grace. Vallée’s palace is the red part of the palace on the map.
|The water facade and the facade facing the allee which led from the city|
An aside: Gardie was an extremely powerful and wealthy man. Among other positions during his lifetime, Gardie was an army general, the ambassador to France, an advisor and confidant and possibly the lover of the Queen, Sweden’s tax chief, the chancellor of Sweden, and the Chief Justice of Sweden’s supreme court. In addition to Karlberg, Gardie also owned/built/renovated at least 6 other palaces including Makalös, Venngarn, Läckö, Mariedal, Jacobsdal (Ulriksdal), Kägleholm, and Höjentorp. I wrote a little on Makalös in my post “Palaces from the Time of Great Power” (#4) and a lot on Ulriksdal in my post “Ulriksdals Slott”.
|Clockwise from top left: Makalös, Venngarn, Mariedal, Kägelholm, Höjentorp, Ulriksdal, Lackö.|
Another aside: Jean de la Vallée was one of Sweden’s two hottest architects at the time. Among many others, his most famous projects include the Riddarhuset (#7), Katarina Church (#4), a redesign of the Royal Palace, Venngarn Palace (mentioned above), Mariedal Palace (mentioned above), Oxenstiernska Palace (#10), Bondeska Palace (#14), Skokloster Palace, and Hedvig Eleonora Church (#5).
|Clockwise from top left: Riddarhuset, Hedvig Eleonora Church, Oxenstiernska Palace, Katarina Church, Skokloster Palace, Bodeska Palace.|
Combining Gardie’s wealth with Vallée’s architectural genius resulted in a beautiful, graceful, and elegant palace whose southern arms reach out to embrace the water and whose northern arms reach toward the alleé leading from downtown Stockholm. I particularly love all of the rounded forms and windows on the northern façade.
In 1680, the king bought the palace and it became one of the royal family’s main pleasure palaces until King Gustav III created the Royal Military Academy with his donation of the palace in 1792. The loooonnnnggg wings were designed by Gjörwell, another star architect, in 1795 to house the cadets (orange buildings on the plan).
Even further from the main house are the bakery, horse stall, and other utilitarian buildings, designed in the 1730’s by yet another popular architect, Carl Hårleman (yellow buildings on the plan). Today’s Karlberg is an impressive creation of Stockholm’s biggest names in architecture.
|One of Hårlaman's utilitarian buildings to the right. Just beyond is the edge of downtown Stockholm. Many railroad tracks intervene between the city and the palace.|
Unfortunately, the more recent additions to the grounds including these temporary/permanent housing containers don’t adhere to the campus’ long tradition of architectural masterpieces.
Karlberg Palace still houses Sweden’s Military Academy, and about 300 officers graduate every year. It is the world’s oldest, continually-run military academy in the world. However, I am even more impressed by the fact that the surrounding park is open to the public who are free to wander in and out at will, without showing ID. Can you imagine the grounds of West Point being completely open to joggers, dog walkers, and picnicking families?
While the palace grounds were at one time impressively designed with formal, terraced gardens, ponds, fountains, sculptures, pleasure houses, and tree-lined alleés, it now more closely resembles a past-its-prime English park with sloping lawns and meandering paths through oak forests. There is one surviving folly, the Neptune Temple designed by architect Gjörwell in 1792.
Sadly, the park was diminished once in the 1800’s when the railroad came through and then again when the highway came through. The highway completely disconnected the park from the city, and the park is inconvenient to get to despite being next door to downtown Stockholm. Despite its shrunken size and insufficient linkage to the city, however, the park is a wonderful waterside oasis and a lovely place for a Sunday stroll.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2013
Stockholm's Ugliest Building
Stockholm has a pretty good-sized selection of u-g-l-y buildings from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s but I think I may have found the ugliest of them all. On Folkungagatan on Södermalm.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2013
Stockholm's Subway to Expand
|The new stops are highlighted in yellow.|
Stockholm’s politics in the last 20 years has favored less costly trams over the subway as a way to expand the public transportation network, but I have been complaining that that is a very shortsighted solution and is basically a long-term waste of money. First of all, Stockholm’s newer tramlines don’t have dedicated lanes, so they are heavily affected by traffic. Secondly, they run quite slowly and often the stops are too close together, so it takes forever if you need to go very far. The new ring tram line is an example: From my apartment to my friend Jessica’s apartment, you can take the subway to the center of town, another subway out toward Jessica’s end of town, and then change to the tram. This takes 37 minutes door to door. Or you can take the tram which never goes into the center of town but goes more-or-less directly from my area of town to Jessica’s. The direct tram takes 55 minutes.
Needless to say, I am cheering out loud that Stockholm’s politicians have finally re-embraced the subway system. And, in ten years or so, I’ll be able to take the subway direct to my friend Jessica’s apartment. The trip will take something like 15 minutes. The trip to Carl’s parents’ apartment will also be considerably shorter. All of this assumes that we, Jessica, and Carl’s parents will all be living in the same spots a decade from now—not so likely!
Admittedly, the subway expansion is crazy expensive and the 11 year project is budgeted at $2.9 billion. I’m sure a pretty considerable chunk of that budget will go to the mile-long underwater stretch between downtown and Södermalm, but there are quite a few other challenging aspects to the project including tunneling under 350-year-old neighborhoods and tunneling through Stockholm’s solid-granite islands. However, I think that the project is well planned and is most definitely worth the money and effort.
Yay for the subway!!!
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2013
Floating Parking Garage
WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 2013
Last weekend, Carl and I took a day trip about an hour outside of Stockholm to visit the extraordinary Skokloster Palace. Before we went, we didn’t really know much about the palace other than it looked cool from the outside. What a magnificent surprise the palace was! It was built in from 1654 to 1676 and almost 400 years later is a nearly untouched baroque gem. The palace is so intact that the three upper floors still don’t have electricity or plumbing!
The palace is on a peninsula jutting out into the waterway leading between Stockholm and Uppsala, the region’s other prominent city.
Numerous rune stones and burial mounds attest that Vikings inhabited the island, but the area doesn’t enter modern recorded history until the 1230 when the king ordered that a nunnery (kloster = cloister) be built here.
|Two sides of the same rune stone.|
The nunnery more-or-less harmoniously farmed the land and provided housing to elegant ladies until the reformation in 1527 when all church property was seized by the king. The cloister functioned as a noble girl’s school until it and the surrounding lands were given to Herman Wrangel (same family that built the Wrangleska Palace on Riddarholmen, see #12 in this post) in 1611 in thanks to his military service in helping to kick the Danes out of Sweden.
