Lanterns and glass cups give rhythm and character

The architectural historian Rasmus Wærn describes the kinship between the two Liljevalchshusen and the details of the liljevalchs+ extension.

Liljevalchs konsthall from 1916 has some of Sweden's best rooms for art exhibitions. It has to do with the proportions, but also with the light. They are well-defined rooms with a natural light that does not dazzle or shine. They're good for most things, but they have two flaws. Firstly, the dimensions are so small that large works cannot be received. This means that much of modern art does not fit. Secondly, the plan is such that the entire art gallery must close when the exhibitions change. This reduces both accessibility and usability.

The new rooms that have now been built complement architect Carl Bergsten's original building and at the same time take advantage of its main merits. A pair of large daylight-lit halls gives way to all possible artistic expressions, and also complements the main entrance. In addition, a variety of other qualities are added.

Like the main building, the extension is a house with integrity. Therefore, it also targets in a different direction than what Bergsten's house does. The old art gallery retains control of the situation towards Djurgårdsvägen, while the wing turns towards Falkenbergsgatan. The role distribution is more than just visual. 

The entrance of the mountain, an established emblem of the entire Liljevalchs and a foundation in the experience of its architecture, retains its status. The extension primarily advertises itself as its own exhibition building with shop and café, but of course offers opportunities to receive visitors to Liljevalchs in its entirety. In the foreground that separates the houses, the ground leans slightly towards the load intake. In the shade under the trees that here help to keep the facades apart, there are horizontal ledges where newly acquired public art can temporarily take place. In the hall overlooking the sculptures, the birth of the artworks can be presented.

The movements inside the building start from the level blue gate shares with Falkenbergsgatan. Along this level, not only the serving spreads out, but also the additional entrance as well as the shop. From the central stairwell that runs across the building you can look down towards the cloakroom as well as smaller exhibition rooms or seminar rooms, alternatively up towards the large halls or into bergstens building. 

The concrete stairwell also serves as a foreroom to the halls, where the exhibition inside can be presented. The floor plan opens the door to double use of more rooms. The halls on and below ground floor can either be used for exhibitions or for seminars. The new building thus offers between four and five halls possible for exhibitions.

There is a kinship between bergsten building and the new wing. Mainly in the simple structure of the exhibition rooms, but also in the game with cubes that shift over and into each other. The addition is also faithful to the mountain's upper light; here in the form that Klas Anselm developed for Malmö Konsthall, alongside Liljevalchs one of the art world's most appreciated exhibition rooms.

The height of the roof foot of the old house is also the same as that of the new house. Over this rises a landscape with lanterns. These give the halls structure and rhythm. Within the grid of two by two meters created by the lanterns, a variety of room divisions are possible. The silhouette also gives the building its own character, where the repetition of slots is followed up by the entrenched glass that decorates the façade.

Buildings, unlike art, are always variations on famous themes. The most universal theme of them all is the wall and the hole. Functional and technical conditions have created all the variants that have made it so easy to read human characteristics into the architecture. The ability of buildings to appear closed or open, accommodating or dismissive, flexible or rigid, is often something that can be read in the game between wall and hole. Windows easily take on the role of the eyes of the façade.

The extension that has now been built has several large windows that open the house towards Falkenbergsgatan and towards the corner's small park. During the day, the restaurant, shop and lecture hall look out at life outside, and in the evening the roles are changed as the rooms shine as sign cabinets for life outdoors.

More eye-catching, however, are the thousands of small miniature windows. Like the vast glass partitions, their roles also shift over the day, but the task is neither to convey light nor outlooks. They still cannot be reduced to being called décor only. Like the windows, they have a role to play in making the building seem accommodating and flexible. The round glass cups vary in a way that gives the building a changing appearance depending on light, weather and distance. Their task is to open the closed box.

The round glasses are reminiscent of the bottom of the kind of bottle bottoms that stand on a small wreath of round glass dots. In the façade, these small dots capture the light and pass it on in different directions, so that the building thaws a little. The house has a total of 6860 glass cups, all of which are set in stainless steel case. The bottom of the case is mirror gloss, which makes the small facets of the glasses shine and gleam. The glasses can be removed and replaced in the event that they are damaged. They are all the same size, 110 millimeters in diameter and 70 millimeters deep, but the depth is not something that is experienced. The distance between the glasses from the center to the center is 250 millimeters both vertically and horizontally. At the corners, the distances have been adapted to maintain the experience of a continuous fabric.

Reinforcing the weight and permanence of a building through powerful, yet entirely fictional, masonry in the plinth floor was a foundation of Renaissance architecture. By allowing the character of the building to become increasingly lighter with the height from the ground, a form of structural aesthetic was created that was reinforced with arches, corner chains and pi adapters. Behind the décor in plaster and stung, as a rule, there was a smooth brick wall. But it was not only the power play of the building that could be illustrated in this way, but also the solidity of the business, or the owner. In this way, the glass cups at Liljevalchs can also be read. Like rivets on the sealed coffin an art gallery is too.

The glass is thus both the more rustic and the more fragile part of the combination of minerals that build up liljevalch's walls. At the same time, it is an echo of the hardest of materials, the diamond. The most expressive form of rustication, in which the entire surface is covered by small pyramids, is called diamond rustics. Palazzo dei diamanti in Ferrara is a magnificent example. The palace was designed by Biagio Rosetti in the early 1490s and was clad in over 8,500 marble "diamonds." The parallel to the jewelry setting is close at hand. A jeweler would call the glass fastening to Liljevalch's pipe constitution. Then the stone is inserted into a tube that is soldered onto the ring so that the jewel stands up a little.

Flashy houses are unusual, but not completely unknown. However, as in textile history, their history is considerably younger than the edge, which both architecturally and weaving technology comes more naturally. Therefore, the dot is also more associated with modernity. It was the industrialized construction that made round windows in concrete elements or dotted façade systems possible to mass-manufacture. Certainly, the dot can also be traced in nature, in cell structures, bubbles and mostly not least in the starry sky. But in architecture and design, the dot represents décor in its most fundamental form. Anyone looking for a rational basis often does so in vain. The dot pattern has only its legitimacy in the proportions, in the measurements and in the well-being it conveys.

But Liljevalchs+ is not only decorated; it also strives for decorum, that is, do what suits itself. This is something other than simply adapting. Liljevalch's extension wants to give at least as much to the site as Djurgården's other houses do – preferably more.

Rasmus Wærn
architect, Wingårdh Architects' Office

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