Biography of Carl Gustav Bergsten (1879-1935)

Architect, designer, teacher and Swedish Publisher born in Norrköping on May 10, 1879 and died in Stockholm, on April 22, 1935. Carl Bergsten is considered, together with Ernst Stenhammar and Georg Nilsson the introducer of modernism in his country. His theories in favour of a new conception of space between the building and its surroundings were reflected not only in their work but also through his theoretical writings published as editor of Arkitectur magazine.

Carl Gustav Bergsten began his studies of architecture in 1897, the year in which entered Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan, and ended them after passing by the Kungliga Akademien för de fria Konsterna (Stockholm) in 1903. Following his studies, Bergsten continued his education with a trip by German, Austrian and Norwegian lands where used to assimilate the technical and aesthetic innovations that drove the Jugendstil (art nouveau) movement. The panorama of Swedish architecture, which along with Nilsson and Stenhammar was going to change profoundly, was torn between a predominantly architecture 1880-90s based on the mix of eclecticism of style and realistic treatment of building materials: traditional Swedish wood and red brick. The next decade broke through a new trend of character neo-Baroque deep Germanic influence. In his first productions, Bergsten channelled their architectural proposals through an architectural language next to modernism but nuanced this by a sense of compositional balance and ornamental restraint. Decisive in its architectural design was the influence of the Viennese secessionist architects, especially the figure of Joseph María Olbrich. The influence of Bergsten in the early 20th century Swedish architectural debate articulated not only in their projects they found another way of dissemination through teaching and publishing.

With respect to this last, Bergsten was the editor of the journal of architecture Arkitectur between 1912 and 1916, publication from which encouraged the architectural debate. It was during his years at the head of this publication, when together with the architects Ragnar Östberg and Ivar Tengbom formed the architecture workshop school Klara (Klara School), from which presented a series of projects that were imposed as innovators against the conservative character of architects coming to the Academy. The referred study were subsequently added young Swedish architects who shared with the other components of the workshop attention by the new functionalist proposals and the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Among them were Gunnar Asplundand Sigura Lewerentz Osvald Almqvist. Carl Bergsten architectural production included work civil, religious and public commissions.

In the first decade of the 20th century, carried out a series of buildings which put into practice his architectural thesis: brilliant game of volumes, contrast between symmetry and asymmetry to compositional level and employment of black brick as a building block using your decorative potential. We can point out as the most prominent of this period the offices of the Bank Scandinavia (1906-08), built in Norkoping; primary school of Olay (1908) and finally, the offices of the society of lithographic printing (1911). In 1916 ended in Stockholm the Liljevalch Gallery, construction which marked an evolution in his style: is lost the unity of the building block in favour of greater attention to the relationship inside/outside, adapting itself to the other. Between the production of Bergsten are also religious orders materialized in the construction of buildings of worship: in 1909 projected the Church Hjorhagen (Stockholm) and in 1913 Enskede Church. In both buildings functionalism which warns in the civil works of Bergsten gives way to a greater expressiveness of materials; This resulted in his bold use of parabolic arcs in the first, and by its near to the romanticism in the second vision.


HATJE, GERD. Illustrated dictionary of contemporary architecture. Barcelona, Gustavo Gili, 1975.

BENEVOLENT, LEONARDO. History of modern architecture. Barcelona, Gustavo Gili, 1975.

ROY, S. contemporary Architettura in Scandinavia. Bologna, 1965.

CALDENBY, CLAES; LINDVALL, JORAN and WANG, WILFRIED, ed. Sweden: architecture of the 20th century. New York, International book, 1998.

Internet links; (web site in Swedish with pictures of the Swedish Pavilion designed by architect in 1906).