In the 1620’s, Wrangel had two existing buildings combined into one more impressive residence. However, the residence didn’t satisfy the ego of Wrangel’s son, Carl Gustav. Instead, he hired the era’s most prominent architects including Caspar Vogel, Jean de la Vallée, Mathias Spieler, and Nicodemus Tessin the Elder to design and build a magnificent baroque palace.
|The architects' model from the 1650's.|
The palace is still the largest private building ever built in Sweden. The comparatively small house built by Wrangel Sr. became the servants’ quarters.
Originally there was also a plan by Jean de la Vallée to build an extensive harbor complex at the water’s edge. The kitchens and a bakery would have been housed out here (well away from the main building to protect it from fire) as well as bathhouses and more servants’ quarters. Only one stone-walled harbor was built from this plan; Carl Gustav died before the rest was finished. Today, the harbor is silted up and grassy.
|Erik Dahlbergh's engraving of how the palace and harbor complex would have looked. This engraving also shows the extensive garden that was also never completed.|
The palace was inherited through the ages but a legal restriction on the property demanded that any object brought to the property must stay with the property. Nothing was allowed to be sold or removed from the property. When the palace eventually became too much for a private family to care for and was purchased by the state in 1967, over 50,000 objects including furniture, clothing, paintings, sculptures, everyday goods, tools, etc. were included in the sale. This treasure trove coupled by the fact that the interiors of the palace are nearly untouched make it an extraordinary record of Baroque architecture.
|Just a couple of the original details|
The palace was traditionally accessed from the water, and a slightly projected central bay on the water façade is the only variation between the four nearly identical facades and the four identical corner towers.
|From the palace's facade, it is obvious that Carl Gustav was a military man!|
Even though this building was never used as a cloister, the interior layout clearly imitates a cloister with an open, central courtyard and an arched colonnade separated the courtyard from a surrounding open-air walkway. This imitation feels very odd in the Swedish climate when even summer days can feel quite chilly in the shade. While the interior courtyard gives the palace an impressively extravagant volume when viewed from the surrounding fields or from the water, it’s hard to imagine that the exterior circulation made for a very cozy visit in the 1600’s.
|The open-air entry hall and the central courtyard. I find it interesting that the courtyard was only used for drainage (the water flushed the pit toilets) and wasn't an occupied space.|
On the upper floors, an enclosed but unheated hallway circles the central courtyard. Nearly every surface of the hallway is painted, and all these have survived in remarkable condition—natural sea and sky scenes on the ceiling; military men and quotes of wisdom on the exterior walls; gigantic canvas paintings on the interior walls; and trompe l’oeil woodwork on all the surfaces. Having a hallway was quite unusual at the time; usually, rooms were accessed en fil directly from one to the other. The rooms at Skokloster can all be accessed from both the hallway and from the adjacent rooms. Considering Sweden’s climate again, I imagine that one would prefer to stay in the heated rooms rather than using the hallway. Perhaps the hallway was used mostly by servants.
The ground floor contained the large open entry hallways but the enclosed rooms were service areas. The first floor was where guests were received and entertained. The family’s small bed chambers were also on the first floor. The second floor has a huge ballroom as well as eleven guest bedrooms. The third floor housed private spaces including a library and rooms for the storage and display of weapons and curiosities. We didn’t see the basement level but I imagine it was used for immense amounts of storage.
Carl and I took a great guided tour of the palace. The tour was given by a historian who’s at the palace doing research, so she was incredibly knowledgeable and informative. She was also a good public speaker, so that sealed the deal on an excellent tour. She was able to point out a lot of symbolism and hidden meanings in the paintings, ceiling frescoes, wallpapers, and tapestries that would otherwise have been very lost on me. Listening to our tour guide made me yearn all over again to study art history!
One of the rooms that really leapt to life under the guidance of the historian was the dining room.
I’ve never seen anything like the ceiling frescoes in that room—they are so three dimensional that they are nearly sculptures! There are four, round medallions on the ceiling that depict the four parts of the world as they were known in the 1600’s—Europe with art and civilization, Asia with a turbaned man and a camel… America was especially interesting because it portrays an Indian woman, but with no stereotypical feathers because feathers were reserved as a symbol for the king. The American medallion also portrays something that is supposed to be an armadillo, but the artist clearly didn’t know what an armadillo looks like because this one has horns and four long legs like a cat.
The Africa medallion was also interesting in that it portrays the three things that an average Swede knew about Africa: there are black people there, the sun is hot and dangerous, and there are crocodiles (this one has hooved feet).
This same room also portrays the four elements, but the most interesting to me was fire. The fire medallion portrays a dragon, and from the dragon’s fiery mouth, the large glass chandelier hangs. The chandelier was made in Stockholm in the 1600’s.
In addition to complex ceiling frescoes, the walls of each room were completely covered in wall paintings, tapestries, or wallpaper. The wallpaper is actually calf skins that were pressed and painted before being stitched together and hung on the walls. Each calfskin is about 4 square feet; you can imagine how many calves were killed to provide enough wallpaper to cover all of that wall space.
Another amazing space that the tour guide showed us was the unfinished ballroom. At 3,200 square feet, this space is truly giant. Work on the palace ballroom wasn’t complete when Carl Gustav died, and all the workmen immediately left the site upon hearing of his death instead of continuing to work and probably not getting paid. They left all their tools and scaffolding behind. Because tools were everyday items that wore out over time, there is very little historical record of what tools were used and how. But at Skokloster Palace, the workarea has hardly been touched for 400 years, so it has become an incredibly important resource for learning about historical building methods.
|It's interesting to see just how many trusses were used to support the ceiling.|
One thing that I found particularly interesting about the ballroom was the rough, unfinished wood floor. The visible planks are incredibly thick—at least 4 inches—but they are rough wood that was never intended to be seen. If work had progressed in the ballroom, the wood planks eventually would have been covered by a foot-thick layer of sand, and then 2 inch thick stone pavers would have been laid over the sand bed. The entire ground, first, and second floors of the palace has this same flooring system. I can’t imagine the weight of all that sand and stone!!! No wonder the brick walls were several feet thick!
|Stone pavers elsewhere in the palace.|
A little while ago I posted this photo of an Italianate balustrade that wasn’t carved of stone but was instead fashioned out of wood (see #6 in this post).
I was amused to see the same thing at Skokloster palace, except halfway “plastered” into the wall. On the upper floor, the balustrade wasn’t even made of wood: it was just painted onto the wall. Interesting that the architect cheated on this one detail when such copious quantities of money were being spent on other details like the thick stone floors and sculptural ceiling frescoes!
