Stylized cranes in the paving in front of Sankta Helena church in Skövde, Sweden

Paving in front of Sankta Helena church in Skövde, Sweden.Paving in front of Sankta Helena church in Skövde, Sweden.

Landscape architect Thorbjörn Andersson wanted to bring the region’s famous bird migration into the town in an abstract way and give the townspeople a place that makes a statement

Automatic translation at the top of this web page under “Select Language“

One of the most fascinating spectacles in nature is the regular migration of animals in the air, on water, and on land. Some see this as the perfection of nature, others as an expression of God’s creative power. In the paving in front of St. Helena’s Church in the Swedish town of Skövde, the migration of the cranes is now depicted in abstract form: instead of a regular geometric pattern, trapezoids are distributed across the square, where you can at best guess that they are arranged in one direction.

The concept comes from the landscape architect Thorbjörn Andersson of Sweco Arkitekter. He explained it in the Swedish Natural Stone Association’s magazine “Sten“ (2/2023): the square in front of the church should be inviting as a place of welcome, and also provide a reference to the works of art in the interior of the church, not least as a public space inviting people to sit down and talk to other people.

“Anyone who sits down should have an overview of the square, of the people who come and pass by,“ says Andersson about his idea.

As a result, the square was opened up compared to the previous design and provided with seating.

The paving was aligned with the church on one side: the trapezoids of the birds lie directly in front of its entrance. However, to avoid an overpowering direction, the rows are swung perpendicular to the church – the birds pass in front of the church rather than over it.

Perhaps the view of their rows is also from far above, i.e. from the height of the clouds.

Paving in front of Sankta Helena church in Skövde, Sweden.

Every year in the fall and spring, around 100,000 cranes make a stopover on their way to Lake Hornborgasjön, which is not far from Skövde in the Västgötas plain. The spectacle attracts many tourists, especially as the lake fell victim to land reclamation in the 19th century but was later restored along with its reed belt.

Today, its total area measures around 300 km² – the abstract birds in front of the church with a total area of 400 m² have therefore been brought into the city with a generous gesture. They are made of light-colored Tossene granite and dark diabase, both flamed to prevent slipping. The sides feature steps and wall stones made of Bjärlövs granite.

What is also nice about the design is the initial misdirection of the viewer: at first you think that the timber industry has been paid tribute to and see the teeth of chainsaws in the trapezoids. However, the sound you hear afterwards with the migratory birds in your inner ear is a completely different one.

Paving in front of Sankta Helena church in Skövde, Sweden.

By the way: the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research recently announced new findings on bird migration: the bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica) holds the world record. It begins its journey in Alaska and flies the 12,000 km down to New Zealand in one go. In more than a week over the open ocean, it performs a masterly feat of orientation and resource management. It is known that the animals push themselves to their limits: “We know that these severely emaciated birds want only one thing after arrival: not to eat but to sleep,“ says one of the researchers.

Climate change poses a particular threat to these animals.

Thorbjörn Andersson

Sten (2/20023) (Swedish)

Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

A pair of bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica)  (Limosa lapponica). Foto: Onioram / Wikimedia Commons

(10.01.2024, USA: 01.10.2024)