I AM a representative of the former British Empire and the current Commonwealth of Nations; I am the descendant of Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and the son of an RAF pilot. I did
not graduate with First Class honours from Cambridge University and since then have not entered the Foreign Office’s prestigious diplomatic corps.
‘The Northern Plights’ documents my assessment of Sweden for the possibility of any future conquests which the British Government’s War Cabinet is
DISPATCH 3: Architecture.
Now, I may not be able to tell my Tadao Andos from my Sir Christopher Wrens, but I have always enjoyed being in the company of buildings. I have never really worked out why underlings have been so fascinated with so-called places of natural beauty. A large rock in the middle of the Australian outback/dust bowl is just that, a large rock – it is just there, it required no effort. My theory here is these places are, more often than not, free of any admission charge. I want to go where The Great Unwashed are not invited.
Lots of Poor People staring at the Niagara Falls:
So you can picture my aghast face as I was first chauffeured through the streets of Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö. One can only imagine that the town planners were a class of six year olds who were each given a pencil and a ruler and asked to draw a building using “as little imagination as possible”.
At first I was frustrated that I had
not been assigned to this somewhat drab and dreary metropolis, but just weeks into my Assessment something dawned on me – what appeared to be Soviet-style blocks on the exterior were actually the shells for some of the most luxurious and impeccably designed apartments I had ever bore witness to. Once this seed had been implanted in my Cambridge-University trained brain I started to spot it everywhere I went; the train station, the hospital, the municipal offices, the secluded private members clubs and so on.
The outside of a block of luxurious flats:
No sooner had I begun to quiz myself about this paradox than the answer came to me in a gust of wind so cold that it almost made the end of my Jewishly inherited nose crack and shatter – Malmö is a dastardly windy city, and it is a cold wind to boot.
It was the very same gust which blew the metaphorical dust off my thinking cap; the grey, concrete exteriors combined with the chic and elegant interiors combined with the Siberian wind?
Back in the mists of time (or pre-yore, as I was taught) the first settlers must have plodded up through Europe from their African roots and eventually discovered the plot of land which is now referred to as Malmö. Imagine, if you will, the incessant nagging of a shivering Mrs Pre-Yore, as she discovered there were no caves for her to bed down and hang her array of fitted animal skins – MOST OF WHICH SHE NEVER WORE ANYWAY. “Build me a shelter,” she presumably crowed in a language even less civilised than all the modern day languages which are not English. So off Mr Pre-Yore went to gather materials for their new home. Did he give a fig what it looked like on the outside? No, of course not, he was also cold and he just wanted to shelter – it had been a long day and he still had to track down and kill a woolly mammoth. He promised, in due course, to work on the outside of the property. But endless long winter after endless long winter – with an ice age thrown in for good measure – meant this work never transpired. Here lieth the root of much Nordic architecture styles, why bother with the outside when it is so cold you never really want to go outside anyway?
Gives you a little food for thought, doesn’t it? If Sweden’s colder climes can have such an impact, then…
In all honesty, do we really know that what lies behind this window here…
My driver awaits, I am
not off for Swan meatballs at the Embassy.
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