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Italian expert on Ralph Erskine's architecture in the north

Published: 21 April 2022

Andrea Luciani, senior lecturer in architecture at Luleå University of Technology, is a great admirer of Ralph Erskine's architecture in northern Sweden. But not everything was a success for Erskine.

Andrea Luciani gave a lecture, Erskine and his Arctic architecture in Norrbotten , at the Norrbotten Museum recently. The focus of the lecture was on the building Shopping in Luleå, the world's first indoor shopping center with several functions such as shops, cinema and restaurants, as well as the residential buildings Ormen lange in Svappavaara and the Ortdrivaren neighborhood in Kiruna.

Ralph Erskine worked in northern Sweden between 1955-1965 and was known for adapting his works to the place and climate where they were performed. He placed great emphasis on how cold winds can be stopped, how light and shadows fall during different seasons, but also, how snow can act as insulation and save energy. In many ways, Ralph Erskine was far ahead of his time. But with the Ormen lange residential complex in Svappavaara, the criticism became harsh at times.

"Svappavaara was a new mining community under construction that would attract miners from all over Sweden. But of Erskine's original design for the area, just under half was built. A business center became a store and so on. That was probably part of the reason why people did not like it", says Andrea Luciani.

In a magazine for miners in the late 1960s, complaines were; Ormen lange is a labor camp, a godless yellow company residence where the only fun is the condom vending machine. In another magazine, the headline was idiocy in the Wilderness .

"The harsh criticism coincided with the big mining strike, so it was perhaps also a sign of the times. Erskine got some redress a few years later when a resident woman was interviewed and enjoyed herself in the area. Her only complaint was that the concrete playgrounds destroyed the children's clothes very quickly", says Andrea Luciani.

The research group in architecture at Luleå University of Technology places great focus on architecture and community planning in arctic climate.

Andrea Luciani

Andrea Luciani, Senior Lecturer

Phone: +46 (0)920 493949
Organisation: Architecture, Architecture and Water, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering