October 2nd, 2006
St Mark, Bjorkhagen, Stockholm. Sigurd Lewerentz.
St Mark, Bjorkhagen. Through the birch wood.
St Mark is one of two brown brick churches completed by this architect in the ’50s and ’60s (the other is St Peter’s, Klippan). Like St Peter’s it is a precise geometric composition of church, parish offices, social rooms and courtyard. Set in a birch wood separated from the unremarkable suburban apartments nearby, there is no sense of the building contributing to the immediate urban area in any conventional way. The architect establishes a detached environment within the birch grove, creating a sense of place which might have existed before the arrival of the suburb. The church buildings enclose a courtyard oriented north/south. The church itself is oriented in the traditional way but it is difficult to identify the nave within the massing of the building. The building achieves a reorientation of the visitor in time, position and atmosphere.
South facade. Courtyard central; offices left; church and social rooms right.
Bells in the undulating section of wall.
Entrance canopy and courtyard.
A timber portico (detached as at the Resurrection Chapel) watches over the courtyard and marks the entrance to the church. The church itself is entered through a foyer followed by a public hall. This succession appears to be inspired by the processional sequence in early-Christian churches. The route from the from the courtyard is a progression from daylight to darkness.
Hall (nave doors to the right)
As you enter it is difficult to make out the features in the nave. It takes time to adjust and accept the new condition. A baptism is in progress. It is as dark as an underground space: a crypt or catacomb. An architect from Jerusalem also visiting the church that day attempted to explain it to me: “This is the work of a master. The use of light is masterful. In the darkness our eyes search for the light. We must wait for the light to be revealed to us.” A single window high-up on the south side of the nave allows a shaft of light to pick out a small piece of the nave floor. The ceremony continues. The bells ring. The baptised child is raised up and shown to the congregation.