Mark Isitt is one of Sweden’s most influential journalists specializing in Nordic architecture and design. Here are his best tips on Architect Landmarks in Stockholm, published in The Essential Design Guide by Stockholm Design Week.
You’ll find a link to The Essential Design Guide at the end of the article.
Architect: Friedrich August Stüher
Completed: 1866 (renovation: 2018, October)
Directly facing the royal palace where the collections were originally housed stands Sweden’s national art museum, a newly renovated three storey Renaissance creation that threatens to outshine the very palace in its ornamental abundan-ce. When Gert Wingårdh, skyscraper fan, was given partial responsibility for this renovation no few eyebrows were raised in surprise. But the Göteborg architect here demonstrates his versatility – and reveals why he is Sweden’s most highly regarded architect.
2. Aula Medica
Nobels väg 6, Solna
Architect: Gert Wingårdh
The Karolinska Institutet’s Aula Medica holds an auditorium with a seating capacity of a thousand. It is a room with few parallels in Sweden, expressly designed to house the Nobel Prize lectures given annually by the winners for medicine. The acoustics are exceptional and from the stage you can speak without need of amplifiers. This facility is aided by the building’s unconventional soaring shape with the corner towards Solnavägen leaning out almost 25 metres. From the outside the building resembles a crystal bowl from Kosta Boda while inside the wood glitters with Nobel medal gold.
Architects: David Helldén, Anders Tengbom, Sven Markelius, Lars Erik Lallerstedt, Backström & Reinius
This collection of five 18-storey ‘trumpet blasts’ (in popular parlance) lead you from past time to the future, from Hötorget (Haymarket) to the decoratively op art of Sergels torg with its glass column and ‘kulturhus’. Allusions to the UN skyscraper are no coincidence. Sven Markelius, at that time Stockholm city planning director, had recently been Sweden’s represen-tative on the team of architects designing the UN headquarters on Manhattan.
Completed: in the 1890’s
ArkDes can say what they like but Skansen is still Sweden’s leading architectural museum. This historic park may be better known for its collection of Nordic fauna, but if you’re interested in progressive building techniques from the 18th and 19th centuries then there are few equals in Europe. Despite the fact that Sweden was then one of the world’s poorest countries these buildings display an impressive design initiative and imagination.
5. Stockholm City Hall
Architect: Ragnar Östberg
This is the building that is said to have persuaded the British architect Ralph Erskine to move to Sweden. Here you have the perfect merging of early Nordic primitivism and European finesse, a building that at one blow established Sweden as an architectural nation to be reckoned with. Ragnar Östberg’s status was raised almost to that of a God; no other Swedish architect has exerted such influence on his time. The Taj Mahal of the North.
Architect: Peter Celsing
This is the building that inspired Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano in their work on the Centre Pompidou in Paris. A large elongated structure facing a sunken piazza, and with its interior revealed through a transparent façade. A building regarded by many as the last great achievement in Swedish architecture, though some may wonder if the Riksbank next to it and by the same architect isn’t a shade keener.The two buildings are very opposites; one glass-fronted and light, the other solid and black. Heads and Tails.
7. KTH School of Architecture
Architect: Tham & Videgård arkitekter
While the corten steel facade of the school of architecture blends well with the campus’s surrounding brick buildings, KTH School of Architecture PHOTO: JANN LIPKA it also adds a quite fresh design ingredient. The oval layout, possible thanks to a new technique for curving glass, is ideally suited to the triangular site and creates un-expected and sheltered out-door areas. It’s a hierarchic building in that the teaching staff are located on top and the students down in the cel-lar. But on the other hand the school principal who expects a swanky corner office will be disappointed.
8. Stockholm City Library
Architect: Gunnar Asplund
Sweden’s most iconic building, designed by the country’s most iconic architect, Gunnar Asplund, born 1885 and de-ceased – far too early – 1940. What originated as a classic design crowned by a handsome dome was revised and reduced to this rust red abstraction, a cylinder on a cube, popularly known as the hatbox. The daring of envisioning a circular library, even though books are hardly wedge shaped, still impresses and has spawned numerous imitators.
9. Stockholm University Frescati
Architect: Ralph Erskine
In his commission for Stockholm University the Anglo- Swedish architect Ralph Erskine found a client who encouraged his artistic temperament. Over a period of 16 years he designed a total of five buildings, each one more playfully bulging than the last, in sharp contrast with the surrounding structures from the sixties. The projecting sun reflectors caused the English architect couple Alison and Peter Smithson to write Erskine off as a “Mickey Mouse architect”.
10. The Stockholm subway
Architects: Michael Granit, Per H. Reimers among others
The Stockholm Subway is unique. Not in its number of passengers – with only 320 million journeys a year it can’t compare with Paris, London or Moscow – but in its architecture and artistic decoration. It’s primarily the so-called cavern stations that impress, marking a delibe-rate break with traditional tiled stations. The local travel authority first quaked at the idea; would passengers even dare to go down into these naked grottoes? But today the subway is more loved than perhaps any other modernist work of architecture.
In The Essential Design Guide we give you 68 pages filled with inspiration, articles and must-sees for the design-lover.