Another “cheat” in the palace were the fireplaces. When the palace was built, rudimentary ceramic tile stoves were just being invented. These ceramic stoves were much more efficient and effective in warming up a space than an open fireplace, and they required far less fuel. However, then, just like today, a roaring open fire was much preferred due to a fire’s coziness and because one had to be quite wealthy in order to afford all of that firewood. At Skokloster, every room has both a giant, open fireplace as well as a giant tile stove. They were placed side by side in every room to share one flue. Guests could enjoy a flickering fire in the open fireplace, but servants would move coals from the open fireplace into the tile stoves. The real heat was provided by the tile stove while coziness and grandeur were provided by the open fireplaces.
There is still an active church on the premises. It was built around 1250 for the nunnery, but after numerous renovations throughout the centuries it still looks fresh.
Other than “discovering” the amazing richness of Skokloster Palace, our day was made even more fantastic by the beautiful, sunny weather. We enjoyed a picnic lunch and a nap under the orchard’s blooming trees before touring the palace, and after our tour, we hiked about 5 miles along the coastline before hooking back up with the bus. The combination of the fresh air, the beautiful countryside, and the treasure-trove of a palace made our day truly unforgettable. I most definitely recommend a visit to this palace when you’re in Stockholm!
All photos are my own except the architects' model, Dahlbergh's engraving, the palace plans, and the over-all dining room photo, all of which I found on Wikepedia.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2013
Better Things for Everyday Life
The second text in Modern Swedish Design: Three Founding Texts is Gregor Paulsson’s “Better Things for Everyday Life” which was published 1919 by the Swedish Handicraft Society. The Society’s goals were threefold: to safeguard traditional handicrafts, to promote higher manufacturing and aesthetic standards, and to help Swedish products compete with cheap, industrially manufactured imports. Paulsson’s text focuses on the industrial and economic goals.
Paulsson’s intended audience seems to be manufactures more than consumers. His text is full of arguments about why good design is an economic benefit to industry. He writes that good form makes products more competitive in the marketplace. Paulsson also rallies for originality and against copies: “No object can ever have the best form if it is a copy. . . . take into account the fact that in many cases it is the specific nature of the object, its novelty value, that makes it so attractive, and that when the copies reach the market they lack the charm of originality and therefore acquire no economic value.” Originality is a currency that manufacturers should exploit. He also believes that good design has the power to make factory workers happier and more productive because they would be more proud to help produce a quality product than a cheap imitation.
Beyond these fairly simple reasons, Paulsson writes that good design can create more profitability through the refinement of public taste. Paulsson explains that in the early 20th century, taste was not as uniform as in the past. This was due to the dizzying array of cheap, imitation products available to consumers. With nothing of quality to choose from, consumers choose all sorts of different styles. However, if there was a well-designed, quality product available, consumers would choose that product over cheap imitations. Once consumers became used to simple, well-designed products, there would be no market for cheap imitations. Manufactures would then only have to produce one type of product, creating more profitability through economics of scale.
Much like Key in “Beauty in the Home,” Paulsson emphasizes that good design requires :
~truth to the object’s materials,
~a form that expresses the object’s function,
~a form that reflects contemporary society,
~and a form that reflects the object’s manufacturing process.
Many theorists had already formulated similar thoughts about materials, function, and zeitgeist, but I believe that Paulsson’s main contribution here is that he believed that machines should be a main influence to form. Not only did he think that form should “better agree with the machines’ technical capacities,” but he further believed that designers should “seek to achieve products with the characteristic form of the machine-made. . . . Let us not imitate past forms, but let us instead use our new technical resources to create a new one.” For Paulsson, zeitgeist has as much to do with how an object is made as when the object is made.
In order to achieve good design in the manufacturing process, Paulsson called for the fusion of art and engineering into one process. There is no need for manufacturing and art to be at odds with each other; instead, he envisioned “Art assisting industry to attain beauty of form; industry assisting art to make closer contact with modern technology, and through this acquire new impulses and a wider sphere of [influence].” Not only is it mutually beneficial to unite art and industry, but this unification will lead to “new and original styles.”
Paulsson’s arguments for why good design is important are a little fuzzy. Most clear are his arguments as to why good design is important to manufacturers (profitability), but he also makes claims that good design also benefits nature, society, and Sweden. Paulsson vividly describes how industry “conspired to destroy the countryside:” “it sited large factories with smoking chimneys in smiling meadows, straight railroad lines replaced the delightful twists and turns of country highways, tall and utilitarian but prosaic railroad bridges spanned tranquil and beautiful valleys. . . .”
He also writes with much foresight that “many things that will only last a short time are now being produced with poor materials. . . . However cheap a thing of this kind may be, its production is, form the point of view of the material, a waste. The world’s supply of raw materials is not so large that in the long run we can exploit it as we have during recent decades.” Paulsson believes that this problem of material shortages will be solved through good design: “As the cooperation of art with industry will lead to quality products, this will lead to economies with materials.” I can understand how long-lasting, durable, quality products that use a minimum of material can begin to solve the material shortage problem, but Paulsson does not even begin to address how to solve the pollution and aesthetics problems he listed above.
Even less clear is why good design is good for society. Paulsson writes that “If people in the towns and countryside were consistently exposed to good form . . ., their taste would undoubtedly improve considerably.” So why is good taste so important? He states that “with uniformity of taste there would also arise consistency of forms throughout society. This is the deeper significance of the proposition BETTER THINGS FOR EVERYDAY LIFE.” Paulsson does not further explain what kinds of “forms throughout society” should be standardized, or why it is even important that things in society be standardized.
Paulsson’s argument that good design is good for Sweden is slightly more evident. At the time, Swedes were buying large quantities of import goods. Even though most of these imports were of low quality, Swedish manufacturers were losing ground in the marketplace. If Swedish manufacturers could introduce quality goods into the marketplace, Swedes would be more likely to buy the locally-manufactured products. In this way, Paulsson saw that good design was competitive in the marketplace and could become a “signature” of Swedish products. Good design would lead to more production in Sweden, more jobs in Sweden, and a better national economy.
Paulsson and the Swedish Handicraft Society had the chance to put their theory into practice at the Swedish Handicraft Society’s 1917 Home Exhibition in Stockholm. The exhibition displayed well-designed but mass-produced everyday objects
|Carl Malmsten's furniture and Wilhelm Kåge's "Liljeblå" porcelain service|
as well as small model homes. The designers and architects who participated in the exhibition is like a who's who of modern Swedish design.
|kitchen designs by Gunnar Asplund and Uno Åhrén|
Everything was meant to be affordable to low-income families. Although over 40,000 people visited the exhibition, the low-income target group apparently did not leave with a favorable impression. Ironically, the goods at the exhibition were for sale at Nordiska Kompaniet, today known as NK. Today, NK is the shi-shi department store equivalent to Neiman Marcus.
I did not find this text nearly as revealing in its connection to Swedish thinking and to the very core of Swedishness as Key’s essay “Beauty in the Home.” Additionally, Paulsson’s arguments are vague at best and don’t sufficiently link good design to a better society. His prose is also not nearly as moving as Key’s and the reader (at least this reader) has a hard time relating to the text. However, I do believe that Paulsson’s argument of fusing art and engineering in the manufacturing process was farsighted and it certainly proved to be important for Sweden. Where would Sweden be today without its world-wide reputation for clean, simple, Scandinavian design?
All italics and capitalizations in Paulsson's quotes are the author's. All images came from Wikipedia.
TUESDAY, APRIL 23, 2013
"The Beautiful Life is not at all an Extravagance"
Over the past year, I slowly made my way through the book Modern Swedish Design: Three Founding Texts. My interest in the theory definitely grew as I became more and more familiar with how the it tied into other aspects of Swedish culture, history, architecture, and planning. It was interesting to read the formative ideas behind the physical reality that was created in the first half of the twentieth century.
The book’s texts are arranged in chronological order, and I will also present my thoughts on the earliest essay first. This first essay is “Beauty in the Home” by Ellen Key (b. 1849- d. 1926).
Despite the fact that Ellen Key never had a formal education, her ideas on education, architecture, and the woman’s right to vote were extremely influential both in Sweden and internationally. She was extremely liberal for her time. For example, not only did Key believe that women should have the right to vote, she also believed that marriage creates problems in modern times, that monogamy is an unrealistic ideal, and that women and children should be supported by the state instead of by husbands. She also believed in evolution but not in Christianity. Her thoughts on education were also quite liberal—Key believed that a quality education should be free for every child in Sweden, rich or poor, and that corporal punishment of children is wrong.
In comparison, Key’s architectural writings don’t seem as ultra-liberal, at least on the surface. She believed that a modern revolution resulting in a new, egalitarian culture could begin with beauty in the home. If beauty exists at home, lives will be transformed, ultimately transforming the whole of society. Anticipating Churchill by some 40 years, Key writes that ”a home, such as is created only by happy human beings and, in turn, is destined to create happy human beings.” I love this phrase: ”The beautiful life is not at all an extravagance” because ”beauty gives you comfort and lifts your spirits even in the midst of the heaviest drudgery.”
Because the source of societal change is the home, mothers are the key instigators of change. Because mothers educate the next generation, they have the power to found a new social era. They also have the power to found a new aesthetic era because mothers are the principal creaters of domestic environments. If mothers begin making informed aesthetic decisions, fashion and market forces will dictate a change in available products.
Key was not alone at the time in idealizing the home. Key read English Arts and Crafts manifestos and while she was perhaps a little more realistic about the role of the machine in design and manufacturing, she was surely influenced by the Arts and Crafts romantizing of the domestic domain. She was also close friends with Carl Larsson, a Swedish painter famous for his depictions of everyday domestic life in a traditional but simple setting. (I have done no research on this yet but I believe that many of Ikea’s slighly traditional but very simple designs are inspired by Larssons paintings.)
Key seems to have had a love-hate relationship with manufactured products. She believed that handcrafted products are inherently of higher quality and therefore beauty, but she also knew that most families in Sweden couldn’t afford high-quality, hand-crafted products. Her compromise was that manufacturers should be guided by artists and craftsmen who would impart ”beautiful form and appropriate decor to all things.” Questions of beauty and aesthetics should not be left to manufactures but should be steered by those traditionally accountable for such matters.
For Key, simplicity, functionality, and naturalness are the keys to beauty: ”Each Man-made thing must . . . serve its purpose with simplicity and ease, with delicacy and expressivity, or it will not have achieved beauty.” She also writes that ”Things increasingly lose their beauty as they become more complex and less useful” (itallics original). Efficiency and economy also play important roles in Key’s definition of beauty: ”the most treasured beauty is that which is achieved with the least expense and the least possible loss of time.”
Key believed that modern times call for modern design solutions and that designers should not look backwards for stylistic inspiration. Instead, designers should take the intrinsic lessons that historical design can give us and create something new, something of the times: ”Our times have of course brought many new needs and many new means to satisfy them. It would therefore be as tasteless as it would be foolish to imitate the old cottages . . . . But from them one can learn with what simple means beauty can be achieved.”
Natural materials and inspiration from nature were also important to Key’s sense of beauty. She admired nature’s simplicity, honesty, and efficiency and wrote that modern design should emulate these qualities: ”These days we are becoming more and more consciously aware of nature, and if we continue in this direction, good taste will eventually be nature’s own: clear and simple expression in every respect. Nothing will be puffed up to appear to be what it is not, but neither will anything be diminished through lack of aesthetic responsibility” (itallics original).
Unlike many theory publications, nothing is left vague in ”Beauty in the Home” which is choc-full of specific, detailed advice. While Key believed that taste is personal, she also believed that taste can be moulded through educattion. Key’s essay is exhuberant with details such as what kinds of stains and varnish are appropriate for wood furniture and what colors and patterns of wallpaper are preferrable in a living room. My favorite advice is perhaps her most timeless advice: ”Books are the foremost ornament of a house.”
Not only was her essay very specific with design advice, but we also have visual evidence of what Key considered good design. She, with several other artists and designers, created two rooms for an 1899 exhibition at the Stockholm Worker’s Institute. The Blue Room’s goal was to simplify a typcial Swedish interior to create something tasteful and practical. The Green Room was a model for less affluent workers’ housing.
|The Green Room|
Although she gives many, many specific details in her essay, her conclusion is that no one detail can create a beautiful home. Instead, ”it is the whole, the agreement between the parts,which above all makes these rooms beautiful.” Key was one of the first to call for ”total design,” arguing that everything, from the smallest teaspoon to the entire urban environment, should be designed to create a unified whole.
This unified whole contains both individual, personal items as well as items that are shared by all. Key was also one of the first theorists to describe the interplay between the individual and society, calling for a mutually simbiotic relationship. Private spaces do ”not have a soul until someone’s soul is revealed in it.” Private spaces should reflect the individual as well as stimulate, uphold, and support that individual. Happier individuals lead to a better society as a whole. Completing the circle, a better society produces happier individuals. Her fundamental belief is that good design is good for society. Key’s ideas provided the foundation for a social conscience in design that would continue to resound in Swedish architecture theory texts for at least the next 40 years. More importantly, these ideas of a social consciousness in design would be applied in built environments throughout Stockholm’s modernist era.
Skönhet för alla:
Larsson's painting: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/carl-larsson/flowers-on-the-windowsill-1894
Green Room images from Modern Swedish Design introduction to Key's essay.
MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2013
The Murder Palace: Huvudsta's Farm/Palace
Last winter, I posted a photo essay an our favorite running and walking loop (see Our Favorite Running Loop in Winter on my Little Life Stories Page). In the post, I show a few photos of a palace, and now I’d like to write a little more about it.
