SAHARA Highlights: Scandinavian Architecture

by Jacqueline Spafford and Mark Hinchman, SAHARA Co-Editors | Jan 07, 2021

This month’s SAHARA Highlights are but a glimpse into the treasure trove of modern architecture from the Nordic region. The hallmarks of Scandinavian design of the last hundred years—harmony with natural surroundings, appreciation of the climate, innovative use of natural light, experimentation with new materials, clean lines—are all well represented in the rich content. The collection includes structures from the 1920s to the 1950s that presage the design revolution, iconic and lesser-known mid-century examples, and groundbreaking designs from the last few decades. Please visit SAHARA to see more content that illustrates the elegance of design and harmony with the environment characteristic of the Scandinavian vision, and to read our contributors’ thoughtful commentaries. And do consider contributing your own images to this rich collection.

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A rust-colored building with courses of large windows in a curving facade

Tham Videgård, School of Architecture, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, 2015. Photograph by Christina Pech, 2016.

A tall building rises above surrounding town with receding triangular roofs of that grow smaller toward the center and then larger again in the rear

Jan Ingle Hovig, Ishavskatedralen (Arctic Cathedral, or Tromsdalen Church), Tromsø, Norway, 1965. Photograph by Lara Otis, 2012.


A row of three windows and a door are surrounded by a wall of brickwork displaying a variety of block sizes and patterns.

Alvar Aalto, Courtyard of Muuratsalo Experimental House, Säynätsalo, Finland, 1952-1953. Photograph by Sandy Isenstadt, 2004.

An open square leads to a building with angled rooflines and glass facades

Snøhetta, Oslo Opera House, Oslo, Norway, 2008. Photograph by Susannah Cramer-Greenbaum, 2018.

Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves line a series of curving concourses open to the floors below

Erik Gunnar Asplund, View of upper rotunda galleries in the Stockholm City Library, Stockholm, Sweden, 1921-1932. Photograph by Jasper Cepl, 2012.


A small building with international-style properties displays a mixture of concrete and wood elements

Sverre Fehn, Villa Holme, Holmsbu, Norway, 1975. Photograph by Charles Rice, 2007.


a large building has long horizontal courses of windows with vertical elements at the corner

Ture Wennerholm and Gert B. Wingårdh, Telefonplan, Stockholm, Sweden, 1934-1948. Built as the Ericsson factory headquarters and worker housing, and used until their relocation in 2003; now part of the Swedish University College of Arts. Photograph by Sarah Rovang, 2019.


Unadorned masonry walls with varying heights provide privacy and enclose outdoor living spaces

Jørn Utzon, Housing in Fredensborg, Denmark, 1962-1963. Photograph by Eduard Koegel, 2010.

Doors with geometric patterns are framed by receding concentric arches below a stepped triangular projection with neogothic embellishments

Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint, Grundtvigs Kirke, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1921-1940. The modern expressionist structure, clad in local yellow brick, is a monument to Danish philosopher, pastor, politician, writer and poet N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783-1872). Photograph by Sarah Rovang, 2019.


A large building uses angled hexagonal glass panes to add visual texture to some aspects while others have contrasting smooth surfaces

Henning Larsen Architects and Batteríið Architects, Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, Reykjavík, Iceland, 2011. Photograph by Danielle S. Willkens, 2016.


Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.

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