Bergensskolen: Som et nasjonalt fenomen - og et bidrag til den internasjonale Arts and Crafts-bevegelsen
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The main purpose of this work has been to examine the correctness of my hypothesis that the Bergen School in the 1930s, through their social interaction, works and writings formed a ”school” and were an alternative to international functionalism, the urban planning ideals of the day and industrial building designs, and that the school may be the last manifestation of the international Arts and Crafts movement. And furthermore, that within the Bergen School, we find the only architects in Scandinavia in the interwar years who embraced Frank Lloyd Wright’s (1869-1959) organic architecture as an ideal. In the context of architectural history, the term ”school” is frequently used of a group of practising architects with more or less the same thoughts and ideals, who design buildings that have so many features in common that together they stand out from the main stream of contemporary architecture. ”The Bergen School” is a movement in Norwegian architecture that came into being around 1930. The school continued a view on architecture and conservation that had its roots in the English Arts and Crafts movement and that created a synthesis between traditional West Norwegian building styles and architecture. The School renewed its design form inspired by English and American Arts and Crafts architecture, and in its monumental buildings, we glimpse lines connecting it both to medieval building designs and to the Austrian and German secessionists – an urban version of the Arts and Crafts ideals that found their inspiration in pre-classical architecture. A number of architects made up the Bergen School, some of the most prominent of whom were Frederik Konow Lund (1889-1970), Per Grieg (1897-1962), Johan Lindstrøm (1893-1958) and Kristian Bjeknes (1901-81). This thesis aims to shed light on the factors that shaped the Bergen School, what affected their views on architecture, characterised their buildings and conservation work, and what formed the core of their agitation and writings. It covers a period from around 1850 to around 1980, but focuses mainly on the School’s architecture and writings from the 1930s when the Bergen School most clearly expressed its individuality in its encounter with international functionalism. We may well say that the 1930s were the decade of the Bergen School. The Bergen School continued to build on an architectural philosophy that manifested itself nationally and internationally in the decade prior to World War I and that was based on the ideals of the English Arts and Crafts movement as they were first introduced and developed by John Ruskin and William Morris in the latter part of the 19th century. Several of the architects discussed in this thesis were themselves associated with this tradition, and through their studies in Norway and abroad, they were stimulated to continue, develop and practise this architectural philosophy in the interwar years. The interest for traditional West Norwegian building styles within the Bergen School was expressed in the architects’ strong commitment to conserving the past, through surveying and restoration work and in their arguments for improved styles of architecture in Western Norway. In this way they became a manifestation of the dualism in the Arts and Crafts ideals, “the architect creates by preserving”. The concept ”local building styles” therefore became synonymous with an organic connection between tradition and innovation, and between location and building. In this there is a close link to architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright who must have been familiar to the members of the Bergen School through Frederik Konow Lund. In 1934, Raymond McGrath’s book Twentieth Century Houses referred to Konow Lund together with, among others, Frank Lloyd Wright. This book discussed and made clear the differences between the ideals of functionalism and the Arts and Crafts movement, and may have influenced the School’s architects to distance themselves more clearly from functionalism and to continue developing their own regional architecture. The time around 1934 seems to mark a clear shift in the architecture and agitation of the Bergen School. From this time on, the architectural devices in the School’s houses became fewer and fewer, though there was no reduction in the strict demands to detail and the high quality of the craftsmanship. Instead of a more or less replicating approach to the urban wood and brick buildings of middle-class and bureaucratic circles in the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, they found their inspiration in the more anonymous West Norwegian building style. Through an abstraction and reinterpretation of the design language of West Norwegian architectural styles, and through a resumption and continuation of regional building styles, Konow Lund and his colleagues in the Bergen School created a unique style of architecture in both a Norwegian and an international perspective. Somewhat simplified, we can say that the Bergen School, as it was in the 1930s, recounted the history of the struggle of regional building styles against international architectural styles, the struggle of craft traditions against industrial presentation and standardisation, the struggle of the peripheral districts against the capital, and last but not least, the struggle of the creative architect against the increased influence of the engineer and the entrepreneur. International research on the development of the Arts and Crafts movement has concluded that this movement came to an end in the 1920s. In this perspective, the Bergen School is interesting because it continued the ideals into the 1930s and beyond, and thus may well be considered the last manifestation of the Arts and Crafts movement. The thesis is divided into the following chapters: I. THEORETICAL CONNECTING LINES Here I have explained the factors that affected and shaped the School’s architecture and architectural philosophy, and the influence the architectural environment had on Bergen and the country in general, as well as possible international influences that may have come from where the architects studied, their travels, professional contacts, as well as from contemporary literature and writings. II. THE HOUSE AS A LOCAL ART FORM Through building analyses of selected houses, I have identified formal and structural traits that characterise the architecture of the Bergen School, such as the influences from traditional West Norwegian building styles. These characteristics I have subsequently discussed in the light of the ideals of the international Arts and Crafts movement. III. MAJOR BUILDING PROJECTS Several of the architects in the Bergen School received major commissions that resulted in monumental and urban buildings of high artistic quality and craftsmanship. Through an analysis of selected buildings, I have tried to identify characteristic traits and lines of influence that place them in the context of architectural history. IV. CONSERVATION THEORY AND CONSERVATION STRATEGIES The architects in the Bergen School were all firmly committed to conservation work. I have explained which conservation philosophies the School represented and how these are expressed in their conservation work and restoration projects. V. AGITATION AND ARCHITECTURAL PHILOSOPHY In the light of the School’s agitation and writings, I have attempted to study their architectural philosophy in depth and to shed light on the symbiotic relationship between conservation work (recording, surveying and restoration) and the School’s own architecture. Against this background, I have discussed whether the architects of the Bergen School stand out from other Norwegian architects who were seeking a “traditional” design form in the 1930s. In conclusion, I have summarised the features that characterised the Bergen School and its architectural philosophy, and assessed the School’s contribution to Norwegian and international architectural history. It is my hope that this work can contribute towards giving the Bergen School’s architecture and values their rightful place in the history of architecture, and that the School’s many and varied activities can act as a source of knowledge and a reference base for the architects, architectural students and antiquarian authorities of our times.