Saturday, August 1, 2009

Seaside: The Swedish Dream

I long to spend a last summer day on the balcony of this home we feature in our soon to be released book "Swedish Country Interiors"! The photos shown here are by Peter Aaron of Esto for Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMA). When scouting for houses Rhonda and I were lucky enough to have heard of this jewel set on the beach in Seaside, Florida and we immediately contacted Gary Brewer, a partner at RAMA and Partner-in- Charge of the project. Although the firm does not usually take on smaller residences, in this case the clients' vision and an opportunity to design a home located in this New Urbanism landmark community (most famously shown in the Film "The Truman Show") was too much to resist.

Gary, whose wife is Swedish, was very influenced he tells us by the neoclassical inspired buildings in Sweden from the 1890's as well as by the work of the great German neoclassical architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. But this late 19th century interest in neoclassicism was an echo of even earlier crazes for all things Greek, Roman, Etruscan, that happened throughout the 18th century during the period of Baroque classicism, and later, during the neoclassical movement of the Enlightenment. Sweden's great architects participated actively in all of these movements.

I can't help but notice the similarities between the Seaside house and this most Swedish of Baroque palaces Steninge, designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger and completed by him in 1705. We will return to Steninge (and hopefully larger images!) in other postings because it has the most exciting and dynamic history; partly commisioned by Gustav III's mother Queeen Hedvig Eleanora with her good friend Carl Gyllenstierna, owned by Marie Antoinette's lover Axel von Fersen, designed by one of the Tessin get the idea. Tessin was partly educated in Rome and was influenced by the great Italian architects Bernini and Carlo Fontana, as can be seen in the facade of the palace. Le Notre was studying the Italians at the same time and there are great similarites here to Vaux-le-Vicomte in France.

Can you see in this the Seaside house? Columns on the facade of the second story are used in both instances and the roof top balustrade with urns of the castle is repeated in a more modern way on the third story balcony of the Seaside house with a pair of stunning large urns.

Here is a view of the house and its balconies from the sand dunes. Rhonda and I agree - we love that Gary did not paint the roof of the projecting "temple" but left the wood natural - this is so Nordic in feeling.

I wanted to show you another neocloassical Swedish facade that takes it cue from Italianate forms. This is the main building of an iron works in Finland designed by Swedish 18th c. architect Eric Plamsted. Unlike the Steninge palace, which has plastered stone walls, this stucture is made entirely of wood. I love the horizontal clapboarding on the third story and how the white faux columns stand out so crisply against the yellow background. Yellow was favored as a house color by nobility of this time as it mimiced sandstone of the Continent and amazing examples of 18th c. yellow two story buildings can be seen throughout the Swedish and Finnish countryside, exclamation points to the ubiquitous Falun red dwellings. (Photo: Ingalil Snitt from "The Swedish House" by Lars Sjoberg, Monticello, 2007)

The classical look was supremely popular indoors as well. Here is a close up of some paneling from the dining room at Medivi Brunn, Sweden's oldest spa. The wall panels were painted to imitate Italian marble and here again the white columns stand out against the soft yellow ochre background.

Is this not a temple to the sun? The single column was used on the third floor balcony not only as an ode to neoclassicism and Schinkel's work but for a more practical purpose as well. By having a single support column the diagonal views up and down the beach are totally unobstructed and one feels totally at one with the landscape.

An outbuilding at Steninge. I am looking for a book with more pictures of the palace grounds to show you...perhaps in another post.

There is such strength in the wooden temples. Here, is a great example from America's own Greek Revival Movement that is located right down the road from our old location in Woodbury, CT. This is the King Solomon's Temple built in the 1830's and what you can't see in the photo is that it is set on top of a mammoth piece of rock. Very dramatic! Throughout all of these classical revivals, from Northern Sweden to Federal America, men were trying to evoke and align themselves with the nobler qualites associated with antiquity....

such as equality, natural order, short, THE IDEAL. How do you feel when you see neoclassical influenced design?


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