The property is mentioned in history books back to the beginning of the 1300’s, but it isn’t until the 1600’s that we have any recorded information about the buildings that occupied the site. While it seems that nobles have always owned the palace and the surrounding lands, it was historically called a “farm” instead of a “palace.” I’m not sure why this property was designated a farm when similar properties in the area with similarly grandiose architecture and gardens were called palaces.
The palace’s location on the northern shores of Lake Mälaren about 5km Northwest of Gamla Stan would have been prime. Farm products could easily and quickly reach the city markets by boat, and the journey between city palace and country palace would have been fairly quick. I surmise that the owners and distinguished guests would also reach the palace by boat—the high, prominent position of the palace seems to have been chosen to impress rather than to ease access. My guess that the palace was typically reached by boat is reinforced by an impressive linden-tree allé that lead directly (and more gently) down to a dock.
|The allé leads directly from the palace to the water's edge.|
The first palace-like building was built in the 1650’s by the Stenbock family (I wrote about their contemporary urban palace, #2 in my Palaces of the 1600’s post). The palace was impressive and stately for the times with its high, hip roof and a double staircase descending from the palace’s plateau down to the water. There were also two wings creating a courtyard to the north of the main building. Unlike most other allés of the times, Huvudsta allé does not approach the palace head-on but instead passes in front of the courtyard. A large baroque garden on the other side of the allé completed the impressive ensemble.
|A 1689 drawing by Carl Gripenhielmon showing the 1650's palace from the water.|
By the mid-1700’s, the original palace building had fallen into disrepair. The current owner, Anders Plomgren, was a nobleman as well as the director of the Swedish East Indies Company. He tore down the original palace and wings in 1754 and replaced them with a new rococo-style palace as well as two new wings. While this new palace was quite small—only one story and 4 rooms—the garden was large and impressively designed.
|Drawings from the 1700's showing the 1754 palace.|
It was in a palace wing in 1792 that several men (Count Claes Fredrik Horn, Count Adolpf Ludvig Ribbing, and Captain Johan Jacob Ankarström) conspired to assassinate King Gustav III. The conspirators even test-shot their guns in the building, and visitors can still see the resulting scars. Their plot was successful and they managed to shoot the king during a masquerade ball at the Royal Opera House. The noblemen were permanently deported out of Sweden while the captain died at a guillotine.
|Drawing from the 1700's showing the 1754 palace from the allé.|
Obviously, the palace changed hands again after Count Horn was shown out of the country. Eventually, the palace and farm was bought by an alderman by the name of Johan Wibom. It was during Wibom’s time that many of the farm buildings including the stable (map 1), the bakery, the distillery, and the ice cellar (collectively map 2) were renovated or rebuilt, giving them their current appearances.
|some of the palace's auxiliary buildings from the 1750's.|
To supplement the farm’s income, Wibom made an agreement with the Russian ambassador to house him in a re-built palace that would be stately enough for such an important personage. The 1754 palace was moved just off the palace grounds (map 3)
|The simple, small 1754 palace in its new location.|
and a large, more impressive palace in a “Russian-Swedish” empire style was built in its place in 1836 (map 4). The 1754 wings stayed in place (map 5).
|One of the two 1754 wings.|
It is this largely unchanged empire style palace that I run by today.
|Drawing from the 1800's showing the 1836 palace from the slope above the palace.|
Today, the palace is a fancy-schmancy restaurant and a conference center. The small 1754 palace building houses a preschool.
|The palace today from across the water and from the allé.|
I have to say that it’s pretty fun to live just down the street from a palace and to run and walk by it on our exercise rounds. Until I started researching the architectural history of the palace, I had no idea that such a critical moment in Sweden’s history as the plotting of the king’s assassination took place so close by in “The Murder Palace” (as it is colloquially known).
My information nearly exclusively came from the palace’s website: http://www.huvudstagard.se/. Historical images came from that same website or from http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huvudsta_g%C3%A5rd.
TUESDAY, MARCH 12, 2013
Steel Parking Garage
This is probably my dorkiest post yet, but…
I’ve never been involved in designing one so I don’t know much about parking garages, but I do know that I have never seen one like the garage at the WORLD’S LARGEST IKEA just outside of Stockholm. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t imagine that an exposed steel structure would be allowed according to US fire codes. I would have thought that this garage would be considerably noisier than a typical concrete garage, but I didn’t notice an increased noise level. And I do like the unexpected sparkly shininess!
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2013
|The round tower is the original part of the church.|
Along with Spånga Church (the oldest entry on this page below), Bromma’s church is one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm; the oldest part of the church is the tower which dates to the 1160’s or 70’s. The church was built for the dual functions of defense and worship. Defense was needed because the church sits on a high site on a peninsula jutting out into Lake Mälaren. The nearby waterways were of strategic importance in protecting the cities and farms farther upstream. (Remember that Stockholm was originally not the important city in the region; Uppsala, farther up the lake, was the capitol). The round towers of Stockholm itself (see my post on Riddarholmen) were the lake communities’ first line of defense, and Bromma Church with the tower of Solna Church were the second line of defense.
Over time, the church building expanded from the tower to include a nave, a narthex (called the “weapon house” in Swedish because the villager’s weapons were stored there), an apse, a crypt, a chapel and a sacristy. The additive nature of these appendages is clearly visible. The baroque spire on the tower was added in 1681.
|The various appendages added over time on the east side of the church.|
Other than the church’s age, (320 years before Columbus sailed to the New World!!!) and its original dual functionality, the most remarkable aspect of the building is the interior frescoes from the 1400’s by Albertus Pictor. He was a prolific church painter during his time and 36 churches in Sweden still feature his work.
|The window bay gives an idea of how thick the stone nave walls are.|
|Bromma Jesus feet to the left, Gotland Jesus feet to the right.|
Juxtaposed with the exuberantly painted nave, the interior of the tower is somber and simple and is plastered smooth and white. A 15th century crucifix, a 17th century pulpit, an exuberant crystal chandelier, and eight creepy 17th century hanging angels adorn the space and make it a little less severe. Beyond the round tower space is an apse (I think added in the 1700’s?) with the alter. Daringly large incisions into the round tower connect the tower to both the apse and the nave, but if you sit toward the back of the nave, your view of the pulpit and alter is quite limited. The nave, tower, and apse feel more like distinct rooms than one continued church space.
|Left: The view from the nave through the tower to the alter. Right: Looking up to the ribbed ceiling of the tower.|
There is an extensive cemetery outside of the church and Carl’s paternal grandparents are buried there.
|Like just about all of Sweden's historical churches, Bromma Church has no windows on the north side to protect the interior from harsh winter winds.|
Much of my historical information came from the church’s website: http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/default.aspx?id=653481
THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 2013
The Light Fixtures of Konserthuset
|this one is my favorite|
For Christmas, Carl’s parents gave us tickets to a wonderful New Year’s concert in Stockholm’s Concert House, or Konserthuset. Listening to the music, mostly Vienese waltzes and excerpts from Austrian operas, was a lovely way to spend a night on the town.
