Slab, point-accessTowerUrban villa
Stille, Arvid (site plan),; C. Johnasson, B. Hedvall, R. Österberbg, S. Frölen, L. Bryde. H. Ahlberg | Stockholm, Sweden | 1929-1950
Image of Gärdet
Typical slab facades along the upper streets of the site.

ArchitectStille, Arvid (site plan),; C. Johnasson, B. Hedvall, R. Österberbg, S. Frölen, L. Bryde. H. Ahlberg
AddressErik Dalhlsbergsgatan/Vartavägen/Valhallavägen/Smedsbacksgatan
Building TypeSlab, point-access
Urban villa
Number of DwellingsNA
Date Built1929-1950
Dwelling Typesstudio, 1, 2, & 3 bra.
No. Floors9
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
stucco, wood windows
Construction TypeR-C frame
Ancillary ServicesSome shops, parking garages facing Tessinparken, balconies

Gärdet is one of the largest residential districts built in Stockholm during the 1930's. A competition was held for the design of a new residential neighborhood on a large wooded tract that the city owned just north of the perimeter of the 19th century city at the east end of Östermalm. The design competition for the site, won by Arvid Stille in 1929, was a scheme for a monumental, axial, symmetrical composition which proposed an axial extension of the north/south axis of Karla Square, the main space of the formal park system of Östermalm. Stille's design was severely criticized by the Functionalist architects of the time enamored with the movement which was gaining momentum just the year before the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930. Stille's design was revised to respond more to the Functionalist program for light, air, sunshine and green space, in deliberate contrast to the perimeter block pattern of the adjacent inner city of Östermalm. Seen against the backdrop of garden city ideas prevalent at the time--Hallman's interventions at Röda Bergen and Lärkstaden--and the emerging doctrines of Functionalism, the revised Stille plan can be seen to incorporate both Functionalist and English Garden City planning ideas. Gärdet is a very large site, roughly one half by one kilometer in size, and includes about 100 separate buildings which vary in size from 4 story point access slabs and compact towers, to long 2 story slabs and 9 story towers. There are several thousand dwellings, mostly small studio, one and two bedrooms apartments housing close to 10,000 people. The site is divided into a lower area which slopes gradually up to the north, and an upper area which is very steep and still wooded. The lower zone is organized as a convergent axial system on both sides of a Tessin Park, a beautiful, long landscaped park which is the north/south extension of the coordinates of Karla Square. The upper site, on the slopes of a steep hill, consists of freestanding towers and slabs fronting streets which curve with the contours. Acting as an interface between the two zones of the site, Tessin Park spreads east and west. Here, a row of freestanding terraced blocks front the north edge of the park facing across the park area to the south. Along the sides of the park, 6 and 8 story slabs define a zone of smaller courtyards. The taller blocks, aligned east and west are placed with ends to Tessin Park creating the impression of a row of independent towers along both sides of the park. The 6 story slabs are used to form a more continuous edge along the side streets. This formation of freestanding slabs combines Functionalist building elements with traditional perimeter block planning. The blocks along the park have hipped tiled roofs, and extensive balconies at the ends overlooking the park. The upper site, which rises sharply from Tessin Park, is organized along the contours and steps from the 4 story blocks fronting the park to 9 story buildings at the top of the hill. This strategy maximizes southern exposure to the upper site and creates the impression of terraced housing when seen from the park below. The small blocks along the north edge of Tessin Park are rendered as freestanding villas; white walls, raised on pilotis, with terraces, balconies, strip windows, awnings and exterior solar blinds. The photographs of these buildings, which were widely published, were quintessential vignettes of modernist residential architecture and must have had an important effect on housing design in the post war period. The upper site is terraced along curving streets. Long, 6 to 8 story slabs, of a particular interior corridor type, are aligned on some streets in the usual manner with balconies facing west and south. Towers were placed on the steepest part of the slope where a limited footprint was advantageous. There the trees were left intact as much as possible. These towers vary in height with the rugged landscape but always have a common alignment. The towers, especially, are paradigmatic models of modernist apartment buildings; point access towers--pure prismatic, brightly-painted forms--free-standing in an undefiled natural landscape which can be experienced from personal elevated balconies, and equipped with the machine imagery and fittings of the times.

Most of the buildings at Gärdet were built between 1935 and 1939 by many different architects including C. Johansson, B. Hedvall, R. Östberg, S. Frölén, and L. Bryde, A. Stark, M. Bolander, A. Cronvall and others. The masonry construction used at the beginning changed to reinforced concrete frame at the work progressed. The lower buildings had hipped tile roofs with overhanging eaves and lots of individual balconies, and corner windows. The exteriors are painted stucco. The cantilevered balconies, metal balustrades, awnings and window shades and the use of machinelike details especially on the entrances and lobbies--marble, stainless steel, mahogany and birch panels, round windows, neon numbers, and other details instill an Art Deco quality to many buildings. Each apartment had a kitchen and bath as well as access to other communal facilities such as laundries and built-in waste chutes. The decision to have elevators in every building resulted in a unique, dense plan types which were based on getting as many dwellings per floor as possible. Some of the slabs are doubled-loaded corridor types with two elevators and stairs, grouped around a short interior hall. In the towers, several apartments are grouped around an interior lobby usually with a round stair, and access to several different-sized apartments per floor. This type usually had a unique stepped perimeter designed to provide balconies for each dwelling while still opening to a preferred exposure.

More buildings were added to the edges of Gärdet in later years which do not seem to fit into the complex as well as the originals. Probably the worst example of this is the huge lamellar mega structure, built in the 1970's which blocks the axial extension of Tessin Park to Karla Square. The original buildings were individually owned and the apartments rented, however this has changed over the years and now are owned by housing associations. Like most Swedish housing, Gärdet seems to be in excellent condition, however, renovations over the years has resulted in the loss of some of detail quality as windows, doors, balustrades and other elements were replaced with lesser quality materials. Gärdet remains an important example of how modernist buildings can be used to build in an inner city area without any loss of urban definition of the traditional street/block pattern while still maintaining the programmatic requirements of the new architecture: economical construction, light, air, sunshine and landscape.

Henrik O. Andersson/Frederic Bedoire, Stockholm Architecture and Townscape, Prisma ,Stockholm,
1988, p. 263

James Pickford,

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