I was most fortunate this July 2015 to have traveled to Scandinavia on a 15-day bus tour with my wife to explore the nations of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. This was my first trip to Europe. When I was a historic preservation student, I had to take several courses in architectural history-both 19th and 20th century. Hence during this tour, I was able to see a wide variety of architectural styles covering both centuries and older. But let me point out some of my observations that were made during the travel sitting on a bus, as well as, on foot. These are observations that have really stayed in my mind.
There is a lot of repetition in the architecture and landscape of the Norwegian countryside. I saw a lot of simple houses with sloping roofs at diverse angles. All part of the local folk vernacular. No familiar Greek or Roman precedents. No English Arts and Crafts.Many of those roofs showed a variety of grassy vegetation. Somewhat ubiquitous. The country side is dotted with fields of white circular casements. When I asked what those were-our guide informed that these casements contained hay. I had never seen so many dark narrow tunnels dotting the landscape after intervals of x number of miles. We passed many fjords and had the opportunity to embark on a boat voyage for 2 hours duration going around one particular fjord on one overcast morning. I found a great deal of solace touring the Norwegian countryside because there were not a lot of commercial businesses in sight. Quite a difference from the American landscape in most areas where fast-food eateries and tacky billboards abound. Yes, you will see exits where one can stop at a gas station and even see a Mc D’onalds but for the most part- commercialism is devoid to a large degree.
I could not state the same for the Danish and Swedish countrysides. Modernist architecture prevails in the use of shipping containers wrapping up a variety of commercial enterprises. I have been a fan of such structures for some time, especially when they have been adaptive for residential usage. As an American, I wish we could take more of an interest in such containers for both commercial, as well as , residential purposes. But these businesses were also elongated rectangles of glass framed by equal expanses of steel.
When we stopped in the major capitals of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, it is wonderful to see such architectural variety of both the new and the old. The structures that I personally appreciated the most were the Royal Palace in Copenhagen ( see upper right photo above) and the Oslo City Hall (see upper left photo). This was attributed to the fact that these particular structures were most expansive with large cavernous rooms, in which the walls were adorned with incredible tapestries and murals that not only reflected the history of these countries but provided clues to significant social change.