King of Sweden Publicly Expresses Concern Over Chipperfield's Nobel Center Plans for Stockholm

Earlier this month The Guardian reported that the King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustav, has denounced David Chipperfield's designs for Stockholm's new Nobel Center (Nobelhuset) in the Dagens Nyheter (DN), a national Swedish newspaper, as both too volumetrically large and badly sited. The practice's initial proposal, which was lauded by the awarding jury for its “lightness and openness,” is a glass and stone structure which attempts to “convey dignity” and embody the ideals of the Nobel Prize.

Revised Design (model). Image © David Chipperfield Architects

For the King, who personally presents the annual Nobel prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Literature (the Peace prize is delivered in Oslo), "Nobel is a name that we want to protect, of course." He continued by arguing that "we [also] want to preserve and increase its value. The purpose is laudable. [But] the fact that the building has become so big, and has landed a bit in the wrong place – it is a shame." The Swedish Monarch has, among other notable public statements, previously called for a global ban on bathtubs ahead of UN Climate Talks in 2015 and, more recently, offered Swedes health advice related to steak and jelly-gums.

The King and Queen of Sweden. Via The American Swedish Institute. Image © Bruno Ehrs

David Chipperfield Architects' proposal received harsh opposition from heritage protestors in mid-2014, who declared in an online petition (which has gained just under 7,000 signatures to date) that they are against "star-architects constructing their angular spectacles of glass and steel right in the middle of the protected historic environment, as monuments to themselves, at our expense and the city’s." The City Museum of Stockholm also spoke out to argue that the design is good, but not in its proposed location.

A Customs House located along the Blasieholmen, designed in 1876 by Axel Fredrik Nystrom, sits at the heart of this debate. The structure, which represents the last remaining wooden harbor warehouse in the city, will be demolished to make way for the proposed Nobelhuset. Although David Chipperfield Architects submitted revised plans for the building in late 2015, in which the size and scale of the building were significantly reduced with "a clearer division into a base, middle and top floor that relates to the surrounding structures on the Blasieholmen peninsula," Queen Sylvia has gone so far to suggest in the Dagens Nyheter that a referendum would be welcomed to determine the outcome of the plans.

Original Design (auditorium). Image © David Chipperfield Architects
Revised Design (auditorium). Image © David Chipperfield Architects

As reported by The Guardian, Chipperfield has spoken on Swedish radio to argue that "the size of the building is determined by what is necessary for a Nobel Center. It’s not exploiting the value of the land or something – it’s not a developer building, an office building or a hotel. I disagree with the criticism, but I respect that it is part of the dialogue.”

In response to a column in the Architects' Journal, in which Paul Finch argued that "it is difficult [...] to accept the argument that the building has to be its current size because of precise functional requirements [as] it has already been lowered once," Chipperfield retorted: "I will indeed consider Paul Finch's advice, although I must point out that an auditorium that must seat 1,200 people does have an objective result on the size of the building."

Chipperfield continued: "It is our experience […] that the civility of such societies, based on a fundamental commitment to social democracy and dominated by a concern for the welfare and opinion of its citizens, tend to struggle with issues that open up conflicts and differences of opinions." [...] "It is a tribute to such societies that these things matter. Although it puts projects such as the Nobel Center […] in a precarious situation, and it inconveniences the process and our task, I retain a certain respect for this condition and the predicament that it puts the architect in."

Original Design – view towards Nybrokajen. Image © David Chipperfield Architects
Revised Design – view towards Nybrokajen. Image © David Chipperfield Architects
Original Design – façade. Image © David Chipperfield Architects

The building is being partly financed by the Wallenberg and the Persson families, the latter of whom own the H&M corporation.

You can see some of the practice's latest vizualisations of the proposal, here.

News via Dagens Nyheter [SE], The Guardian, Architects' Journal, The Local [SE]

About this author
Cite: James Taylor-Foster. "King of Sweden Publicly Expresses Concern Over Chipperfield's Nobel Center Plans for Stockholm" 15 Jun 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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