In May 2022 a group of students and A13 paid a visit to Johan Celsing’s office in Stockholm, as part of their pilgrimage to the works of Sigurd Lewerentz, an architect Johan Celsing knows very well due to the intense dialogue between his own work and the projects by Lewerentz for the cemeteries in both Malmö and Stockholm. Johan Celsing generously shared his thoughts, experience, and knowledge about Lewerentz with the students, and took ample time to give them a tour to his own, impressive Årsta Church, a suburb of Stockholm. Johan Celsing’s architectural craftsmanship and thoughts are beautifully collected in the recent monograph ‘Johan Celsing Buildings, Texts’ published in 2021 by Park Books. However, his kindness and enthusiasm we experienced in Stockholm aren’t conveyed in the book and were the reason to invite him in person to Berlin.
The robust, the sincere
Buildings should be built to last. What is still typical today, despite all the new technology, is after all that architecture is a genuinely unwieldy, slow medium that requires major resources for its creation.
For this reason the robust is important if architecture is to be taken seriously and contribute to the development of a sustainable community.
The robust is an alternative to the architecture that is mainly based on visual features. The really significant qualities of a building are complex and not always visually accessible. They quite simply demand a different commitment, or even presence, if they are to be judged.
The robust should not be interpreted to mean something crudely hewn and therefore sturdy through its brute strength. Instead it is intended to engender durable and multifaceted architecture. There are many factors that make architecture relevant in the long term and appearance is only one of them. Robust architecture affirms the context of a project in the broadest sense. Its physical, concrete surroundings are one aspect of this. Other aspects are the technical conditions that apply to the project, its financing, its social context, its history or current or expected social role. Robust architecture aims to determine the state in which all the circumstances can be scrupulously taken into account and synthesised in the form of a building. When one or more of these circumstances change, the building will continue to be relevant, but now superimposed with its own historical overlay.
The sincere may seem to be an unarchitectonic aspect of building. Nevertheless it is indispensable if one considers that buildings should primarily serve those that use them. If the robust is an essential quality if buildings are to survive and become part of the structure of a community, then sincerity concerns another side of what is built. When the robust is not far from concepts such as organisation and logic, I consider that what characterises sincerity in buildings involve wilfulness, audacity, playfulness or even something as unusual in architecture as the naïve.
These qualities may be both unassuming and subtle but as a rule they provide a work with presence or warmth and can even invite some form of dialogue. For most people buildings are something they occupy or pass through but they are not generally interested in the architecture as such. For occasional individuals who have the time and interest or who have quite simply become aware of their environment a building can, however, offer a wealth of possibilities and significances and provide a genuine voyage of discovery.
The sincere does not demand attention. It is quite simply part of the care with which the building has been designed.
Text: Frau Prof. Stuhlmacher