Sigurd Lewerentz: an architects’ architect of the sacred and profane

The great 20th-century Swedish architect is revered for his spiritual devotion to his craft, and poetic designs for everything from churches and wallpaper to a floating dancefloor. So what was his secret? At the age of 77, the architect Sigurd Lewerentz (1885-1975) was commissioned to design a church. Some of the parishioners worried that he was too old to manage the project, others that his low-key designs looked like a garage. The building that he achieved is, like a late play by Samuel Beckett, austere in means but luxurious in thought and imagination. Everything – walls, floors and ceilings, inside and out, pulpit and altar – is as much as possible formed of one material - brick - that performs a kind of magic. The interior is like an exhalation, a bubble, which since bricks are unlike soapy film, seems miraculous. St Peter’s, as it is called, in the southern Swedish town of Klippan, has since its completion in 1966 become an object of veneration for architects around the world. In Britain, Lewerentz has inspired a generation for whom the poetry of architecture comes above all from the facts and actions of construction, out of the way that bricks are laid or glass is fixed to an opening. Adam Caruso and Peter St John, for example, who won the 2016 Stirling prize for London’s Newport Street Gallery , designed for Damien Hirst, have a large and acknowledged debt. Their admiration resembles that of musicians for those with deep understanding of their instruments – they like to see the tools of their trade honoured. Continue reading...

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