Edward Anders Sövik, a son of Lutheran missionaries who arrived at St. Olaf College from China, started a Northfield architectural firm that specialized in designing churches and became one of the most influential liturgical architects of his time.
Sövik, who died on May 4 in Northfield at age 95, was a pioneer in a movement that transformed the way churches were designed. He and other architects replaced the standard Gothic plan that separated parishioners from the clergy in favor of a more open design in which congregants partly encircle a minister, similar to the way families and friends gather together.
“He saw architecture as a way to serve the church,” his son Peter Sövik said.
Edward Sövik designed more than 400 churches as well as buildings at St. Olaf and Carleton colleges in Northfield, Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and the University of Minnesota. He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a president of the Minnesota Society of the AIA and a recipient of its Gold Medal. One of his favorite projects locally was Westwood Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park.
Sövik spent the first 17 years of his life in China’s Henan province, where his parents were missionaries. After graduating from St. Olaf in 1939, he studied painting in New York, theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul and became a Marine Corps night fighter pilot during World War II, earning a Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
He earned an architecture degree from Yale in 1949, then joined the St. Olaf art department and founded what is now SMSQ Architects, where he worked until retirement in 1996.
Steven Edwins, a partner and president of SMSQ, said Sövik’s approach created a neutral setting for all those gathered in a church, clergy and laity.
“What seemed risky or trendy to some 40 years ago has now become more and more an expectation among the community who thinks about worship space,” Edwins said.
Sövik’s book, “Architecture for Worship” addressed this issue, and he wrote numerous professional articles on the topic. He believed “one spot wasn’t more holy than another” in a church, his son Martin Sövik said.
Peter Sövik said that while his father was likely the “original multitasker,” he always found time for his family. He took each of his sons along to annual conferences in exotic places. He continued to fly long after his military service and often piloted the company’s single-engine, four-passenger Mooney Mark 21.
Above all, he relished the time that he spent with family, including cousins and relatives from all over the world.
“Family gatherings were a big deal and were important to Dad,” Peter Sövik said. “He was always grateful for the opportunity to get together.”
He was preceded in death by his wife, Genevieve, who died in 2000, and is survived by his wife Anne, sons Rolf, Martin and Peter; stepchildren Julia and Andrew Tabbut; two granddaughters; three great-grandsons; brother Arne and sister Margaret Lindell.
Services have been held.