Designed by Swedish architect Sigurd Lewerentz, the Church of St Peter in Klippan stands as a monolithic architectural statement, defying norms and transcending time. Completed when Lewerentz was 81, the church is a poetic testimony to his lifelong dedication to architecture. He returned to the professional scene after over a decade, and with this project, he intricately wove a matrix of materiality, spatiality, and spirituality into a singular tapestry.
The Church of St Peter Technical Information
- Architects: Sigurd Lewerentz
- Location: Klippan, Sweden
- Topics: Brick in Architecture, Sacred Spaces
- Project Year: 1962-1966
- Photographs: © Chen Hao
A church should not look as if it had been designed; it should look as if it had happened.
– Sigurd Lewerentz1-2
The Church of St Peter in Klippan Photographs
The Eternal Language of Brick
Lewerentz was not one to conform to architectural standards. Instead, he set his own rules. The guiding principle for the project was almost quixotic: never cut a brick. This seemingly simplistic rule turned into a deeply complex and laborious design challenge. Every brick was placed under the architect’s discerning eye, generating an architectural dialect that communicated the reciprocity between construction and design. The placement of each brick became an exercise in tectonic problem-solving, resulting in a nuanced choreography of joints and connections.
The architect’s daring approach to detailing included the unconventional pointing of the bricks, where the mortar was smeared across the brick faces, giving them a textural and raw quality. This method foregrounds the craftsmanship and labor involved in the construction, making the building a living artifact that echoes the hands that made it.
Complementing the coarse brickwork are the pristine, almost mirrored glass panes held in place by simple brackets. This creates a palpable tension between material honesty and architectural sleight of hand, keeping the viewer continually intrigued. The enigmatic detailing, especially around the windows, serves as an invitation to look closer, to question, and to reflect on the elements that make this building a work of art.
The church’s spatial character emphasizes materiality. The unwavering use of dark brick for walls, ceilings, floors, and even furniture unifies the composition, allowing the varying formal expressions in the ensemble of buildings to coexist harmoniously. The church is a pastiche of spatial influences, borrowing elements from Catholic churches, monasteries, and Swedish farmhouses, all harmoniously articulated through the medium of brick.
A Journey Through Sacred Space
Entering the Church of St Peter is a spiritual and architectural journey in itself. The main church and its ancillary buildings are separated by an internal street that leads worshippers on a processional route around the entire church. The entrance is discreet, hidden in an unassuming passage—a deliberate choice by Lewerentz to make the journey towards God a quest for the seeker.
The nave is geometric, yet its spatial composition leans towards irregularity and asymmetry. The cavernous internal landscape of the church, filled with architectural surprises, unfolds as one spends time within it. It’s not the conventional grandiosity that captures you; rather, it’s the intimate, even somber scale, softened by the texture of the rough bricks and the mysterious play of light and shadow.
The church’s architectural language leans heavily on the blend of symbolism and tectonic logic. Two large steel beams intersect at an off-center column, suggesting a corten-steel cross that supports the vaulted brick ceiling. This cross, symbolic in its religious import and functional in its structural role, unifies the architecture in a single expressive gesture.
Inside, the landscape continues to unfold with a remarkable internal terrain that rises and dips, guiding the worshippers. This complex topography of brick courses, coupled with the placement of the altar, pulpit, and other sacred elements, invites the congregation into a profound dialogue between earthly and divine.
And it’s not just the visible elements that speak to the level of craftsmanship and thought put into the project. Even the unseen roof vents were meticulously designed, hidden from human sight but ever-present in the divine gaze. This speaks to Lewerentz’s deep sense of faith and dedication to his craft.
The church of St. Peter is a masterpiece that resists easy classification. It’s contemporary yet primitive, distinct yet vernacular, and complex yet simple. It transcends architectural norms to offer an experience that is deeply human and divine, and in doing so, it has etched itself as an eternal monument in the history of 20th century architecture.
The Church of St Peter in Klippan Plans
The Church of St Peter in Klippan Image Gallery
About Sigurd Lewerentz
Sigurd Lewerentz was a Swedish architect and furniture designer, born in 1885 and passing away in 1975. Often considered one of the most influential architects in modern Swedish history, Lewerentz had a career that spanned many architectural styles, from Classicism to Functionalism and, later, Brutalism. He is renowned for his meticulous attention to detail, innovative use of materials and the deeply spiritual nature of his work. His most famous projects include the Stockholm South (Skogskyrkogården) Cemetery, which he co-designed with Gunnar Asplund, and the Church of St. Peter in Klippan. Lewerentz’s work has had a lasting impact on both Scandinavian and international architecture, continuing to be studied and revered today.
Notes & Additional Credits
- Sigurd Lewerentz Architect of Death and Life by
- The quote encapsulates his belief that the design of sacred spaces should emanate a sense of organic growth and spiritual necessity rather than appear to be the result of mere architectural exercise. Lewerentz emphasized the emotional and spiritual aspects of architecture, particularly when it came to designing religious buildings.