Retired art professor, campus architect Edward Sövik dies

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Retired St. Olaf College Professor of Art Edward Sövik, a well-known architect who designed or had a hand in the design of 20 campus buildings and remodeling projects, died May 4 at the age of 95.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, May 10, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield, with visitation at the church one hour prior to services.

Sövik was born in 1918 to American missionaries in Henan, China. He spent most of his young life in that country before his family moved to Minnesota when he was 17. After graduating from St. Olaf with honors in 1939, Sövik studied at the Art Students League in New York City and Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul.

During World War II, he served as a combat pilot in the United States Marine Corps, where he rose to the rank of major and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and several Air Medals.

Following the war, Sövik entered the Yale School of Architecture and graduated with first honors in 1949.

Sövik’s architectural career began immediately when he returned to Northfield both to teach architecture at St. Olaf and to practice the profession as a founder and chair of the firm that is now SMSQ Architects.

Viewing church building as “a symbol of constant faith,” Sövik led the firm in the design and renovation of several hundred churches and other building projects across the country. His continuous molding of the St. Olaf campus resulted in a consistently articulated aesthetic that has become part of the college’s heritage.

Throughout his career Sövik wrote, then continued to supplement with more than 100 published writings, his influential book, Architecture for Worship.

Along the way, he earned numerous awards and recognitions, such as Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Fellow of the Society for the Arts, and Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at Concordia College. In 1981 he received the Edward S. Frey Award from the Interfaith Forum on Religion, and in 1982 he was awarded the AIA’s Gold Medal.

Sövik was also active in local committee work, presentations, sermons, and homilies for many congregations. He held various leadership positions for the National Council of Churches, the Liturgical Conference, the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, and other bodies concerned with art and architecture. The magazine Modern Liturgy referred to him as “the most influential liturgical architect of the last 20 years.”

Read Sövik’s obituary.


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