Diploma 2017: "The Ceremony of Space Creating a secular alternative to the multitude of religious buildings in Stockholm with tools retrieved from the past and the present for the future" by Susanna Lindvall

Tutors: Andre Fontes (APP), Eva Kun (DAV), Harald Røstvik (sustainability), Sigurdur Gunnarson (TTA)

Sweden is a secular country and the third least religious country in the world. One survey states that only 10% of the population classify themselves to be religious. You are no longer born into religion, it is a choice to join a community or not. Considering the country’s Christian history, there are countless religious buildings (churches mainly) in Sweden. Ceremonies like weddings, funerals and name givings mainly take place in religious buildings. If one wishes for it to be civil, religious symbols are removed. Most of the civil ceremonies that do take place are in the area of the capital of Stockholm. There are 13 chapels belonging to the Church that allow civil ceremonies. The second official alternative is the Town Hall and City Hall.

Considering the rising demand for civil ceremonies and also acknowledging the fact that in a society moving fast forward, the implementation of a place for contemplation and spirituality, if you will, would set an example of stating a current need in Swedish society. The program of this project therefore addresses the possibility of creating a place where it is possible to have ceremonies and celebrations, possibilities of meeting with officiants to plan such things. A place both for solitude and multitude. If one has personal issues touching upon different aspects of life, one has a place to come and get heard and seen. The possibility of having lectures, discussing matters of life. Simultaneously it should be an open place, with the constant possibility of passing through, adding to the public building network of the city.

A place for contemplation, ceremony and celebration is multi-faceted, and deals with different layers of time. Time of life, the times we live in, the time that has past and the time that will come. Which architecturally provides tools for how to go about creating an example of such a building. 

The project consists of three parts. The first part looks at religious buildings in Stockholm and other references, trying to discover qualities they can possess. Secondly looking at Stockholm’s context and history to see how layers of time can be found and portrayed; both topical and existing as well as historical. Lastly, combining this information into a design.

1. The visits to a number of churches around Stockholm were based on an attempt to experience them with an objective eye. Which architectural qualities can be found that induce certain behaviours or feelings? A few examples of frequently observed and appreciated elements were: how uneven floors can make you think or notice something. The change under foot forces one to look down. Ambivalence in detail, an object appearing, disappearing and reappearing. A color, shape, material or pattern slightly changing; A tool highlighting the notion of memory or recollection. How reflections are images from a different place, and how it can also reflect you. Churches have been the main bearers of common ground and thus also public space throughout time. They have also been placed strategically in the cities, for visibility and accessibility, becoming centers of the city. The very first church of a town marks the center of it, and when the city is growing more, churches are built and the movement to the church is shifted in relation to the visitor’s whereabouts. In relation to this, centrality for the place of the project has been important, as it would be the first of its kind in the area.

2. When looking at the center of Stockholm, the majority of the buildings are office and commercial buildings. The urban mosaic of the center is perceived as an anomaly to the rest of the city’s structure, an the reason for this is a drastic modernization that took place between 1950 and late 1960s. The modernization, called “Norrmalmsregleringen”, aimed to make way for the car and commerce, and resulted in the demolishing of 700 buildings, some dating back to the 1600s. The aesthetic of the “new area” is of course as a result, very different from the rest of the city.

This urban regulation symbolizes time in many ways: The meeting of the old and the new, what was lost and what was achieved, the lives led in the place before and after. Looking at the overlap of the old, demolished buildings, and the new buildings provides an interesting city pattern. There are certain gaps in the network where an area was demolished to make way for a plaza or a wide road. Today, not all of these gaps are active, but all the same considered highly eligible spots by the municipality. The chosen site for the project is in one of the overlapping places that today neither constitutes a major traffic node nor an already well-working plaza. A place embraced by office buildings and in a street where one of the largest changes during the regulation took place.

3. Using these observations as design tools are thus retrieved by reoccurring, found qualities in studied spaces and the meeting between the existing and the lost.


View from north entrance

 Model picture

 Looking sideways by north entrance

 Looking ahead


In silence watching the light


.Stopping for a moment