A historical panorama of Scandinavian architecture

Art, Special

Although it is an universal expression, Architecture represents a wide range of forms and intentions.



For centuries the evolution of European architecture was made with a strong Italian, French and English influence, that occurred throughout several and very distinct styles, and that knew slight differences according to the country background, historical, cultural and political context.



The example of Scandinavian countries is nevertheless an exception to all the rest of Europe. Its historical and cultural evolution was from the very beginning characterized by a certain independence to all other countries of central and southern Europe, although in some moments of its history they had a big influence in countries such as England, France and Germany through maritime expansion and commercial trade.



Their history is geographically delimited by Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, and was profoundly marked by several phases of dominance of one of these countries over another, and by a few cases of annexation and posterior independence.



Due to this historical evolution it´s easy to understand how these four countries share a similar context, which sometimes may be revealed also in their manner of thinking, acting, and facing the future in a similar way.



When it comes to Architecture the evolution of Scandinavian architectural formal expression was strongly conditioned by the materials available for construction and also due to the climate impositions where Wood was the main raw material, what made the Scandinavian countries have one of the strongest wooden-construction traditions.


This particular constructive tradition, and relation to natural materials, gave it this distinct character from the rest of all European Architecture.



Even though for a large period of European history Scandinavian architecture didn´t play a major role in its architectural context, everything changed in the second half of the 20th century, in the Architectural field as in Design. Architects as Arne Jacobsen, Eero Saarinen or Alvar Aalto were the main contributors to this fact, being authors of some of the most important architectural and design masterpieces in the history of both this disciplinary fields.

Since then, Scandinavian Architecture has taken his own path even though maintaining some connection to what was being done in the rest of Europe. In present days, it represents a new front of the architectural development with a notorious visibility in both European and worldwide context. It evolves in a process that balances a strong experimental side with some traces of tradition, which is visible in the choice of wood as a material for construction or specific application. Now the difference relies in the use of this material with very different solutions from the ones that were used in decades before. The “Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion” is a good example of this innovative and experimental character.



Each project is now a powerful instrument in the contemporary architectural context when it comes to establishing a new attitude that marks the difference for its bold and innovative character.

Nowadays, projects from architectural offices such as Snøhetta, and BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) are establishing a new boundaries in contemporary architecture, in both Europe and worldwide, for its attitude and innovation.

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Norway: Niels Torp (1940- ); Sverre Fehn (1924-2009), awarded with the Pritzker Prize, the highest achievement in Architecture; Snøhetta (founded in 1989)

Denmark: Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971); Jørn Utzon (1918-2008) and Henning Larsen (1925- ); and BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group (founded in 2005)

Sweden: Gunnar Asplund (1885-1940); Peter Celsing (1920-1974); Ralph Erskine (1914–2005); Sven Gottfrid Markelius (1889–1972)

Finland: Alvar Aalto (1898-1976); Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950), Erik Bryggman (1891-1955), Reima Pietilä (1923-1993), Eero Saarinen (1910-1961).

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