I have never really liked the Concert House’s exterior. Designed by Tengbom in the 1920’s, it is too austere and the colonnade too pasted-on for my taste. I have also always found the blue stucco an odd choice.
A restrained classicism was definitely the rage in Stockholm during the 1920’s. This was the same era when other landmark neo-classical buildings such as Asplund’s Stockholm City Library and Asplund and Lewerentz’s Woodlawn Cemetery (see post just below) were designed and constructed. After seeing the interiors of the library and the cemetery chapels, I never would have guessed the exuberance that awaited me when I first stepped into the Concert House. The Concert House interior spaces are such a lively, exuberant, extravagant contrast to the severe exterior.
Classicism still reins on the interior with columns, colonnades, spirited Corinthian capitols, mythologically inspired plaster ceiling reliefs, geometric balustrades, inset wood doors showing mythological stories, geometric floor paving patterns, and Poseidon-inspired light fixtures, but the glittering, gold-leaf nature of the ornamentation is more Art Deco in its exuberance and extravagance than restrained in its Classicism. The Concert House interiors lack the rectilinear and zig-zag themes that are prevalent in US Art Deco buildings, so I’d describe the interiors as a blended Classical/Art Deco style. The glamour and indulgence of the interiors also reminds me of 1920’s and 30’s movie houses in the US.
Personally, I’m not all that drawn to the Concert House interiors from an aesthetic standpoint although I do appreciate them from an academic standpoint. However, I absolutely love the light fixtures. Don’t get me wrong—I would never want them in my house—but they are so creative, so over-the-top, and so lavish that I can’t help but love them.
|classical exuberance (the cylindrical lights in the left image were added in the 70's)|
|sea themed (the blue exterior is also supposed to hint at Stockholm's seaside location)|
The list of artists that contributed sculptures, paintings, textiles, etc. to the building is a veritable who’s who of early 20th century Swedish art, and most of the light fixtures were designed by Robert Hult from Tengbom’s architectural office.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2012
Woodlawn Cemetery (Skogskyrkogården)
Before even contemplating a move to Sweden, there were three projects on Swedish soil that had been drilled into my head in college architecture history classes: the Stockholm City Library, the Stockholm City Hall, and Woodlawn Cemetery. My first visit to Stockholm was before I had started architecture classes, so I didn’t know to look out for the cemetery when I was here. My second visit, however, I tried to find the cemetery. I got off at the correct subway stop, but I ended up in the wrong cemetery and couldn’t find anyone who knew what I was talking about when I asked where Woodlawn Cemetery was. On my third visit, Carl and I successfully found the cemetery and spent most of a day wandering around. Like so many architects before me, I fell in love with the cemetery’s spaces and site planning.
Since moving to Stockholm, I have visited the cemetery twice: once on All Saint’s Day, and again on a snowy November day (see Life Little Stories posts for “All Saint’s Day” and “An Ode to Winter, and Snow”). My admiration for this architectural project has only grown with each visit. After my most recent visit on a snowy day, I am now convinced that the cemetery is best appreciated when the graves are peeking out of the snow and the trees are dusted in powder. The dampening effect of the snow only serves to emphasize the silent, contemplative nature of the cemetery.
I’m not the only one who loves this unique project as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The project was a joint effort between Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz in response to a 1915 competition. They won first prize and were given the commission; over the next 15+ years they continually redesigned the landscape and the buildings until each piece was built. The final site design wasn’t even settled until the 1930’s after several of the buildings had already been constructed.
Before the competition, most of the site was covered in a pine forest and competition guidelines asked that the existing landscape be respected while given a “clear and efficient organization.” Asplund and Lewerentz’s proposal was the only one that skillfully juggled these seemingly juxtaposed design requirements.
From my first visit, I have been captivated by the resulting plays between axis and randomness, order and chaos, control and fate, open landscapes and forest, natural and man-made constructions, primal and cultural. Most importantly, the site is organized and navigated by several straightforward and monumental axes, but most of the graves are placed within the random pattern of the trees. The spaces which accommodate the living mourners are axial, monumental, and ordered, while the spaces inhabited by the dead are random and natural. I’m sure that Asplund and Lewerentz were commenting though their design on the fact that while you can plan life, death is never planned or expected or orderly or tidy. However, the architects use the confusion of death to create tranquil, contemplative spaces. They manage to harmonize the regulated, man-made constructions with the random, natural landscape.
|Graves scattered under the trees. Who needs a cathedral when you could be laid to rest under towering pines?|
From looking at a map of the cemetery, you don’t get a feel for how axial and monumental yet intimate the cemetery is. This is definitely one project that was not designed in plan; instead, it was the experiences that were designed first and the layout followed from there. The straight roads on the site were existing, and Asplund and Lewerentz deftly wove them into the fabric of the curving roads and paths.
|Most roads wind between the trees while foot paths are linear and create straight boundaries between different groupings of graves.|
You encounter the first axis upon entering the site (map 1). You walk up a long drive toward a giant hilltop cross (map 2). The footpath doesn’t continue straight across the wide open field but instead it moves to the side a bit (map 3), allowing for an uninterrupted initial view up the hillside. Even though the path doesn’t continue on the original axis, it also uses the over-scaled cross as a way-marker. (Interestingly, Asplund and Lewerentz did not intend for there to be any overtly religious symbols at the cemetery. They hoped that the cemetery would be welcoming and comforting to all. The cross was a late donation that replaced a planned obelisk.) Once you have passed the cross, you have entered the “temple precinct” and the main chapel/crematorium complex is on your left (map 4).
|Entry sequence: axial drive to cross, path shifts to left of hill and cross but continues toward the goal.|
Further into the cemetery, you discover the final important axis, which is a tree-lined forest road (map 5) leading over several rises to the Chapel of the Resurrection (map 6). The chapel’s portal is directly on axis to the path, and you can see it in the distance even as you climb and descend the intervening hills.
|Approach to the Chapel of the Resurrection.|
With Lewerentz’s Chapel of the Resurrection, it is clearly evident that Asplund and Lewerentz had to give way a little on their strong axiality to meet the oversight committee’s requests. Originally, the chapel’s body was also on axis with the path; you would have entered the front portico and continued directly forward into the building. However, that would have involved a north-south orientation for the chapel instead of the customary east-west church orientation. While the portal still faces north and the forest path, the body of the church lies east-west and one turns 90 degrees after entering into the building.
