I’m back in Copenhagen and ready to share what I’ve gained from Norway & Sweden! Scandinavian design and architecture is shared between Norway, Sweden & Denmark. My week long experience in Oslo & Stockholm provided me with a larger contextual grasp of understanding design, architecture, & landscape. We observed a lot of architecture but my eyes were often drawn to the details within these environments and how those miniscule details potentially impact on a greater scale.
(Please note: There were many more stops during this week long engagement so I am going to attempt to share 1 site for each day during the week)
First Stop – Naturum Tåkern (Sweden) – This site is home to some spectacular trails, structures, and buildings for bird watching as well as enjoying and exploring nature. If you remember “The Swiss Family Robinson” this site could bring back some movie memories. The way this site interacts with the environment is interesting because the roof is made of approximately 36 million reeds. Here local & traditional materials were used to construct the main building. I was impressed by the effectiveness of the skylight spanning the top center of the entire roof to bring in natural light.
Second Stop – Woodland Cemetery (Stockholm) – What was more impressing to me than the architecture of the buildings on site was how the designer, Sigurd Lewerentz and Gunnar Asplund, created a cemetery that did not interfere with the landscape. Lewerentz & Asplund wanted people to not feel like they are in a place of death so restrictions on the sizes of headstones were made. The trees, flowers, & green areas make it feel as if you are walking in a park rather than a city of death (referring to the headstones). The layout of the cemetery creates an atmosphere that is blended between a spiritual & natural one.
Third Stop – Gamla Stan (Stockholm) – The old medieval center of Stockholm was on this island which has many narrow and winding cobble stone streets leading up (and I mean up) to town squares and the royal palace. It is always interesting to see soo many ancient structures still in use and standing amid a bustling modern day city.
Sergels Torg & Kulturhuset (Stockholm) – During the urban renewal phase in the 1950-60’s this area was designed to replace or ‘update’ the historical town square. This space is serving many purposes with housing a subway, above roads & traffic circle, a sunken open pedestrian plaza beneath the traffic, and of course shopping & restaurants. The in tent of the Architect, Peter Celsing, was to create a ‘cultural living room’ through an open and accessible building. The surrounding environment was clearly designed for the automobile; however, pedestrian activity was also considered when looking at the integration of the pedestrian plaza, apartment buildings, and Kulturhuset adjacent to the road.
Kungsträdgården Metro Station (Stockholm) – Soo Stockholm seems to be a really giant rock. If you walk around town you will see buildings built on top of exposed rock (sometimes 2 stories above street level). One of the interesting things about this rocky country is the metro system, or subway. They carved through the rock to form tunnels for the trains; however, most of the surface contours are raw and unfinished like a cave. Over 90 of the 100 metro stations have been decorated by over 150 artists who have used sculpture, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings and reliefs as mediums to breathe life into the natural rock. The Kungsträdgården station, which we visited, looks like a mix between an archaeological excavation of ancient cave murals and something modernist. This is interesting to me as ‘traditional’ public art normally manifests in an object as opposed to an environment. To experience and interact with these objects and environments engages the everyday commuter – instead of requiring them to travel to a park or specific site to engage with the art.
Fourth Stop – Holmenkollen Ski Jump (Oslo) – The Ski Jump is located high above the city in what I consider a mountain. During the 1952 winter Olympic Games it was central to communicating the long proud tradition of Norwegian skiing. The view from the structure is amazing & the placement of the structure to the landscape clearly communicates the value of the Ski Jump to Norway. The structure can be seen from far away and in multiple directions from the city itself. The monumental glass and metal structure pierces through the green landscape around it and into the sky.
Fifth Stop – Norske Opera & Ballet (Oslo) – This modern Opera House is situated in the Olso harbor. The structure is amazing in what it accomplishes internally & externally. During our private tour we went back stage where there are massive moving platform floors used during shows, an in house garment design factory (no photo’s allowed), metal & wood fabrication workshops to create and construct enormous sets, storage for all of these things and additional items, and multiple rehearsal rooms for orchestra & stage talent. On the outside the building has multiple sloping surfaces (basically the entire roof) that you can walk on. Yes, you can literally walk on the roof of the Opera House for free and sunbathe, run around, walk down and dip your feet in the chilly water, or take pictures of the city from the roof… you can even see the Ski Jump in the distance, lol. This site creates accessibility for everyone to the Opera House in contrast to traditional interaction of such an environment feeling uninviting or intimidating to those outside a certain mental perception to ‘fine culture’.
Sixth Stop – Hedmarkmuseet (Hamar) – This museum houses history in a manner that most museums do not. Traditionally architects design buildings to house these national treasures of past – but more often the building itself is what becomes the focus rather than the treasures within. Architect Sverre Fehn had a design philosophy that resonates with me. Instead of tearing down nature and history to make way for what is new – integrate it with minimal impact. The museum foundation is what is left of the 13th Century Bishop’s fortress (post reformation). On top of that rests a large barn from the Hamar region; which reflects the transition into agriculture during the 17-18th Centuries. Fehn combined modern materials like glass to cover openings in the structure but in a very minimal way to ensure the touch of modernity is just enough to protect the past. Fehn also constructed a floating concrete path that takes you through the museum exhibits. The construction is done so that these different layers of time do not touch directly. the barn appears to float off of the fortress wall, the glass panels float before openings, and archeological excavations are viewable – all because of Fehn’s use of modern intervention. The relation between the old and new of this site is well designed beyond any traditional museum; thus giving the experience that you are walking through history in context rather than being presented with it.
Seventh Stop – Mathhallen (Oslo) – This site now houses a European styled food hall. The building originally functioned to generate industrial iron casting for bridges in the early 20th Century. Today the structure houses specialty groceries (similar to a farmers market), cafes, restaurants, a place to host cooking classes and similar events dedicated to food & drinks. Oh yeah, there are also urban rooftop beehives (fresh honey). Real estate and property developer Aspelin Ramm thinks that buildings should provide a valuable element to their landscape. This market is a prime example of how urban design can have a positive impact on a surrounding community when the inhabitants are considered in the process as opposed to only serving a select few.
I hope you enjoyed this post – it was definitely a lot to take in in a short amount of time but I am excited to implement what I have learned and observed. More to come from Copenhagen next week!