As part of our 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale coverage, we present Freestanding, an exhibition in the Biennale’s Central Pavilion. Below, the curatorial team describes their contribution in their own words.
Sigurd Lewerentz’s (1885-1975) chapels are marked by an extraordinary imaginative synthesis of northern aesthetic traditions and burial practices in the context of a modernising world. He wrote and spoke little but, in recent years, his work has gripped the imaginations of a generation of architects who look to it for its power, symbolic range, and its poetic, experiential qualities.
Through archival drawings, new photography, and large-scale interpretative models, Freestanding in FREESPACE unfolds the spatial power of three freestanding canopies from three of Lewerentz’s best known sacred spaces in the form of a three-act play: an inhabitable, sectional scenography and a fabric of experiences that suggest ways in which extra spatial gifts can form the heart of the experience of a place, a ritual, and a landscape.
Freestanding presents and re-presents the canopies of the Chapel of the Resurrection at the Woodland Cemetery (1925), Stockholm, the Chapels of St. Knut and St. Gertrude at the Eastern Cemetery, Malmö (1943), and St. Mark’s Church at Björkhagen, Stockholm (1960). Simple in form, they are central to the ritual meaning of the buildings they correspond to, contributing significantly to the visual image of the churches they accompany.
The three extraneous structures were completed across the span of Lewerentz’s career, and each designed in a different architectural style to one another. Despite this stylistic diversity, they all, in different ways, create places for public life between the scales of the landscape and the interior.
Swedish architect Petra Gipp has created three large-scale sectional models which allow for a unique reading of the canopies – how they make a place for people between the breadth of a landscape and the massiveness of a building. Gipp’s models are abstractions, suppressing scale and material in favour of spatial effects.
New photographs taken by Swedish artist Mikael Olsson show the three projects as living, contemporary scenographies. In dissecting and rearranging the structures and their surroundings, the photographs reveal new perspectives on their design. The pictures evoke movement and help to reveal how we perceive distance and intimacy through architectural gestures.
A selection of drawings made by the office of Sigurd Lewerentz have never before been shown together. As a sequence, they help to establish the spatial narratives of the canopies, collectively and alone: unique perspectives that show how they mediate their respective landscapes and interiors, alongside plans, elevations and detail drawings that show the diagrammatic composition of these outdoor spaces and their relationship to the main body of the buildings.
Freestanding, a project by Kieran Long, director of ArkDes, Johan Örn, curator of collections at ArkDes, Petra Gipp, architect, Mikael Olsson, artist, James Taylor-Foster, curator contemporary architecture and design ArkDes, is exhibited as part of FREESPACE in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini della Biennale.
In 2020, ArkDes will stage the first major exhibition on Sigurd Lewerentz since the 1980s, presenting an in-depth view of the architect’s most well-known buildings while shedding light on projects that have hitherto been overlooked.