Experience based architecture

Architecture is one of the areas where ”postmodern” is referred to as a special style in the 1980’s, which makes the postmodern discussion a bit tricky.

Sweden was one of the leading countries in early modernistic architecture. Functionalism was introduced at the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930. It went very well together with the upcoming creation of a social democratic society, where the state should guarantee the wellbeing of every individual. At the same time Sweden grew as an industrial nation. Gunnar Asplund was the head architect for the exhibition. Architecture was reduced to functions, space and light. These expressions are currently in fashion, perhaps not so much because of the ideals they were based on but rather that people like its clean visual style.

One of the most important pieces of architecture that we have in Stockholm is the city library. Gunnar Asplund designed it only a few years before the Stockholm Exhibition, in a neo classicistic style. What’s interesting is that it is based on great experience management and full of expressions. Just like architecture might be tomorrow, if it follows the shift towards experience as we see in so many other areas.

When you visit this building you should use the main entrance from Sveavägen as the whole experience model is based on that. The humble citizen first walks up the long stairs outside, then through the dark passage with classicistic reliefs carved in black stone, like entering an Egyptian pyramid, and then ends up in the temple of knowledge – the cylindrical main hall. The experience of space when you do this walk is fantastic and the symbolics are evident. A very well directed story and experience!

Of course there is a reason that modern buildings are not so expressive – when you think of the costs involved it is much easier to sell and change functions of a more neutral building. Just like many utility cars are white as you will not see any bleaching in the paint when you sell the car and remove the self adhesive graphics!

Still it’s an interesting thought that Asplund designed this city library, and other buildings, in a such an experience oriented way, as we might expect tomorrow!

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  2. Apr 21, 2010: TEDx Norrmalm – the other talks : Olle Torgny – From form to sense

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