Large woody spaces with bare stone or wood walls with sunlight streaming in through enormous glass windows perhaps describe the Architectural designs found in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Finland. This style of architecture developed during the early decades of the twentieth century. The most prominent features of Scandinavian architecture are minimalism, functionality and balance with nature. Scandinavian architecture seeks to fulfil its goals by employing building materials found in the natural terrain of these northern countries.

Architecture trends: Scandinavian Architecture - Sheet1
Medieval Scandinavian Architecture_

Before the early twentieth century, Scandinavian architecture mostly borrowed from ideas abroad. Buildings and cathedrals of these regions were built in the typical historical style. The other civic buildings in these regions were made of either wood, stone or brick by laymen, who had no formal training in Architecture. These civic buildings were meant to maximize the advantages of weather issues in the Scandinavian regions, i.e., natural light and heat for dark and chilly winters. Scandinavian architecture saw a shift in style when it experienced a shift in political ideology, as it is with most architecture of any region in the world. The new trend in Scandinavian architecture, which was responsible for making it famous worldwide, was called Swedish Grace. Swedish Grace, as the name suggests, originated in Sweden and blended Neoclassicism with the local traditional and vernacular architectural elements of these Scandinavian countries. Scandinavian architecture was inspired by the idea of Functionalism e.g.  A major turning point came during the Stockholm exhibition of 1930. The Stockholm Public Library designed by Gunnar Apslund is an ode to the ideas of functionalism. Asplund, during the thirties was influenced by the Functionalist designs of Bauhaus and Le Corbusier, and gave his architectural pieces a functionalism-inspired style coupled with minimalistic aesthetic and humanism. Sweden’s dominant style of architecture was known as Funkis architecture for the next few decades due to being inspired by the ideas of Functionalism. In Finland, traditional building designs were blended with Art Nouveau. Finland was part of the Russian empire then and Swedish was the official language. Saarinen and Alvar Aalto were the pioneers of this form of Scandinavian Architecture of the beginning period. Aalto was also heavily influenced by the architectural designs of Gunnar Asplund and he incorporated Asplund’s functionalism in his architectural forms adding his humanistic ideas to them in the process. The Paimio Sanatorium, built in 1933, was one of Alvar Aalto’s designs. The most striking feature of this structure was that it maximized air and light for the Tuberculosis patients who were living there. Danish Architecture embraced functionalism in the 1930’s. It was with the rise of Arne Jacobsen that the Danes could boast of an Aalto like the Finnish. The architecture of Norway did not see a revolution in its architectural form caused by either one or two famous architects instead, Norway’s architecture has been influenced by several architects. The most defining features of Norwegian architecture were the applied Norwegian-themed Art and extensive use of Norwegian wood. Its style was majorly functional. The architecture of Iceland was inspired by its Basalt lava rock cliff formations of the country, the national pride of Iceland.

Architecture trends: Scandinavian Architecture - Sheet2
Scandinavian residence_

Characteristics of Scandinavian architecture

Scandinavian architecture_

Scandinavian architecture was functional before functionality in architecture was even an idea. The Stockholm exhibition gave a major fillip to Scandinavian architecture, and the works of Asplund and Aalto played a crucial role is setting the future trend of Scandinavian architecture. A few crucial features which set Scandinavian architecture apart from other styles are:

Minimalism, neutral colour schemes, odd yet sleek shapes, buildings which connect with natural elements or nature, energy efficiency and functionality and most importantly human comfort.

Minimalism is the first and most important element in Scandinavian architecture. The architectural structure has stark clear lines devoid of any ornamentation or decoration. Minimalism also stands for the simplicity of this architectural style. 

The neutral colour schemes which predominate Scandinavian architectural style are a representation of the natural colour scheme or nature-inspired colour palette. Woodwork in dark and light colours and white walls which reflect light. The colour palette is warm-toned and is rarely cool or dark tones. 

The architects and employers of Scandinavian architecture make free use of various shapes and designs as long as functionality is maintained. Excellent examples of this are the Sydney Opera House and the Mirror Cube Hotel.

Buildings which work with natural elements and nature pertain to the extensive usage of natural elements to the advantage of those who are to dwell in the structure. Most Scandinavian architectural structures have huge glass windows to maximize light and blend in with the surrounding natural features. The earliest example that comes to mind when thinking of this aspect is the turf houses of Iceland. Scandinavian country laws also demand energy-efficient architectural designs to keep their carbon emissions at the lowest. Old homes are regularly restructured and retrofitted to keep up with the current energy-saving standards.

Efficient home mechanics are another feature of this Scandinavian architectural style. Turf houses are a great example here again. Ever since Iceland had settlers from the 9th century onwards, Turf houses were a popular choice of residence. These homes provided better insulation than homes made of wood and other materials and were cheaper to build. 

Scandinavian Architecture’s foremost goal is mostly ease and comfort of those who inhabit the living spaces. The living spaces are large and airy, with ample natural light. This form of architecture places minimum emphasis on ornamentality and grandiosity of form. It is rooted in nature and caters to the needs of those who make it their space.