The final major work of the Swedish master Sigurd Lewerentz, Saint Peter in Klippan, Sweden is a holistic, obsessive, and moving space. A disorienting journey through a thick and tranquil atmosphere, the church is intimate in scale and carefully detailed. Shadow dominates the interior of Saint Peter. Sources of illumination are sparse, focused, and purposeful, lending warmth and contrast to the space. The atmosphere of Saint Peter is inseparable from the treatment of the masonry. Lewerentz insisted on never cutting a brick to turn corners or make complex forms, and uses mortar with equal skill to craft careful moments. Saint Peter of Klippan is an intimate experience in which craft constructs atmosphere.
The ceiling is supported by a structure of raw iron beams, elevated by a large cross.
Legacy of Lewerentz
Begun when he was 78 years old, Saint Peter was to be Lewerentz’s last major project. It is a direct evolution of the techniques, materials, and moves which Lewerentz employed in his earlier Saint Mark’s church in Stockholm. Rather than relying on typical drawings, Lewerentz spent nearly every day on site dictating where bricks should be placed and toiling intimately with the workers on models and mock-ups. Aside from some models and drawings, the process was largely undocumented, and many of the records available today were generated by admirers, students, and other architects.
Lewerentz’s intent and some of the moves he made are still open for interpretation. This degree of attention and intention mirrors the role of traditional master builders, who would have worked on the Gothic cathedrals of the middle ages. Today, the church of Saint Peter is the pride of Klippan. Although its congregation is small, they are devoted and eager to share their church with international visitors. Located at a crucial point along a sacred religious route, built at a critical point in history, it is a site of pilgrimage for architects and believers alike.
The procession of the clergy from the sacristy to the altar is illuminated by a set of deeply recessed skylights. This sacred route travels parallel to the front of the congregation, following a path of light that begins at the sacristy door and terminates in front of the altar. While the wall apertures are objectified and observable, the skylights are implemented solely to illuminate a path. Here, natural illumination is being employed in order to highlight activity and key moments in the service, while its source is completely concealed. Lewerentz’s deft, sparse, and intentional control of illumination would be reflected in his material selections.
Skylights illuminate the path which the minister traverses before the seats to the altar.