CourtyardRow houseSlab, corridorSlab, gallery-accessTower
New Bruket
Erskine, Ralph | Sandviken, Sweden | 1973-81
Image of New Bruket
View of a typical courtyard complex with the small community building in the center.

ProjectNew Bruket
ArchitectErskine, Ralph
AddressBarrsätragatan 35
Building TypeCourtyard
Row house
Slab, gallery access
Number of DwellingsNA
Date Built1973-81
Dwelling Typesmostly duplexes
No. Floors2
Section Typeflats and duplexes
Exterior Finish
wood, stucco, metal roofs, wood & gav. metal trim
Construction TypeRC frame, wood frame
Ancillary Servicescommunity facilities, elderly housing

Nya Bruket, named after the existing residential quarter in Sandviken of which it is an extension (Gamla Bruket), is perhaps the purest example of Erskine's use of the courtyard community as a primary residential model. The courtyard form of a group of dwellings enclosing a public garden space is a reoccurring theme in most of Erskine's residential projects. Originating from his proposals for new communities in the arctic, the courtyard type was usually used in conjunction with a larger perimeter wall-like building designed to protect a south-facing inner realm of lower, even semidetached row houses and courtyard houses. Some examples of this include Brittgérden (1959), Esperanza (1968), and the Byker Wall (1969). But Erskine continued to design versions of the courtyard model throughout his career. Bruket is a very regular, repetitive version of this courtyard form. The courtyard here is larger than previous examples, with between 35 and 50 dwellings per courtyard, and because of the additional community building built in each courtyard, it is perhaps the best example to demonstrate the qualities of "community" that Erskine sought to create. Gamla Bruket was an obvious and important influence on New Bruket and in addition to being a source of ideas about vernacular buildings forms, siting and materials, also represents a convenient alternative to purely modernist attitudes about residential building. While Erskine's work is certainly within the Modernist realm, especially his early work like Växjö, his own house, and other buildings and projects, his interest in other residential models and Nordic vernacular building traditions and his investigations of the effect of climate on building form and details have had an equally important impact on the nature of his work. Bruket embraces qualities from all these sources.

Bruket is separated by a canal from Gamla Bruket, but several of the old row houses and other buildings from the older community are next to, and in some instances, actually mingled with new residences. Erskine draws heavily from the old buildings. There is a pattern of detached houses with separate garages and attached two story row houses. The houses are usually yellow stucco while the service buildings are made with vertical wood siding usually painted the traditional rural red or dark brown. Both types have simple, geometric framed windows and distinctive black roofs with deep overhanging eaves which extend well beyond the sides of the buildings. Some of the row houses have red tile roofs. While there seems to be an irregular pattern of leftover open space, there is a clear distinction between public circulation areas and more private space. A loose system of fences, pergolas, gates, porches, railings and other wooden garden accessories are used to further define public and private space. These features, materials and colors are readily incorporated into Bruket. Masonry block is the basic construction system but this is covered with stucco or either vertical or horizontal wood siding. The "wilted" metal roof that seems to undulate as a continuous membrane extending out to cover balconies and galleries is just a new version of the typical vernacular roof. The traditional rural colors, ochre and barn red and dark brown are used everywhere and the occasional white house in Old Bruket is even reproduced in Nya Bruket. The wooden fences, railings and other accessories of the old Bruket reappear as a veneer of applied wood details in the new Bruket, balustrades, patio fences, pergolas porches, and gates to separate communities. Even the image of overgrown natural landscape is maintained with plantings of native plants, trees, and pasture-like lawns.

Bruket contains 750 apartments organized into repeating quadrangles of 35 to 50 dwellings. There about twenty of these quadrangles arranged in a gridiron pattern of public walks and enclosed courtyards. The two story buildings typical enclose the courtyard as two unconnected ells with gateways into the courtyard in the space between the ends of the ells. A small, one story building with a tall hipped roof occupies each courtyard and functions as a community center, laundry, and general meeting space. These structures recall the service buildings in Gamla Bruket and, aside from helping to define individual communities, serve to develop the space of the courtyard into something more that an empty, shared space. The dwellings are arranged on two floors around the courtyard/garden space. There as a variety of dwellings types, however, typically there is an exterior gallery for the second floor, but designed so that it is not run continuously along any one side. All the kitchens are organized along the courtyard and each apartment has either a small patio or a small covered balcony. The galleries are either on the north or east sides of the building with balconies usually facing south or west. The balconies are made of steel and include a frame which supports a roof so that while these are not truly the suspended balconies typical of many Erskine buildings, they do appear to be separate attached structures. Each courtyard thus defines a separate social group each with its own community spaces. The courtyard areas also include play areas for small children and each is painted a different color. The patio spaces outside of each flat are not separated or screened from the larger space of the garden. This area is large enough for a small table and chairs and is quite intensively used but is not visually detached from the larger communal space. This is critical to Erskine's concept of a shared community

There is some element of the perimeter wall at Bruket. Parking lots and some lower storage buildings serve to define the outside edge of the community and restrict auto traffic from the interior of the site. A foot bridge connects new and old Bruket across the canal and passes through a central open space more-or-less in the center of Bruket. One of the residential courts is placed askew of the grid as a response to the diagonal route of this path. This is a theme used in previous Erskine courtyard housing projects. The last part of Bruket to be built was a sports and elderly center which includes housing, meeting, and sports facilities including inside squash courts and several outside playing courts. This center is marked by the 7 story tower of the Service House (elderly center). The tower provides a vertical marker for the center of the community and matches the details and materials of the other buildings. Using a vertical element in this way to mark an important space in the community is another Erskine theme.

Because Bruket does not have the tall perimeter wall typical to projects like Kiruna or Byker, this is a rather low-density development. For a residential quarter in this small town, next to the beautiful old quarter of Bruket, tall buildings were probably inappropriate and the two communities have been very skillfully knitted together because they are so similar in scale, materials, and spatial quality.

Peter Collymore, The Architecture of Ralph Erskine, Academy Group Ltd, London, 1994, pp, 124-127.

Mats Egelius, Ralph Erskine Architect, Byggförlaget, Stockholm, 1990, pp. 116-120, 106-111.

Arkitektur (Sweden), 6, 1977.

Arkitektur (Sweden), 2, 1979.

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