Architects Directory alumnus: In Praise of Shadows

The Wallpaper* Architects Directory has turned 20. Conceived in 2000 as our index of emerging architectural talent, this annual listing of promising practices, has, over the years, spanned styles and continents; yet always championing the best and most exciting young studios and showcasing inspiring work with an emphasis on the residential realm. To mark the occasion, in the next months, we will be looking back at some of our over-500 alumni, to catch up about life and work since their participation and exclusively launch some of their latest completions. True to the Stockholm based architecture studio's nack for experimentation, Atelier Grytnäs is a modest, minimalist retreat by Architects Directory alumnus In Praise Of Shadows, and a testbed for architetural ideas and wood construction methods on Sweden's Lisö Island. 

Atelier Grytnas
(Image credit: Bjorn Lofterud)

Swedish architecture firm In Praise Of Shadows likes experimentation. Ever since we featured the small, dynamic studio in our Architects Directory in 2013, the Stockholm based firm, founded by Katarina Lundeberg and Fredric Benesch, has been exploring ways of creating architecture, focused on sustainable materials and wooden constructions as an intelligent way to build.

‘[In this context] our aim and interest is to create clean, easily legible spaces and clear forms, while being practical and meeting the needs and dreams of our clients,' says Lundeberg. ‘We also hope to create twists on what is considered normal, or the ordinary, but without going too far towards the impossible.'

Their Wallpaper* Handmade pavilion Passage of Wood, created with Danish wood specialist Dinesen and Carpenter Oliver Beer, a cabinetmaker from Bregenzerwald, in 2014 was a key example of their investigative nature – the pair not only truly enjoyed the process of discovery and collaboration, but they even ensured their design got a new lease of life as a kayak house a few years ago (see the May 2018 issue of Wallpaper*). Now, the studio has just completed a new project that allowed them to test materials and ideas; welcome to Atelier Grytnäs.

Atelier Grytnas

(Image credit: Bjorn Lofterud)

The compact holiday cabin was created as a small retreat for Lundberg and her family, and as such it contains just one main living space and three modest bedrooms and a bathroom. It was also a chance to try out the potential of CLT (cross-laminated solid timber) in a small scale structure – the project spans just 44 sq m.


wooden square

(Image credit: Bjorn Lofterud)

A simple volume with a clean, pitched roof outline features large openings that frames sea views, as the cabin is perched on rocks and orientated towards the water. Creating this using CLT wooden boards from KLH in Austria, the architects were able to achieve a comfortable 4m x 10m span, which allows a column-free interior. The bathroom and a concrete chimney create an anchoring core for the structure.

The project also includes sustainable, wood fibre insulation from Steico, a copper roof, and Swedish wood facade. Interiors are warm and similarly minimalist, featuring Dinesen Ash wood flooring and linseed oil treated walls. 

Sat in its beautiful natural setting, on Lisö Island, an hour's drive south of Stockholm, Atelier Grytnäs is in good company; the Gunnar Asplund-designed Summer House, and Blueberry house by British architect Ralph Erskine can also be found nearby.

‘We feel that our ten year old office is still in the beginning,' says Benesch. ‘Our aim is to do interesting architecture while maintaining a relatively small scale (we now have a staff of five-six employees), in order to be able to be personally involved in the design process, from initial idea to the last detail.'


Atelier Grytnas views

(Image credit: Bjorn Lofterud)

Atelier Grytnas interior

(Image credit: Bjorn Lofterud)

Atelier Grytnas side view

(Image credit: Bjorn Lofterud)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).

With contributions from