Spotlight: Gert Wingårdh


Aula Medica. Image © Tord-Rikard Soderstrom

Aula Medica. Image © Tord-Rikard Soderstrom

One of Sweden’s most esteemed living architects, Gert Wingårdh (born 26 April 1951) brought Swedish architecture out of the tradition of the International Style and into contemporary times with his playful design spirit and love of eye-catching materials. With his use of bright colors and geometric motifs, his recent buildings have been described as “Maximalist” or “Modern Baroque.”


© Jesper Ray <a href='https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gert_Wingardh_photo.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>

© Jesper Ray <a href='https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gert_Wingardh_photo.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>

Wingårdh was born in Skövde, Sweden as the only child of owners of a cement factory. At age 10, the family moved to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city, where Wingårdh took an interest in art and cinema, eventually enrolling at Gothenburg University to study art history. While in the program, Wingårdh traveled to Rome and was captivated by the city and its classical buildings, in particular the Pantheon. Returning home, Wingårdh enrolled at Chalmers University, where he received his masters of architecture.


Facts Tåkern Visitor Centre. Image © Åke E:son Lindman

Facts Tåkern Visitor Centre. Image © Åke E:son Lindman

Upon graduation in 1975, Wingårdh began working for Olivegrens Arkitektkontor AB. This was his only job at a firm before opening his own practice, Wingårdh Arkitektkontor, in 1977. The next 10 years saw Wingårdh take on small commissions before his critical breakthrough in 1988 with his design for the Öijared Executive Country Club outside Gothenburg. Inspired by the earth-sheltered structures of Emilio Ambasz, the country club was placed into a hillside and entirely covered in earth, allowing the roof of the building to act as the golf course’s first tee. The project earned Wingårdh the first of his record 5 Kasper Salin prizes, the highest award in Sweden for excellence in architecture.


VillAnn. Image © James Silverman

VillAnn. Image © James Silverman

The next 20 years saw more prize-winning architecture, including the Astra Zeneca complex in Mölndal (1993), the Chalmers Student Union Building (2001), VillAnn (2005), City Pool in Landskrona (2006) and the Aranäs High School (2006). In the late 90’s, Wingårdh began working internationally, receiving the commissions for the Swedish Embassies in Berlin (1999) and in Washington, D.C. (2006), known as the House of Sweden.


Kuggen. Image © Tord-Rikard Soderstrom

Kuggen. Image © Tord-Rikard Soderstrom

In the last decade, Wingårdh began to develop a more stylistic aesthetic, often implementing bold colors, geometric patterns and dramatically tilting walls in his designs for large-scale shopping centers and university buildings. Projects in this period include Muritzeum (2008), K:Fem Department Store (2008), Facts Tåkern Visitor Centre (2008), Spira Performing Arts Center (2011) Emporia Shopping Center (2012), Quality Hotel Friends (2013), and Aula Medica at Karolinska (2013). His 2011 design for Kuggen (“The Cog”) at Chalmers features a rotating screen shielding the top floors from harsh sun.


Victoria Tower. Image © Åke E:son Lindman

Victoria Tower. Image © Åke E:son Lindman

He has attracted some controversy in his home country for his embrace of skyscrapers. His Victoria Tower (2011) is one of the tallest buildings in Stockholm, and a recent design for a 237-meter, 75-story tower in south Stockholm has been put on hold due to outcry that it may not meet zoning requirements.


Facts Emporia. Image © Tord-Rikard Soderstrom

Facts Emporia. Image © Tord-Rikard Soderstrom

In 2015, Wingårdh released “What is Architecture? And 100 Other Questions,” a popular book that provides both a long and short answer for what he believes are the most pressing questions in architecture today. Wingårdh answers the titular question by responding that architecture is “the built image of ourselves.” Looking at his work through this lens, it is clear that Wingårdh now believes the greatest human attribute is our capacity for playfulness.


Quality Hotel Friends / Karolina Keyzer + Wingårdhs. Image © Tord-Rikard Soderstrom

Quality Hotel Friends / Karolina Keyzer + Wingårdhs. Image © Tord-Rikard Soderstrom

See all of Gert Wingårdh’s work featured on ArchDaily via the thumbnails below, and more coverage via the links below those:

What is Architecture? And 100 Other Questions

This book by Rasmus Wærn & Gert Wingårdh of Wingårdh Arkitektkontor asks 100 seemingly simple questions about architecture in a way that is as provocative and entertaining as it is poignant.

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