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David Helldén: modernistisk visionär på traditionens grund
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of the History of Art.
Responsible organisation
2003 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [sv]

Architect David Helldén (1905-1990) took part in the formation of some of the most well-known buildings and environs in Stockholm. Hötorgscity, Sergels Torg and the turquoise glass complex of Stockholm University at Frescati all bear his signature, as does Hökarängen Centre, which includes the first pedestrianised shopping street in Sweden. Helldén’s production also embraces Malmö Stadsteater (in collaboration with Erik Lallerstedt and Sigurd Lewerentz), part of the Ribershus housing area in the same city, several interesting school buildings and advanced private houses. During the last three decades Helldén has come to be regarded as a dogmatic Modernist and something of a second-rate figure in twentieth-century Swedish architecture. If he has been given any credit at all, it has been as a communicator and executor of ideas seen as other

people’s rather than his own. This has, however, long been felt to be a rather narrow opinion and it is against this background that the investigation should be seen. The intention has been to map out and study the whole of Helldén’s professional activity as related to the larger,

often complex contexts of which this was part, in order to see what he really did and what actual significance he had. In this investigation four main categories of source material are included, using the research methods most appropriate to each. The first category comprises documents and drawings connected with the process of shaping the buildings (traditional studies in a number of archives, including the Swedish Museum of Architecture, where Helldén’s own archive is now to be found), the second category comprises the buildings themselves (studies and photographic documentation on site), the third category consists of material which relates how the buildings were received in their own time (run-through of reports from competition judges, various types of published material such as newsreels, and radio and TV programmes), and the fourth category consists of recollections formulated at a later date bypeople who have been involved in various ways (written testimonies and interviews, including those recorded

with David Helldén himself). The investigation shows that Helldén quite clearly can be reckoned as belonging to a small group of people through history who have had an absolutely decisive influence over the shaping of Stockholm. In the development of Sweden as a whole Helldén has been of more limited, though not unimportant, significance. Above all he has influenced other architects as an innovator and visionary, while the buildings he has completed have played a lesser role. Seen in an international perspective, on the other hand, Helldén can be reckoned among the group of architects who developed Modernism with enthusiasm and great skill into a worldwide design movement. It is clear, too, that Helldén was, in this context, not only a receiver of external impulses, but also himself contributed to developments internationally. David Helldén belonged in spirit, though not in years, to the generation which pioneered Modernism, and this was why he often went wrong in relation to the ideals of the time. He was, however, by no means a dogmatic Modernist, even if the way in which he handled the existing environment would nowadays be unthinkable. On the contrary, Helldén was also strongly anchored in an older tradition: he never, for example, designed any out-and-out Modernist private houses. It is just this “doubleness” which gives him much of his strength as an architect. Helldén’s really great gift lies, however, in his way of being able to visualise his unconventional and innovative ideas on architecture and urban design and transform them into tangible projects. It is this which ultimately qualifies him for a place in twentiethcentury architectural history – as one of the true visionaries of the Modern project.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag , 2003. , 578 p.
Monografier utgivna av Stockholms stad, ISSN 0282-5899 ; 163
Keyword [sv]
David Helldén, Architecture, Modernism, Sweden, Hötorgscity, Sergels Torg, Stockholm University
National Category
Art History
Research subject
History Of Art
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-7817ISBN: 91-7031-128-5OAI: diva2:199091
Public defence
2003-01-25, Hörsal A2, Södra huset, Universitetsv.10, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2003-01-03 Created: 2003-01-03 Last updated: 2009-07-08Bibliographically approved

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