Asher's Nordic Adventure
This world can be a topsy-turvy place. Sometimes, I find the need to extricate myself from its dizzying pace and look at things from a different angle, or in this case, an entirely different hemisphere! My husband and I recently had the opportunity to travel to Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The Nordic view was refreshing and inspiring; the beauty of design is all around us - just stop and look up (or down, as the case may be).
Rosenberg Castle - Surrounded by the Kongens Have (the Kings Gardens), it houses the crown jewels and regalia and was built in 1606 under Christian IV. Many architectural projects were started under Christian IV, and I enjoyed the symmetry of each place we visited.
Copenhagen canal homes - picturesque because of the brilliant color palettes.
Christianborg Castle, the now-a-days heart of the Danish Government, housing Danish Parliament, Supreme Court, and Prime Minister's Offices. The Palace Chapel is a stunning display of neo-classical ornamentalism in architecture.
Chrisitianborg Castle, the Queens Room (reception room for entertaining) is another impressive example of ornamentalism. I was specifically drawn to the carvings on the ceiling.
Christianborg Castle, reception room - ceiling plaster work with gilding, beautiful symmetry. Can you image working on an expansive ceiling and getting this level of symmetry and detail?
Christianborg Castle, the Queen's Tapestries - were a gift for Queen Margrethe II's 50th birthday. Throughout our trip we found a great appreciation for modern art. This is one example - these contemporary tapestries are huge, there were several of them in this room, juxtaposed to the historic and ornamental elements of this space. The tapestries by themselves were impressive but the juxtaposition is what really stood out for me.
Frederick's Church at Amalienborg Palace - another nice display of architectural symmetry. The picture makes this chapel look smaller than it actually is. It's an enormous structure looming at 8 or 9 stories tall.
Frederiksborg Castle - we visited a lot of castles but this one really blew me away in scale and decor. Though it's always the details that impress me. In this case the decor inside of this vault-like armory room mimics the inner works and components that make up a heavy-duty vault mechanism.
Frederiksborg Castle - the Danish were early adopters of science, especially astronomy. The most notable astronomer being Tycho Brahe, known for his accuracy and comprehensiveness. This image is a bit dark but I found it interesting to see astronomical and scientific equipment accompanying biblical imagery in this castle.
Frederiksborg Castle - this was one of my favorite examples of science being adopted by the Danish. This mural sits in the center of the room, and although it contains many mythological characters, it also reflects the mix of science and religion occurring at the time in Denmark.
Our trip was a mix of historical and contemporary adventures. I think the historical spaces had a bigger impact on me because as an appreciator of Scandinavian design, it was interesting to see how the Nordic countries developed and where their design sensibilities come from. It was fascinating to visit the historical sites and chart the path from the ultra decorated to the more utilitarian and minimal spaces. I can't actually remember what this building was, it may have been a parking structure, but among so much history the side of this building really popped. I don't know if the discs are art or have a purpose like reflecting sound or light but there was something minimal and almost futuristic about it that caught my eye.
We visited Millesgarden in Sweden, once the home of the sculptor Carl Milles. Although I don't have a personal connection to the man himself I grew up near Cranbrook Academy in Michigan and was influenced by Milles work. Milles spent several years at Cranbrook as an artist in residence and his work can be found through out the Cranbrook campus and around Detroit. His sculpting bridges several styles - mixing classical, art deco, and art nouveau to name a few. This particular sculpture was in a hallway of his home and I thought was a nice example of striping back and simplifying. The studies of this sculpture show more detail so at some point in his process he decided to make it less detailed, more minimal, just enough to convey detail in the form and muscles but the crevices and surfaces and transitions are all smoothed together. I related to this. I like to design similarly - sketching or sculpting a form and then stripping away the information that I feel can be given up while retaining the fundamental feel that I'm seeking to get from the forms.
On this street in Stockholm one builded spanned the greater portion of a block and the entire side of this building was spotted with these windows - various shapes, sizes, and some seeming randomly placed. I have a deep appreciation for organized chaos. It can be hard to achieve and seem random, but also intentional. I didn't see a lot of this in Sweden; actually, much of the architecture is built on a grid or symmetry, so this example stood out.
Just a nice image from the Bergen (Norway) fish market. We ate a ton of fish in Bergen!
Don't forget to look down. This is in Bergen again, but throughout Norway the manhole covers were pieces of art. Each town or city had it's own motif, usually with imagery that represented either the founding, growth, or industry of the place.
Oslo manhole cover with a stylized version of the Oslo coat of arms.
Oslo City Hall - for me this was one of the most impressive buildings on our Nordic trip. A mix of concrete brutalism, art deco masonry work, and art nouveau influences. The image doesn't do it justice. The details were really phenomenal and the inside of the building is covered with murals and decor depictions of Oslo's history done in the same three styles as the exterior of the building.
Oslo City Hall, Impressionist portraits of the king and queen - I noted that the three countries we visited all had a fondness for impressionism. Many of the art galleries had large collections of impressionist work and I thought it interesting that the official royal portraits were not photorealistic portraitures but impressionist, modern, with a darkness to them.
Viking ship museum, Oslo - This museum houses 3 out of 4 viking ships that have been excavated. The wood had rotted away from the fourth ship and all that was left were the nails and metal ornaments. Beyond the impressive boats building that the boats were housed in, formally a church, was a minimal and beautiful structure. Painted completely cream/white inside, with a handful of windows, the lights and darks were dramatic and quite beautiful.
In the summer in lower Norway sunset is quite late. The sun didn't fully set until about 10 or 11 pm. This image was taken in Oslo around 9:30 pm. I thought the symmetry of this building with the dramatic shadows was inspiring and the angle of the light also made the irregular stucco-like surface pop out which was not noticeable to me earlier in the day.
Frogner Park, Oslo - impressive early 1900s sculptures by sculptor Gustav Vigeland. Throughout the park were iron gates made up of line drawings of figures. This example has only one figure but many of the larger gates had 3 or 4 figures. I really like this way of bringing a line drawing to life.
This is another example of Viegland's work. Mirrored granite sculptures sitting, roughly 8' across these enormous sculptures took up to a year to carve each, with a team of master carvers to complete the dozens of sculptures throughout the park. I could see the similarities in Milles and Vigeland's work, the stripping back of details and focusing on the overall forms.
Vigeland Museum, in the old Vigeland Studios - Vigeland's most famous work is the Angry Baby Crying. It is not a very large sculpture, but the one that has received world fame. This image shows several process sculptures showing how the piece was carved in plaster and then molds were pulled to make the casting masters for pouring this sculpture in bronze. I love process and thus really enjoyed seeing these pieces and what materials, tools, and techniques were used in the early 1900s to make these sculptures.