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Endangered Architecture—The Work of Bernt Nyberg

BERNT NYBERG

The Swedish architect Bernt Nyberg had a short career that produced a small but astounding body of work. He died in 1978 and unfortunately time has not been kind to his architecture, leaving much of it demolished, decaying or detrimentally altered. Given the imminent threat to the work, the goal was to present it to a larger audience as a call to action to save the remaining buildings and promote a critical dialog regarding the preservation of aging modernist structures, which is not a problem unique to Sweden. Over the past four years, Matt Hall has been researching Nyberg’s work culminating in a traveling exhibit and accompanying publication that explains its intent while simultaneously articulating its tragic demise. In late March, Hall presented a lecture on Nyberg’s work to open the exhibit at the Skissernas Museum (Museum of Process and Public art) in Lund Sweden. The exhibit will later move the gallery at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture with an endgame to produce the first monograph on his work.

View the gallery of the exhibition

The exhibit consists of two timelines, one that shows the work in its original state through archival photographs and a second presenting fragments and views of the architecture in its current condition. In addition to practicing architecture, Nyberg was also a filmmaker who tragically left many projects in the works. Unedited films are looped in the darkened space that necessitated the static imagery to be backlit for clarity. The accompanying book serves as a manual with project descriptions and essays that frame the work in a larger context to include Nyberg’s close collaboration with the Swedish master architect Sigurd Lewerentz. Lewerentz was prolific but often misunderstood. An understanding of the relationship between these two architects serves to shed new light on Lewerentz and to introduce Nyberg to a new audience.

Nyberg’s surviving collaborators served as critics and contributors to the project, and multiple organizations provided financial and logistical support to include the Peter and Birgitta Celsing Foundation, The Swedish Center for Architecture and Design and The Auburn University SEED Grant Program. The project’s success will only be apparent when Nyberg’s architecture, or that of his contemporaries, is inevitably threatened. By then we hope that this project, and its message about the importance of this endangered architecture, will have reached a wider audience.

Nyberg was in his prime when he passed, leaving us with a small quantity of astounding work of exacting quality showing unique technical and aesthetic prowess. His fascination for the archaic, the honest, and the timeless suggest such architecture is a dying breed and occupies an important and unique period in modern architectural history. There were few architects like him, and even fewer buildings remain as the countdown to their extinction moves at a pace of fatal acceleration; an endangered architecture.

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