The Work of Gert Wingårdh
November 10, 2008, 12:30 am
Filed under: Architecture, Rural Architecture, Suburban Architecture, Travel

While traveling through Scandinavia last summer we came across the work of Gert Wingårdh.  We’re ashamed to admit it but, up until that point, we were not familiar with his work.  His show at the Swedish Museum of Architecture in Stockholm thoroughly reviewed a handful of his projects, both built and proposed.  Three of these projects struck us as not only significant, but critical works of architecture.  The works embody an elegant balance between poetic concept and a plainness of form.

The exhibit was accompanied by a small book titled “Eleven Houses, Reflexions over the Architecture”.  The explanations of each project are written like poems – the text below are excerpts from these poems.

Glaskasten Skulpture Museum, Marl Germany, 2005
By Gert Wingardh with Lars Bergström

Magnificent trees grow in the grounds
Some have to be felled to make room for the building
[the sculptor Lars Bergström] creates silicone shapes over these very trees
and allows their features to emerge as negative death masks
The memory of the trees appears as photorealistic,
Three dimensional cavities in the now extremely thick concrete wall


[Drawings courtesy of Gert Wingardh, Eleven Houses, Reflections over the Architecture]


Housing at Arabia Beach, Helsinki Finland, 2005

Pretensions, but also sadness
Tall, but stocky
A real person,
with crooked, bent hands

Architecture can also be such a person
When the objective is not to find the ideal form,
but rather the limit of a person
architecture becomes more tolerant
of deviations in both color and form

[Drawings courtesy of Gert Wingardh, Eleven Houses, Reflections over the Architecture]



Oijared Country Club & Golf Club, Lerum Sweden, 1986

We build
a simple concrete house
beside a hill
shovel earth over it
and sow grass

Easy and inexpensive

The first tee from the roof

Of course

[Drawings courtesy of Gert Wingardh, Eleven Houses, Reflections over the Architecture]






There is something about these projects that we can’t quite put our thumb on.  They are each rather ordinary – one might overlook the significance of the inset tree sculptures on the Glaskasten Museum; the Oijared Country Club isn’t even visible from most perspectives on the surrounding golf course; the untrained eye could drive right past the housing at Arabia Beach and not think twice.  But as understated as these projects are, they are also careful, thoughtful and sensible projects.  They are deliberate works of a master architect.

We’re proposing that the reason these projects are so extraordinary is precisely this quality of being ordinary.  The lack of design-hype.  These projects don’t have a theme that hits you in the face, no marketing package, no buzz, no sound-bite, hell 2 out of 3 don’t even have websites.  These projects don’t subscribe to any sort of architecture movement, they’re not plastered all over the cover of design magazines, they don’t tout their “green-ess” .  They just are.


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

scrubbing my skull for other examples mixing architecture and poetry well; nothing found; to me this is lovely striking originality. any precedent for this? free verse instead of a marketing prospectus– way huge and most excellent.

Comment by donald

Great post. Byoung Cho did a series of lectures, one at Montana State University, the other at Harvard, called “Emptiness and Materiality.” The lecture dealt with the poetry of space and while Mr. Cho chooses not to use so many words, I think that a parallel can be drawn. You can view the lecture slides on his website,

Comment by Nick

Regarding golf, I consider the club house to be either ode to personal wealth privately or a shack for burgers and beers publicly. This design seems to encourage humility. Take your best first shot from above and commiserate below. It seems to nurture the game.

Comment by Les Fitzpatrick

Donald – as far as precedents go, I’d say Louis Kahn and Eduardo Souto Moura fit the bill. More recently the Swiss duo Herzog & de Meuron have a philosophy of “beautifully boring” architectures that, while a bit more dramatic, are relevant to the conversation.

Nick – Nice reference, Byoung Cho is doing some elegant and functional work that fits right in with this discussion. His site seems to be down at the moment but an image search for him brings up some excellent examples.

Les – I like the breakdown, the ode to self vs. burger shack could become a humorous gauge of many project types. The blog post wheels are spinning…

Comment by buildllc

some really good books on gert as well.

Comment by mike

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: