AD Classics: St. Mark’s Church in Bjorkhagen / Sigurd Lewerentz

Photo by jmtp - http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmtp/

After over a decade of absence from architecture, Sigurd Lewerentz reappeared with the creation of St. Mark’s Church in Björkhagen, . His winning design for the church brought him back to the art of building, and his apt control of materiality brought the St. Mark’s Church international attention.

Lewerentz received the commission for St. Mark’s Church through a competition. He was invited, along with four other architects, to propose ideas for the new church. Lewerentz submitted multiple ideas and was ultimately chosen as the designer for the new church in 1956.

Photo by jmtp - http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmtp/

St. Mark’s Church is located in a suburb of Stockholm, . The two buildings on the site are set amongst a grove of birch trees with little connection to the surrounding suburbs. The western structure is located closer to the main road, but still buffered by the trees. A courtyard is formed between the buildings with a pool in the center. From the courtyard is the entrance to the church, marked by a wooden portico. This wooden portico is detached from the brick structure, emphasizing the difference between the two. The brickwork in the buildings stands separately to show Lewerentz’s mastery of the material.

Photo by jmtp - http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmtp/

The church is entered through the wooden portico to where one is deposited into a dimly lit foyer. Brick surrounds the visitor. Within the church, brick is used to make floors, walls, and ceilings. The material was, and often still is, seen as a simple, uninteresting material. It was used to make many public buildings in Sweden in the early 20th century. Lewerentz did not manipulate the basic unit by cutting or shaping it to add interest. Instead, he worked with the mortar thickness and the placement or separation of the units to transform the banal unit into something to be appreciated.

Photo by jmtp - http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmtp/

Both buildings on site are made with the same color of brick with a lighter mortar. The western building contains offices while the eastern building holds the entrance foyer, rooms, great hall, and nave of the church. The brick unit creates curved and straight walls in both buildings. In the eastern building it slopes down as the floor to lead one into the church, while it also vaults in the ceiling above.

Photo by jmtp - http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmtp/

St. Mark’s Church was completed in 1960. It was the first building designed and built by Lewerentz since his hiatus from the profession, but it was not his last. With the completion and resulting recognition of St. Mark’s Church, Lewerentz went on to build other projects, most notably St. Peter’s Church in Klippan, before his death in 1975. He continued his investment in brick materiality into the design of St. Peter’s Church, which followed in the success of his first brick masterpiece at St. Mark’s Church.

Architect: Sigurd Lewerentz
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Project Year: 1956-60
References: Continuity in Architecture, Sigurd Lewerentz and a Material Basis for Form
Photographs: Flickr: jmpt, Wikimedia Commons: Holger.Ellgaard

Cite: Balters, Sofia. "AD Classics: St. Mark’s Church in Bjorkhagen / Sigurd Lewerentz" 07 Sep 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Nov 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=157478>
  • simon

    Been there in 1975.

    Brilliant building, but so subtle and so distinct in its language it is going to off the radar for many years to come; certainly until we understand what craft is about.

    Asplund is the big deal in those parts, actually.

  • leslie

    Lewerentz’s work is certainly masterful in its materiality – both expressive and structural – but it is the physical manifestation of studied inhabitation that is so powerful.

    Every position in space is considered as a moment of human experience: light, sound, visual and tactile texture, expected and unexpected conditions of sequence. Subtle, yet pronounced. Playful, yet practical.

    I just revisited St. Mark’s (and St. Peter’s) this summer – this time as a teacher with a group of architecture students. And what was wondrous and mysterious for me as a student, now appeared as additionally instructive in both pragmatic (“how you put a building together”) and poetic (“what is the experience?”) terms. It was truly awe-inspiring once again – and I would contend is always so for the nascent and the jaded in all of us.

  • joseph n. biondo

    Every student of design should study Lewerentz’s later works. Thanks for publishing AD!