Thursday, 12 June 2014

A summer in Scandinavia - Sweden

The second week of my Scandinavian summer studying modern architecture was based in Sweden, taking the ferry from Copenhagen to Malmö.  We spent a couple of nights in a large modern sports hall which had been sub-divided into individual bed spaces by means of temporary screens to provide for itinerant students and tourists looking for cheap accommodation. The building itself was, again, ahead of its time with a wide span roof covering space for special courts for tennis, football, basketball etc (indoor sports arenas were unknown in this country for another 20 years). I can remember very clearly lying in my bed looking up at the vast ceiling peppered with circular roof lights and large sodium light fittings.

Gondolen restaurant Stockholm 1950s
Gondolen restaurant suspended
from footbridge.  StockholmPhoto 1956
Malmö provided us with many examples of new housing schemes with brightly coloured rendered walls and simple but superbly constructed timber windows. However it was Stockholm which provided the biggest surprise. it was like walking into the city of the future when compared to the UK at the time. Apart from many modern buildings the really impressive feature was its integrated public transport system and the effective segregation of pedestrian and vehicle circulation. We found student accommodation outside the city in a beautiful woodland setting constructed in high quality timber, similar to the traditional houses typical of suburban and country areas all over Scandinavia.

The overall impression of Sweden was one of cleanliness and orderliness. To some degree, as Sweden had declared itself neutral during World War II,  it escaped bombing and occupation unlike its neighbours Denmark and Norway. It was clear in the 1950s that relationships were, to say the least, strained. Much rebuilding was required after the war in occupied countries, notably Norway, because of the Nazis 'scorched earth' policy. Lack of funds in Norway compounded the problem. Sweden, on the other hand, was able to develop its economy unhindered.

Before returning home we travelled overland to Gothenburg. The accommodation was more traditional bed and breakfast but comfortable. We were left more on our own here but were still able to visit several new buildings in the outer areas including housing schemes similar to those in Denmark and elsewhere in Sweden.

Nockebyhov, Stockholm
Family terrace houses, Nockebyhov near Stockholm
Photo 1956

Götaplatsen, Gothenburg showing Museum of Art (1922) 
and Concert Hall (1935) Photo 1956

Ribershus Malmo
Ribershus 'housing estate' , Malmö (built 1937-1943)
Photo 1956.

Malmö Opera and Music Theatre (built 1933-1944)
Photo 1956