|Interior of the Chapel of the Resurrection.|
The Chapel of the Resurrection is a good example of the 1920’s neoclassicism that was all the rage in Sweden. Like many other buildings from this period, the portico is overtly classical while the body of the building is severely restrained. There is one large window casting light from the south onto the coffin platform. Aside from a decorative, black and white ceiling, the front alter, and some nearly indistinguishable pilasters, the interior is nearly as severe as the exterior and all focus remains on the coffin. The extremely tall interior proportions and lack of windows in the chapel are discomfiting and it is as if the architecture is sympathizing with the awkwardness that always accompanies a funeral.
|Austere exterior of the Chapel of the Resurrection.|
Perhaps the most famous building in the cemetery is Asplund’s Woodlawn Chapel (map7). Unlike the main chapel or the Chapel of the Resurrection, the Woodlawn Chapel is not associated with an axis. Instead, it sits in an isolated, forested spot far from the nearest paths. It is not a monumental building, but is rather small and its domestic quality is homely and somewhat comforting. I say “somewhat” comforting because the over-scaled, steep roof and the deep portico seem to be at odds with each other, creating an unresolved architectural tension.
|Lock to outer doors at Woodlawn Chapel|
Woodlawn Chapel is a composite of two simultaneous architectural movements that were prominent in Sweden at the time. National Romanticism used traditional forms and materials in an attempt to create a genuinely “Swedish” architecture. As I mentioned above, neo-classicism was also dominant on the architectural scene at the time and was used for many public buildings. The National Romantic qualities of the Woodlawn Chapel are apparent in its fairytale-like setting deep in a forest, its primal forms of pyramids and cubes, the Viking-inspired tree-trunk ridge beam, and the huge, steeply-pitched, sheltering, shingled roof. However, the portico, columns, and “perfect” forms juxtapose the romantic character of the building and touch on the classical, cultural side of the design spectrum.
|Exterior and approach to Woodlawn Chapel|
Inside the chapel, however, it is purely neoclassical in form. It is an intimate space with room for 30 mourners seated in a semicircle around the coffin platform. While the room boundaries are square, a ring of columns and a dome overhead create a circular inner space. The dome and skylight are completely unexpected and impossible to guess from the exterior.
|Interior of Woodlawn Chapel|
Woodlawn Chapel is walled off in it’s own separate precinct in the middle of the cemetery. The thick portals through the walls surrounding the chapel distinctly mark that you are moving from one type of space to another.
|This man-sized gate to Woodlawn Chapel gives scale to the towering pines.|
My least favorite building in the cemetery is the main chapel (map 4) by Asplund. He fiddled with the design nearly constantly over 30 years, and while I greatly admire his planning of this “temple precinct,” the blocky architecture does not move me. The long entry path past the monumental cross passes two smaller chapels before arriving at the large portico of the main chapel. The portico is as large as the main chapel itself, but there is a large opening in the roof allowing light into the center of the space and alluding to Roman courtyard houses. The daylight (and roof rain) spills onto Lindquist’s powerful Resurrection Monument.
|Portico outside of main chapel.|
The interior of the main Chapel of the Holy Cross feels confused to me. The space is linear with a slightly rounded apse, but the rounding is so subtle that it’s hard to notice. The main body of the chapel is under a ceiling supported by a thick beam and several columns, but there is a walled-off pathway around the perimeter of the chapel outside of the columned “enclosure.” The apse mural by Erixson is “Life, Death, Life” and it reminds me of many contemporary WPA murals in the US.
|Interior of the Chapel of the Holy Cross|
After the finely resolved and executed Chapel of the Resurrection and Woodlawn Chapel, the Chapel of the Holy Cross feels unresolved, blocky, unfriendly, and uncomfortable. I wonder if the vague nature of the main chapel has to do with the fact that by the time this chapel was designed and built, Lewerentz had been fired from the project. Perhaps the partnership between the two architects had been critical in keeping a finely tuned balance to the cemetery’s landscape and architecture. Perhaps without Lewerentz’s voice, Asplund was unable to create a building at the same high level as the others.
As I mentioned before, though, I do appreciate the planning aspects to Asplund’s main chapel complex. At the two adjacent smaller chapels, Asplund created a series of courtyards, waiting rooms, and reflection gardens that ensured that the parties of back-to-back funerals wouldn’t have the awkward experience of meeting each other in or out of the chapels. He also used the topography of the hill to keep all hearses, equipment, loading areas, delivery activities, and other back-of-house functions out of sight of the mourners. Coffins were raised and lowered into the chapels from the lower back-of-house areas on hydraulic lifts.
|A private reflection courtyard outside one of the smaller chapels provides privacy while allowing views out to the cemetery's open, green hill.|
I also appreciate Asplund’s attention to detail in these buildings. In the world of architects, the world’s most famous bench is located in the waiting rooms for the lesser chapels. The plywood wall surface bends outward to form the bench surfaces.
|The famous bench!!|
Additionally, he was very concerned with floor paving patterns in the chapels. He drew the layout and placement of each individual stone and brick, and when the materials arrived on site with unexpected dimensions, he absorbed the expense to re-draw every single paver. Asplund was so extraordinarily concerned that the paving turn out well because he thought that the mourners would be looking at the floor more than any other surface in the buildings.
|Some more details that unite the huge cemetery into a whole. The clock's "numbers" are leaves.|
Even today the need to keep groups of mourners separate is acute as Woodlawn remains Stockholm's largest and busiest cemetery. The cemetery keeps a tight time table with each chapel being booked for four or five funerals every day. Burials and cremations still take place on site.
The other interesting, original building in the cemetery is Asplund’s service building (map 8). It seems that no one knows the origins behind Asplund’s idea, but the building consists of four pyramids connected by low walkways. The pyramids immediately call to mind Egyptian tomb pyramids, signaling a monumental architecture of death.
|The symmetrical building has 4 pyramidal roofs. To the right is the conical roof over the overseer's office.|
At the back of the central courtyard, a tall, pointed, conical roof covers the overseer’s office. The pyramid roofs fall so low to the ground that windows and doorways jut into the nearly perfect forms. At the back, round “ship” windows provide further daylight and views into the cemetery.
|Windows into the pyramids.|
The respected architectural historian Peter Blundell Jones in his book Gunnar Asplund suggests that Asplund was attempting to avoid “the banality that plagues most such [service] buildings.” He also suggests that “perhaps he was even making a deliberate parody of monumental architecture.” While the exterior of the building strikes me as odd, the interiors of the pyramids are actually quite cozy and interesting.
|The warm interiors of the pyramids.|
In addition to all of the graves, the cemetery also includes several different types of moving spaces for cremated or scattered remains. Anyone is free to remember their loved ones in this fountain memorial.
