What is Scandinavian architecture?


Scandinavia has become a benchmark in contemporary European architecture. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in interest in its design and approach, thanks also to the focus on the environment, sustainability, and innovation. 

What is the Scandinavian style of architecture?

Scandinavian architectural style has become popular in modern European design over the last hundred years. Simplicity, usefulness, and a strong connection to nature make it particularly appreciated. This style is deeply rooted in the cultures of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.

The term started being used in the 20th century. It is shaped by political and geographical factors in the Nordic countries. Although it is a newer style in the world of architecture, it has quickly become famous for its clean lines and stylish look. The development of this style mixes traditional Nordic values with modern design ideas, resulting in spaces that are not only good-looking but also practical.

If we consider the history of Scandinavian architecture, before the 20th century it was mostly simple and influenced by styles from Europe. The landscape featured ancient mediaeval structures like castles and cathedrals, as well as simpler homes made from local materials. These buildings were practical and built to last through tough Nordic weather.

The modern architectural style started in the 1930s. This new style is simple yet focused on making life better for people and integrating with the environment. It also mixes neoclassical styles with traditional building methods. This blend brought together old aesthetics with new needs, leading to public buildings that were not only useful but also visually appealing. 


What characterises Scandinavian design?


What makes Scandinavian design so appealing today in the design of buildings and homes? The sense of peacefulness and the affinity for nature are surely two elements that mark contemporary architecture, but not the only one. Since the 50s, Scandinavian design has promoted simplicity, minimalism, and comfort

  • Minimalism. Scandinavian minimalism focuses on functionality and balance. It is all about making spaces work well without adding too much stuff.
  • Maximising natural light. In Scandinavian and Nordic countries, there is not much sunlight in winter. This makes it very important for rooms to get as much natural light as possible. This is often done through skylights, glass walls, and open spaces.
  • Neutral colour scheme.The colours used are usually light and neutral, which helps make the most of the natural light. The colours are soft and warm, not cold or harsh.
  • Clean lines. One of the main features of Scandinavian design is its simplicity, which you can see in the clean lines used throughout.
  • Textures. Textures, especially natural ones, are important for creating a cosy feeling, which is a big part of Scandinavian design.
  • Natural materials. Materials like wood are very important in Scandinavian design. They help connect the space to nature.
  • Energy-efficient home design. Scandinavian homes and buildings are often very energy-efficient. They use advanced systems to keep the home warm or cool as needed. Older homes are frequently updated with new technology as it becomes available.
  • Odd shapes. Scandinavian designers and architects like to use different shapes and silhouettes. This keeps buildings functional but also interesting to look at.
  • Buildings work with nature. Like many modern architects, Scandinavian architects consider the surrounding landscape when designing. They adjust their designs to fit well with the environment.


What defines Scandinavian style?


Simplicity and rationality are thus two aspects that define the architectural style in Scandinavian countries: not only with regard to homes, but more generally as a stylistic approach.

The use of eco-sustainable materials such as wood is another characteristic trait of the region that marks a continuous innovative search. In this sense, in the most contemporary projects, a solution like expanded metal finds space. It has become an element to give identity to buildings and to provide structural solutions. 

From residential areas to offices, from public buildings such as public libraries and town halls to commercial spaces, expanded metal is combined with materials such as glass or concrete to make the final result less impactful and to meet specific requirements. 

It is a valid solution, for example, for solar radiation shielding or to withstand the heavy snow load in winter. Architects have also adopted it as a decorative element to create play of colours and lights on logistic and industrial sites or to meet the ventilation needs and vehicles’ smoke dispersion in parking structures

If functionality is another defining feature of Scandinavian architecture, the appreciation for expanded metal is not surprising. It also plays a key role in the designing of Uppsala City Hall (Sweden), a project that in 2022 was awarded Building of the Year by the specialised magazine Byggindustrin.


What is the difference between Scandinavian and Nordic architecture?


The terms Scandinavian and Nordic architecture are often used like they mean the same thing, but they actually describe different styles. 

Scandinavian architecture is all about designs from the Scandinavian Peninsula, which includes Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. 

  • This style is famous for being minimalist, practical, and using natural materials like wood and stone. 
  • Scandinavian architecture focuses on clean lines, light colours, and a strong connection to nature. 
  • This reflects both the beauty and the practical needs of life in these countries.

Nordic architecture, on the other hand, covers a bigger area that includes not just Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, but also Finland and Iceland. 

  • It shares a lot of the same qualities as Scandinavian architecture, like simplicity and functionality. 
  • However, Nordic architecture also brings in unique elements from Finland and Iceland, making it more diverse.

Both Scandinavian and Nordic styles place a big emphasis on being sustainable and eco-friendly, using natural light well, and making spaces that focus on people’s needs. But, Nordic architecture can also include specific features that reflect the different cultures, climates, and historical backgrounds of the additional countries, making it a broader category.

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