A tribute to architecture’s strokes of genius

The Kasper Salin Prize is the most prestigious award in Swedish architecture.

Katarina O Cofaigh, senior advisor at Architects Sweden, talks about the award and what has been crucial for buildings to receive it over the years.

Since 1962, Architects Sweden has annually awarded a Swedish building or group of buildings of particularly high architectural standard. The Kasper Salin Prize is the most prestigious architectural award in Sweden.

Kasper Salin (1856-1919), after whom the award is named, was a city architect in Stockholm. Salin’s donation forms the basis of the award’s existence and is awarded annually by Architects Sweden. Anyone can nominate candidates for the award, and proposals received before 25 August each year are included in the review process for the following year’s award. The jury consists of four selected architects who will be jury members for one year at a time.

The winner of the Kasper Salin Prize receives a bronze plaque designed by architect Bengt Lindroos which can be mounted on the winning building.

Winners of recent years: Housing and museums

Examples of recent years’ winners include the Viva housing association in Gothenburg, which received the award in 2019 for a new housing complex. The winner of the 2018 award was the new-build private home Ateljébostad in Gotland. And in 2017, the Elding Oscarson architects’ extension to Skissernas Museum in Lund received the Kasper Salin Prize.

New thoughts and unique expressions

Looking back at the buildings that have previously received the Kasper Salin Prize, they reveal which trends have generally dominated over the years – and which have been an expression of high architectural quality. So explains Katarina O Cofaigh, a senior advisor at Architects Sweden, a professional organisation for architects.

“Attention has been paid to how the architects have mastered new technology, but at the same time the buildings’ architectural originality has always been crucial,”says Katarina O Cofaigh.

For example, when Åhléns Varuhuset in Stockholm was chosen as the winner in 1966, the reason for the choice was as follows:

“The architecture of the building is based on new conditions – shortened construction time, a rationalised frame and consistently extended air-conditioning. Mastery of the major objectives in both the interior and the exterior, the free spatial thinking, especially in the building’s connections to street and metro levels, and the utilisation of the space-forming possibilities for incandescent lighting make this building a vibrant modern environment with significant architectural qualities.”

Another typical reason that reflects this way of thinking was given in 1971 for Aktiebolaget Pharmacia’s new headquarters and laboratories in Fyrislund, Uppsala:

“The facility is an example of a construction where the requirements for technical rationality and a good working environment have been combined with a strong artistic design.”

Quality that lasts

Almost all Kasper Salin winners possess qualities that last over time, explains Katarina O Cofaigh:

“These are buildings that still delight us with their architectural properties today. Where there is always originality or art which is expressed in a special way. Something that supports the environments in which people live and move,” she says and continues:

“I also think it has to do with the fact that there is almost always a client with high ambitions behind the projects. A client with whom the architect has been able to have a good collaboration.

The architectural trends we are currently seeing are particularly related to the space in which the individual building is integrated,” Katarina O Cofaigh says.

“The projects must give something back to their surroundings. It has become more common for the prize winners to be public buildings or buildings that are important to their surroundings. The building should not only be well-constructed in itself, the architecture must also support the functions that form the basis of the building’s purpose.”

Katarina believes that sustainability, scarce resources and social interaction will be among the dominant trends in the future, but yet another dimension has recently emerged:

“Architecture must always respond to the challenges faced by society, which is why, in future, it will probably deal with how we move, work and meet in the wake of the pandemic we are currently experiencing.”

Katarina O Cofaigh,
Senior advisor at Architects Sweden