There appears to be growing criticism of plans for a major new building in Stockholm for the Nobel Foundation that has been designed by David Chipperfield. The scheme is still to be approved by the city council.
The problem is not the design itself but the proposed location in the centre of the city on Blasieholmen that is of concern. Ostensibly the site would seem to be ideal: a major water-side site for such a prestigious building and close to the National Gallery of Sweden and with views across the harbour to the Nordiska Museet to the east and to the gallery of modern art on the island of Skeppsholmen. But that is actually the problem. Although this site is right in the centre of the city it is an area where you still get at least a sense of historic Stockholm as a thriving and bustling port - not just a dock for ferries and cruise liners.
The new building would mean the demolition of the last two wooden warehouses on the quay that were built in about 1900 and the demolition of the Customs House designed by Axel Fredrik Nystrom in 1876. I thought I had a photograph of these buildings but I could not track them down … presumably they pre date my move across to digital cameras so must be in a box or file somewhere that I’ve lost track of with at least four moves of house since … but I do have a view across from the site towards Skeppsholmen. At least this shows the character of the harbour here. It is not a bustling port scene reminiscent of Hamburg or Liverpool at their height but people do forget that these great European harbours were also full of fishing boats, local traders, small ferries and boatmen shuttling around goods from one warehouse or quay to another.
This part of the harbour is not actually about big internationally important projects … it’s an area of local boats and ordinary everyday harbour business and trade. The argument is that a great new building by a great or prominent architect revitalises an area but what could actually be more vital than this?