Full Name: Norberg-Schulz, Christian
Date Born: 1926
Date Died: 2000
Place Born: Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Place Died: Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Home Country/ies: Norway
Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre), Baroque, Modern (style or period), Modernist, and sculpture (visual works)
Architectural historian and architect. Born to father also named Christian Norberg-Schulz and mother, Laura Lunde [Norberg-Schulz]. After World War II he studied architecture in Switzerland at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, Zürich, graduating in 1949. He spent the years 1950-1951 in the Norwegian army. He joined the faculty of the school of Architecture in Oslo in 1951, where he was appointed assistant professor, becoming an expondnet of modern, “international style” architecture. In 1952 he founded together with the modernist architects Arne Korsmo (1900-1968), Sverre Fehn (1924-2009), and others PAGON (Progressive Architects Group Oslo Norway) which allowed an independent Norwegian delegation to (and later a division of) CIAM (Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne). Between 1953 and 1955 again together wth Korsmo, Norberg-Schulz designed several “glass houses” near Oslo, in a vein of Mies van der Rohe. He married Anna Maria de Dominicis in 1955. His Ph.D. in architectural history was awarded in 1963 from the Technical University in Trondheim. That same year he began editing the architectural journal Byggekunst (through 1978). He was promoted to (full) professor of architecture in 1966. His seminal book for architects was Intentions in Architecture (1963, US 1968). This lead to a visiting professorship during the academic year 1973-1974 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then the University of Dallas, TX, in 1978. He was Dean of the Oslo School of Architecture. Wishing to branch into a wider reach of the history of architecture in the early 1970s he authored two volumes in the History of World Architecture (also known as teh “Abrams Gray”) series on Baroque Architecture which looked at the buildings both structurally and as works of art. The appearance of The Language of Post-Modern Architecture by Charles Jencks, 1977, led him to embrace the architectural style. However his disillusion with its practices eventually caused a rejection by him, describing it as having ‘dissolved into superficial playfulness.’ In Genius Loci (1979 and 1980) Modern Norwegian Architecture (1986) he described the architecture of his native land, appluading the use of traditional construction methods and of local materials. His final book, Modernism in his Principles of Modern Architecture, resumed his interest in modernist architecture, which appeared shortly before his death. His daughter is the opera singer Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz (b. 1959).
His writing is greatly influenced by the Gestalt and phenomenological philosphical theories, especially Martin Heidegger, which he read as a student. The architects and theorists who affected him included Segfried Giedion, Walter Gropius, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Within architectural history, his writing shows an emulation of the historians Paul Frankl, August Schmarsow, and Heinrich Wölfflin. His Genius Loci and Modern Norwegian Architecture appeared to some as a contridiction of his CIAM and Modern Movement styles dedication.
Intentions in Architecture. Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, 1968; Late Baroque and Rococo Architecture. New York: Rizzoli, 1985; Baroque Architecture. New York: Rizzoli, 1986; Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture. New York: Rizzoli, 1980; Architecture: Meaning and Place: Selected Essays. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1988; Architecture: Presence, Language, Place. London: Thames & Hudson, 2000.
[obituary] Architectural Record 188 (August 2000): 32; Architects’ Journal (April 20, 2000): 19; A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000; Auret, Hendrik. Christian Norberg-Schulz’s Interpretation of Heidegger’s Philosophy: Care, Place and Architecture. London: Routledge, 2019.