Hej! (Hello! in Swedish). Ikea, the large-scale modular furniture producer, and as the retailer takes over the Indian market, targeting the Indian metropolitan audience in the first stage of expansion in the subcontinent. it is important to understand, how this Swedish company has made its mark in the AEC sector for decades now. More than the brand itself, the culture prevalent in Sweden, in the architecture and design sector specifically, underlies this success. 

An architectural of location: Sweden - Sheet1
Swedish Countryside red cottages

Smithonian Magazine

Brief History

Swedish architecture dates back to the Stone Age. Very few of the stone moments remain, and most of the timber huts and houses have been erased. Due to its location in the North of Europe, close to the Arctic, the weather conditions played a major role in defining the country’s architecture. Extreme cold climate asked for architectural measures to keep the insides of palaces, churches, houses warm and cosy. 

The second influence was on the neighbouring countries and cultures. As Vikings and seamen traveled to nearby areas for trade, they often influenced the style of the Swedes. The Danish rule in parts of Sweden also influenced the architecture of churches and cathedrals to Avery Romanesque style. Since Sweden has a long history of wars with neighbouring countries and a continuous exchange of power and territory throughout history, the architectural remnants today are from those years. 

Swedish architecture, therefore, is highly characterised by the patron or commissioner and their aesthetic ideals. The function, and building materials highly influenced their designs and message to be communicated to the masses of power or security or simply art. 

An architectural of location: Sweden - Sheet2
Dixon Public Library Encircle Photos


During the early middle ages, the east influenced the architecture of Sweden, with timber building techniques. Earth floor, saddle timber roofs, and masterful joinery characterised this style. These were watertight, insulated, and almost modular movable built forms. Later these transformed into milking sheds, overnight cottages, cooking houses, and eventually double-storey homes. 

Bricks, in the middle ages, allowed going taller and slimmer. The vaulted ceiling then came into being, for bridges and churches. Using bricks became an elitist symbol in the middle ages, as not all could afford it. Medieval castles were built in red bricks with lots of towers and turrets. 

The Dixon Public Library, Gothenburg which was built much later, is very similar to medieval palace architecture. It was built in a very romantic style, as opposed to modernism during the time it was built. Round corner towers give glimpses of what lies inside, this is an architectural reaction to the machine age. It was built in limestone and brick. 

In times of absence of technique and resources for proper timber buildings, timber frames infilled with wattle and daub were used. This too would give a watertight and well-insulated structure. However, the daub being a mixture of clay and straw, needed frequent maintenance and repairs. Thick red iron oxide paint was used to protect the wood and whitewash paint for the doors was then used. This half-timber architecture was also seen in other northern European regions. 

Until today this red paint is familiar with lots of Swedish countryside housing. It is referred to as Falun red. Rodmull or red soil was discovered by miners and is used to give the characteristic red color to the paint. 

The spread of Christianity brought along with it, stone construction. Stone houses with stepped gables were commonly seen in Christian towns like Visby. These houses would be narrow, with shopfront or other commercial fronts, and actual living quarters in the back. The storey above served as utility and storage. Thick natural stone/ limestone load-bearing walls made up the churches. Rounded arches were characteristic of this romanesque style

An architectural of location: Sweden - Sheet3
Helingborg Concert Hall

City Seeker

However, in the Renaissance style, palaces were very symmetrical and with singular towers. These are ornamental, yet very modern. The Katarina Church in Stockholm, with a symmetrical cross plan, and an altar under a dome. The four facades are identical with identical gables around the dome.


Around the 19th and 20th centuries, Swedish architecture started moving towards functionalism. Symmetry and decoration started reducing, and traditional architecture started to be criticised by radicalists. New, revolutionary ideas started to crop up. The idea of workability, functionality, and utility started to come to the forefront. Light, ventilation, and functional planning gained importance. Architecture had mingled with politics to bring this change. 

Helsingborg concert hall was considered to be the first entirely designed around functionalism. The German Bauhaus movement highly influenced the design. The building’s functions could easily be identified from the outside and its massing. However, the flat roof didn’t move to be quite functional. 

It is then seen that Sweden embraces the Bauhaus Movement towards the end of the early 20th century. Simplicity, functionality, and accessibility, therefore, became key aspects of Swedish architecture. Housing and catering to the housing shortage was an ongoing program during these times. While glass and concrete, orthogonal buildings were commonly seen and criticised. Many argued the need for light and airy functional homes. It is in this context, that IKEA was born in Sweden. It was the epitome of accessible functionality. This evolving style also gave birth to minimalism and Scandinavian style. Scandinavian architecture also played a significant role in social welfare and public buildings. 

 In Sweden particularly Scandinavian architecture mixes traditional architecture with neoclassical, The Stockholm public library being a great example. Over time, this style evolved to be masterful in its own way, innovative and visually stunning, almost effortless. this evolution came about through organic and humanistic twists in the same style. Scandinavian style now leans to explore sustainability and environment-conscious architecture, while being balanced and functional.