Expressionist Architecture

Situated on the top of small hill in ordinary residential area of Bispebjerg Bakke is a monumental church in size of a cathedral. Built as a memorial for priest, hymn writer and educator Nikolaj Frederik Severin Gruntvig (1783-1872). My favourite sacral building - Gruntvig’s Church.

The exterior is bold and expressive, emerging out of nowhere, resembling futuristic and dark architecture of city of Metropolis. Made entirely of bricks (5 millions of them), it is reported that only nine bricklayers were used throughout the entire construction period to lay them. Working at rate of 150 bricks per day, rather than the usual 1500, it took almost 20 years to built this church.

On the outside the darkened bricks and sharp, almost scary facade, create a natural opposite to the soft and light interior — where poetic array of soaring vaults made from the same buttery bricks form a single palette of infinite structure. The daylight coming in through simple tall windows enrich the humble interior with a silky texture and emphasise warm, calm and sacred feeling of the place. 

Minimum decorations, no pictures of saints, only carefully placed millions of ordinary bricks towering in columns. These bricks in their simplicity links to Mr. Gruntvig himself.  He, too, celebrated the ordinariness of traditional Danish culture, and believed that education based on this simplicity would enrich rather than debase Danish cultural life. The architect of this memorial, Jensen Klint, also strove to achieve the greatest possible simplicity and like the medieval master builders he also integrated a number of simple numerical ratios that provide a sense of harmony that is easy on eye.

This unique mixture of medieval and gothic elements interpreted through the most basic rules and materials creates minimalistic, but surprisingly powerful and beautifully fragile place. 

Open: TUE-SAT 9:00-16:00 (on THUR till 18:00), SUN 9:00-13:00. MON closed.


Photos and text by me

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