Helfrid Löfquist was one of the first female landscape architects in Sweden.
Helfrid Löfquist was born in Norberg but later moved to Ludvika where her father, Henrik Löfquist, was the pastor. Her mother was Anna Carolina, née Lindblom. Helfrid Löfquist began her landscape architect studies in 1922 when she enrolled at the Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet (association) horticultural school at Apelryd, near Båstad, on a completely new 2-year course “for all-round horticultural teacher-training”. She graduated in 1925 and then did further training by undertaking study-trips funded by Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet. She travelled to Italy in 1927 “to study ancient horticulture” and to Denmark in 1936 “in order to study horticulture”. During this trip Helfrid Löfquist met prominent Danish colleagues such as George Boye, P. Wad, Anka Rasmussen, and C.Th. Sørensen.
Helfrid Löfquist began her professional career by working with her older colleague Ruth Brandberg around 1925. They worked together a few more times before Ruth Brandberg died in 1944. Like many other landscape architects during the first half of the 1900s Helfrid Löfquist obtained a large number of private commissions, mostly at the beginning of her career. These commissions often involved transforming older gardens, such as Slagsta farm at Fittja, Elvesta manor in Norsborg, and Skärfsta farm near Södertälje. She also participated in exhibitions and competitions, such as Allmänna svenska trädgårdsutställningen (Swedish garden exhibition) as part of the 1930 Stockholm exhibition, and entering the competition for Örebro Stadspark in 1932. She began to give talks on the radio about horticultural work and garden-design from the 1930s onwards.
It was also around this time – mid-1930s – that Helfrid Löfquist began working with the architect Cyrillus Johansson. They may have met in Helfrid Löfquist’s home region; Cyrillus Johansson had served as the Ludvika town architect from 1931–1934. Their collaboration appears to have been unusually fruitful. The Cyrillus Johansson collection in Statens centrum för arkitektur och design, Arkitektur- och designcentrum (Arkdes, the Swedish centre of architecture and design) contain several drawings revealing how they worked together. Helfrid Löfquist would rework Cyrillus Johansson’s seemingly hastily created sketches to create the final drawings with relevant plant suggestions. The notes on the drawings reveal how they both used them to communicate with each other and with others involved in the project. Some of their many shared projects include the New Office at Fagersta factory in 1937, the new cemetery at Vaxholm in 1936, Ludvika cemetery in 1937, Ludvika town park in 1940 and the Skoghögskolan student housing in Frescati fields, Stockholm 1948–1951. It is probable that the Tre Vapen military site and Krigsarkivet (military archives) in Stockholm formed their most comprehensive commission. This project included a hall for fallen airmen with a beautiful accompanying garden space in which to hold memorial services.
One of Helfrid Löfquist’s most involved commissions was the planning for the grounds around Sidsjö hospital, near Sundsvall. This task included both the area surrounding the hospital and walking routes, an open-air theatre, and gardens for both patients and staff which were to be accessible during treatment, as well as designing the doctors’ homes and the nurses’ and other staff gardens. Prior to the Sundsvall project Helfrid Löfquist had, around the mid-1930s, worked on the St Olof hospital in Visby. She also completed several of her friend Ruth Brandberg’s unfinished projects, including the Serafim hospital in Stockholm. Three of the landscape architects who worked at Helfrid Löfquist’s office were Agnete Muusfeldt, Sylvia Gibson, and John Dormling.
The majority of Helfrid Löfquist’s written output includes presentations of completed works, such as the major commission at the Sundsvall Sidsjö hospital, and the gardens at Krigsarkivet and Tre Vapen in Stockholm. She also wrote articles in which she not only criticised current views of landscape
architecture but also discussed landscape architecture as a profession. Through these articles she presented her stance on the ongoing debate in which the architects Hakon Ahlberg and Sven A. Hermelin had hitherto been seen as the leading proponents. In her 1933 article “Arkitekter, trädgårdsarkitekter och allmänheten” in Allmän svensk trädgårdstidning she polemically expressed herself in opposition to Hakon Ahlberg and his views on the profession of landscape architecture and its meaning as written in the 1932 article “Lanskapet, trädgården och byggnaden” in Lustgården. Her activism with regard to the professional and trade union aspects of her career are revealed in her membership of Föreningen för Dendrologi och Parkvård (association for dendrology and parks), Stockholms Gartnersällskap (gardening association), Föreningen Svenska trädgårdsarkitekter (association of Swedish landscape architects), as well as Stockholms trädgårdsanläggarförening (the association of Stockholm landscapers) at whose expense she worked on a proposal to improve training for landscapers.
Helfrid Löfquist’s activities show how her creative work could be combined with a clearly professional outlook and that publications could be used to discuss ongoing and potential works of refurbishment.
Helfrid Löfquist died in 1972.