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Worshipping Ashes or Preserving Fire: An Investigation into the Departure of Swedish Architecture from its Romantic Inheritance and Global Influence

Part 2 Dissertation 2011
Marcus Andren
University of East London, UK
At the turn of the 20th Century Sweden was twice responsible for arguably the best architecture in the world. The National Romantic style and then later Modernism, which took its place, both attracted international attention and recognition. Since then Swedish architecture has fallen almost entirely from fame and international attention with no book being written in English on the subject in over a decade.

This essay examines Swedish architecture over the last 100 years and the single style responsible for its initial success and stylistic coherence. It will be shown that Sweden’s Romantic architectural inheritance has maintained an important presence, throughout times of apparent absence, crisis, and even now amidst contemporary multiplicity.

The emergence of what will be described as Swedish Grace, out of nearly 300 years of copying the Italian Renaissance, is first explored and provides a background against which the progression of all subsequent architecture can be understood. The evolution of this distinctively national style is the most important moment in Sweden’s architectural history and the development of architecture from that point until today will be considered in two distinct eras.

The first era begins with Sweden’s interpretation of the International Style, a golden era for architecture and its relationship with politics which quickly, however, overwhelms Swedish Grace. This success and simultaneous abandonment troubles architects for decades to come, repeatedly misinterpreting the reasons for their once outstanding architecture.
The middle of the 1970s heralds the start of Sweden’s second architectural era, one of confusion, multiplicity, and entirely new ways of dealing with architectural inheritance. Adaptations of Swedish Grace become commonplace and as such, the focus of the investigation shifts from identifying its presence in design, to an appraisal of the manner in which it is used. The greatest challenge for architects in this contemporary era is no longer just accepting their true inheritance, but ‘earning it anew to really posses it’. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1749 - 1832)

Marcus Andren

Mr Andrew Higgott
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