Den Norsk Ambassade i Stockholm – Knut Knutsen

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I discovered this building on a recent trip to Stockholm. Despite the fact that it was not one of my planned stops, I actually came across the building while going to Tekniska Museet, in Djurgåden. I was surprised with the differences between this building and the surrounding embassies. At the same time, the rhythmic articulation of the volumes recalled some of the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Houses.

After some research in the library, I discovered that the embassy was designed by the architect Knut Knutsen (1903-1969), who had a close professional and personal relation with Arne Korsmo.  This architect, often overshadowed by Sverre Fehn, Lund & Slaatto or Arnstein Arneberg, was one of the most prolific architects in Norway and won the competition in 1948 against some of he mentioned architects.

When we look at the plan Knutsen designed, probably the main reason for winning the competition, we see a simple and practical building, but without renouncing to a certain representative image in line with the importance of the building. To relate the embassy with the landscape, which was always an important act for Norwegian architects, the architect employed different resources. For example, the horizontality of the building stresses the lines in the landscape in the same way that the vertical windows relate to the trees.

Knutsen, with this building, was a pioneer in breaking down the conventional conception of how a public building could be. We were used to a flashy architecture  witch pretended to create big images associated with power. Against current trends, this embassy looks smaller than it is in fact. The rhythmic articulation of the volumes, as I mentioned in the begining, or the fragmentation of the design, generate a humble building. The US embassy, which is located next to our project, projects the opposite idea, making the humble attitude of the building even more visible.

If we come back to the plan, we can find other architectures that follow this rules of fragmentation of the space and the volume. For instance, Villa McCormick designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1907, is one of the most clear in this sense. In a study trip to Japan, I realized that this is a rather usual strategy to design public buildings with important  representative roles. Perhaps the most famous plan is the Katsura Palace where the rhythm of the spaces is the same that in the Norway embassy, only in a different scale.