Nightlands Nordic building by Christian Norberg-Schulz.
A tip off from a reader of this blog sent me to this book for which I will be eternally grateful. First I should start with a warning you that this is not a coffee table publication, the pictures are sparse and in black and white. However if you want to really get a feel for Scandinavian Architecture, indeed to really get under the skin of the differences between Scandinavian Architecture and the rest of the world then this is the book to start with. Not only does it give a convincing picture of ‘northerness’ but it paints a credible narrative of not only the primordial origins of Scandinavian Architecture but the differences within the Scandinavian countries too. It’s theory but unlike much Architectural theory it strives to be to the point and understandable. It’s well written too with some great, almost poetic texts. If you like theory but may not be immediately interested in Scandinavian Architecture get it anyway as it is often able to eloquently speak of the universalities of Architecture, for example;
Architecture, in other words, is a form of understanding of the given environment. As such, it consists in explanation of the unity of life and place, in order that we may understand where we are, how we are, what we are. When successful, architecture becomes the art of building and thereby representation of an inhabited landscape.
This books grand conceit is the construction of a narrative of the different Architectures of the Scandinavian countries, and that it basically succeeds in its aim to show the unifying and differing gestalts in Scandinavia is a credit to the author.
One question that arises, that the book doesn’t cover, is what about in this post-modern age where Architects roam a lot more freely across national boundaries and Architectural internships are often served abroad how are national architectures affected? Finland for example seems very much inward looking still, with almost all of the emerging Architects offices having served out their apprenticeships for better or for worse in Finland. But what about Denmark for example which seems so influenced at the moment by Dutch Architecture with people like Bjarke Ingels having worked for Rem Koolhaas in the Netherlands? The sort of national architectural historical arc that Architects are described as being within in this book may already be about to be a thing of the past.