Architecture news: Letter from Scandinavia

Architecture news: Letter from Scandinavia

The Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark may often be seen as a single entity, yet each has their own distinct DNA. The same is true for Scandinavian architecture, which often is bundled up into one easy to convey formula. But, as great as the variations are in Scandinavian landscape and nature, equally diverse are the features that recur in the area’s architecture.

One trend, however, has been emerging among the region’s architects for the last few years: the rediscovery of tradition. As a backlash to globalisation, there is a strong will to highlight and reinforce national and cultural differences, which, quite refreshingly, doesn’t mean relying on well-tried solutions.

Instead, Scandinavian architects choose to reinterpret traditions, transcend old boundaries and reflect the surrounding environment. Striking examples of this include Denmark’s Den Blå Planet by 3XN, Sweden’s Naturum Vänerskärgården by White, as well as Norway’s Sogn & Fjordane Kunstmuseum by C.F. Møller, which all take in account their direct surroundings in the visualisation of the finalised buildings. 

Perhaps held back by the ever-present Scandinavian Law of Jante, an idea that criticises individual success and achievement outside of a group context as unworthy and inappropriate, few architects have dared to address the controversy of vertical construction. Until now, that is. It seems Calatrava’s Turning Torso, a 54-storey skyscraper in Malmö and currently the tallest building in the Nordics, has sparked a flurry. All of a sudden, the most prominent architects are keen to join the race in constructing Scandinavia’s highest building.

The year 2019 might see the opening of Tellus Tower, a 75-storey residential building proposed for Stockholm. Meanwhile, architectural firm Visiondivision plans to create a mini Manhattan out of the skyline in the city. MVRDV and ADEPT have won the competition to design the 116 meter tall Rødovre Skyvillage in Copenhagen, and in Aarhus, Light House by UNStudio and 3XN, is set to be Denmark’s tallest building upon its completion in 2014. It seems architects are finally ready to stand out from the architectural guild at large.

At the same time, a wealth of new buildings has been in development in various parts of Norway (see our Norway Dispatches report in W*175, October 2013), while the capital of Oslo is undergoing something of a reinvention, with several urban planning, larger mixed use and housing developments and large scale public buildings currently in the pipeline.

In the coming years, Scandinavian architecture is perhaps presented with its biggest challenge to date. White Architects, along with Ghilardi + Hellsten Arkitekter, have been selected as the winners of the competition to relocate and develop the northern Swedish town of Kiruna. Due to risk of landslides triggered by mining, it was decided that the entire city centre is to be moved just east of its current location. We imagine this development will keep Scandinavian architecture in the spotlight for quite a few years to come. §

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