Asplund … and Göteborg’s tapestry | Rodrigo Almonacid

Sketch of the tapestries of Göteborg’s Town hall, 1936-37

On having finished the project for the extension of Göteborg’s Town hall (Sweden, 1935-37), E. G. Asplund signed his work. It was not alone a question of signing the planes, not. He signed literally his work. To make it today might to us look like an exercise of self-praise, but I believe that to do it as it was done by the teacher of the Swedish Modernity it it is not by no means. It is an act of gratitude, chance of personal satisfaction, but always an exercise of Architecture, of those by which there is distinguished the intervention of a brilliant architect since it it was he.

Between his sketches for the interior equipment of the new attached courts this one finds the former Rådhus of the image that shows us a collection of initials spread by a resquare space, the future tapestry. Date it occupies the top left corner indicating the time, this coordinate fixed that discreet but solemnly it is over any other sign. The agents’ habitual triad of any work (promoter, builder and architect) they are the excuse that allows to his architect – designer to solve the correct disposition of the capital letters, grouping them concerning three symbols: a distinctive mallet of the judge; a plummet and a palette for the bricklayer; and a compass and a French curve stencil, tools typical of the architect.

Tapestry of the courts of Göteborg’s Town hall, 1937

There are light changes between the version projected of the tapestry and the finally woven one in 1937; the most significant turns out to be the attributes of the architect, which definitively would be replaced by an attentive eye, in allusion to the function of optional direction of the works. It does not stop surprising me that, in spite of the international reputation of the architect, Asplund’s initials are less relevant than them of any of the judges, and even at par of the principal contractor of the works O.E. (Olle Engkvist) or of the chief of work G.S. (Gerdt Stendahl). The ego of the notable architect that, we it do not forget, had been the person in charge of presenting in the northern countries the advances of the European funcionalism in the International Exhibition of Stockholm in 1930, had not grown over his works, feature for which it seems to me to be always worth admiring, and of what many starchitects today should take note.

They receive the whole sense those his words in which it was appealing to the humility of the architect saying that:

“A building of housings does not have that it turns. For an architect who projects buildings of housings, the best way of demonstrating his artistic capacity one is subordinating discreetly. For him it has to be more important analyze the buildings than surround the lot that to look for nice images in books of engravings and photographies.” 1

I have clear that in our professional exercise and in our Schools of Architecture we should think, and much, it brings over of these sensible words of the Swedish teacher. Probably this way the company would begin to recognize the paper of the architect as the most qualified local interpreter at the moment of intervening in him. Since the same Asplund was writing in the mentioned text, one forgets that it is more important to follow the local style that the style of the time, with regard to the need of discretion and correction that needs any project of architecture contemplated in a more wide context as an urban scene or a natural environment. And, we, authors of the works, surely would feel so satisfied of the labor that occupies us that, as Asplund, we would end up by signing proud our own works, instead of hiding / denying of his authorship, since so often it happens for misfortune and frustration of the architect. Let’s do tapestries, let’s do ARCHITECTURE!!!

Rodrigo Almonacid [r-arquitectura] · doctor architect

valladolid. juny 2013


1 Cfr. ASPLUND, E.G.: “Peligros arquitectónicos actuales para Estocolmo: los edificios de apartamentos”. Teknisk Tidskrift A, 1916. (Traducido en: Erik Gunnar Asplund. Escritos 1906/1940. El Croquis Editorial, El Escorial, 2002).

Images taken of:

– LÓPEZ-PELÁEZ, José Manuel: La arquitectura de Gunnar Asplund. Fundación Caja de Arquitectos. Colección “Arquíthesis” nº 11. 2002 (boceto del tapiz, 1935-36).

– VV.AA.: Asplund. Ed. Gustavo Gili. Barcelona, 2ª edición, 1997 (foto tapiz colgado en una sala de vistas de los juzgados)

(Teruel, 1974). Licenciado en Arquitectura (1999) con premio extraordinario y Doctor “cum laude” en Arquitectura por la Universidad de Valladolid (2013), compagina su actividad académica como profesor doctor de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Valladolid con la profesional al frente de su propio estudio [r-arquitectura]. Es autor de dos libros: Mies van der Rohe: el espacio de la ausencia (2006); y El paisaje codificado en la arquitectura de Arne Jacobsen (2016). Colaborador habitual en blogs de actualidad y crítica arquitectónica.

Proyecto edificios singulares y sostenibles en mi estudio [r-arquitectura] desde el año 2000 con la colaboración un equipo multidisciplinar de especialistas de acreditada experiencia profesional. [Especialidad: Sector Terciario].

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