While the chapels and cemetery buildings are important in the cannon of architecture, I would argue that actually, it is the landscape design that is of central importance to the cemetery experience. These landscapes are entirely unique in the world of cemetery design (as far as I know) and they create a meaningful and rich journey through the cemetery, and perhaps through the journey of grief.
|I appreciate the cemetery's gestures toward the entire life cycle. They compost all garden left-overs and encourage bird life through bird houses which are scattered throughout the cemetery.|
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2012
Two Suburban Palaces
In September, Carl and I went on two Sunday walks in a row where we haphazardly ended up walking through the grounds of two suburban palaces from the 17th century. How fun to have such rich architecture and history in the neighborhood!
|Part of the grounds at Åkeshov Palace.|
We ended up at Åkeshov Palace because it is at the edge of Judarn Nature Reserve. The land had been an estate since at least the 1400’s, but it wasn’t until 1635 that a permanent stately home was built. Although the main house seems small in scale today, I’d like to emphasize that this was no ordinary country farm; it was built by the Lord High Chamberlain who was the highest official in the king’s court. Originally, the main building (map 1) was had a very tall hipped roof and a central, protruding mass which was the stair tower. Drawings from the 1600’s are in dispute as to whether there were additional corner masses like the Makalös Palace in Stockholm (see Palaces of the 1600’s #4). In fact, the drawing from 1689 makes Åkeshov look like a small version of Makalös, which seems entirely probable given that the two palaces were built in the same year.
|I'm not sure when the left image was drawn but the right image is from 1689.|
Åkeshov, like so many of the urban palaces from the 1600’s, has a U-shaped courtyard configuration. The main house anchors the “bottom” of the U while the two small wings (map 2) terminate the U shape. Originally the wings were simple square buildings. The courtyard was enclosed by a stone wall which was punctured by several very high, out-of-scale gates. We know that there was a fountain in the middle of the courtyard, but neither 17th century image gives a clue as to the nature of the gardens.
|One of the wings.|
Interestingly, the courtyard is on the north side of the main house. Initially I found this odd considering that there are very few days in Sweden when the temperatures would encourage you to hang out in the shade. So why was the courtyard on the north and therefore the uncomfortable side of the house? I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, the main road to Stockholm (map 3) passes by the north side of the house. I imagine that the location of this road hasn’t changed much through the centuries, and today, one of Stockholm’s subway lines even follows this road (there is now a subway stop literally 300 feet from the palace’s front door). A short, tree-lined drive (map 4) that was on axis with the main house connected the courtyard to the road.
Secondly, I believe that the northern location of the courtyard emphasizes the practical nature of the estate. It was primarily a money-making farm and only secondarily a country retreat for the nobleman and his family. While they were located and designed to add to the imposing impression of the main house, estate house wings usually housed utilitarian programs like smithies, worker housing, or horse stalls. It makes sense that the “work” side of the house would be on the colder, northern side while the “play” side of the house would be on the sunny southern side of the main house.
|The sunny side of the house with terrace overlooking the lawn.|
On the “play” side of Åkeshov palace, a high terrace (map 5) provides a lovely place to lounge and enjoy the country view and fresh air. I imagine that the terrace would have once looked down on extensive pleasure gardens, but today it is just an open, expansive lawn (map 6). One indication of a pleasure garden remains, however: the lawn is terminated by a tree-lined allée (map 7) that leads toward the property’s beautiful lake. The allée is almost but not quite on axis with the house.
|Judarn Lake is now in a nature reserve.|
The palace was renovated in 1720 by state architect Carl Hårleman. Generally, the house was given a more “modern” classical look which replaced the “medieval” look. The central stair tower was removed, giving the house a smooth façade. The high hip roof was replaced by the popular säteri roof. Säteri translates roughly as “farmhouse” or “manor.” After Riddarhuset (see Palaces of the 1600’s #7) in Gamla Stan was built with a säteri roof, it became all the rage because that building represented Sweden’s nobility. Suddenly, all the nobles wanted a säteri roof to show their membership in the noble class, and the broken hip roof with a band of vertical attic windows at the break started popping up all over Sweden.
|The front of the palace post-renovation. Note the säteri roof.|
Hårleman didn’t do much to the wings other than add some classical ornamentation such as the corner quoins, but lower extensions to the wings were added. These extensions were horse stalls.
In 1644, Ulvsunda Palace was built by Torstensson, the leading general of the Swedish forces in the 30 Year’s War and the builder of Torstensonska Palace in downtown Stockholm (see Palacesof the 1600’s #5). The palace faces a natural harbor (map 1) in Lake Mälaren. Taking a boat directly from the palace would have been a far faster method of reaching town than going by land. There is also a small canal (map 2) beside the palace leading from the harbor to an inland lake (map 3). Today, a fairly major road (map 4) passes the grounds on the inland side of the palace, and I imagine that this road would have connected the palace to the larger neighborhood and eventually to Stockholm itself.
|The harbor on the left and the canal on the right.|
Due to its location between the harbor and the road, the palace has two front facades and four wings instead of the customary two. Instead of a U, the palace and wings form an H shape, with two wings reaching out to the water and two stretching toward the road. Today, there is no obvious allée drive between the palace and the road, but there is a striking allée (map 5) leading from the gable end of the main building to toward the south.
|Ulvsunda Palace's allée leads to the side of the house.|
There is a large orchard (map 6) to the southwest of the palace, and though the orchard seems much sparser than it originally would have been, there are still quite a few apple, pear, and plum trees. (This is where Carl and I foraged for apples a few weeks ago. See Foraging: Apples on my Little Life Stories page.)
|The palace's main building from the orchard.|
I could not find information on the building’s four wings, but they appear to have been renovated at different times. The road-side wings (map 7) are very classical
|The road side of the palace|
while the water-side wings (map 8) retain a bit of their Renaissance character with their steeply gabled roofs.
|The water side of the palace.|
These roof gables must have been simplified at one time; a drawing of the palace from 1689 shows that the water-side wings once had Dutch gables on the end.
|1689 drawing of Ulvsunda Palace from the harbor.|
The main building (map 9) was originally Dutch Renaissance in style with a high, steeply pitched copper roof and fresco-covered facades. These frescoes depicted Roman warriors at battle. The palace was renovated in the early 1800’s and the high roof was replaced by a more “modern” nearly flat roof. Unfortunately, the façade frescoes were viewed as “old-fashioned” so they were plastered over.
Today, both palaces are used for small conferences, events such as weddings, and as a hotel. Ulvsunda Palace also has a delicious-looking restaurant.
The 17th century drawings came from the Åkeshov and Ulvsunda Palace Wikipedia pages: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%85keshovs_slott and http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulvsunda_slott.