Nordiskt perspektiv på arkitektur: kritisk regionalisering i nordiska stadshus 1900-1955
Doktorsavhandling, 2000

The author investigates the reception of main international currents in the Nordic countries as manifested in a specific building type, the town hall/municipal administration building, chosen as the constant necessary for an inter-Nordic, comparative analysis. This investigation has been attempted on two levels, one inductive and one deductive, in a 'double-focus' approach. The particular town hall is analyzed as an aesthetic product and as an artefact through its processes of design and implementation. On the inductive level, the analysis concerns a selection of about 60 regional town hall projects of which 45 were completed, treating (a) architectural competitions, comparing the central idea and intention of the competition entry with the program demands of the client, and (b) the process of design and construction with special regard to current, constantly changing situations of choice for the architect as well as the client. Documentation has been drawn from (1) Nordic journals of architecture of the period, with accounts of competitions and architects' own presentations as well as critical assessments; and (2) the architects' sketches, drawings and notes studied in relation to the minutes of town hall committees, other municipal documents, correspondence, etc. This material is presented, from c. 1930-55, as nine case studies (ch. III), while from c. 1900-25 it is used for comparative analyses in a transverse perspective (ch. IV). Ch. II traces the overall history of Nordic competitions for this building type and, specifically, prevalent trends in the use of plan forms and volumetric composition; in ch. I the building type is placed in a historical perspective. An appendix contains a catalogue of fully or partly investigated projects and buildings. On the deductive level, the analysis concerns the dichotomy between universality and place-specificity, autonomy and heteronomy, as well as differing Nordic attitudes to rationality and internationalism. In a methodological Prolog 'critical regionalization', derived from Kenneth Frampton's 1980s' strategy for a 'critical regionalism', is introduced as an analytical model while an Epilogue acts as a corrective. Here 'regionalization' denotes a self-conscious anchoring of a universal idea in a specific, given context, presupposing a mediation and a transformation in the direction of the regional. Hence one focus has been on the effect of local preconditions on the realization of the architect's aesthetic intention. Here the collective attitudes of the client have been found to be of decisive importance.

design process

Nordic architecture

architectural theory

town halls

architectural history


architectural competitions

historiographic methodology

critical regionalism


Gerd Bloxham

Institutionen för arkitekturens teori och historia





Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 1605

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