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Moneo gives Stockholm an architectural delight

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Raphael Moneo's latest building was unveiled last Thursday in Stockholm. The scheme, won in an international competition in 1991, provides space for two museums of differing character. Moderna Museet, the larger of the two, became famous in the 1960s as a focus for contemporary art; under its new English director, David Elliot, the museum hopes to regain its cutting edge and international reputation. The smaller Arkitektur Museet is dedicated to recording the evolution of building in Sweden; the interest here is more historical and somewhat removed from current debates in architecture internationally.

How these museums will evolve as neighbours in Moneo's building is an intriguing question. The collections of the Modern Museum are contained in an interlocking series of lantern-topped rooms accessed off a long gallery. Floors are oiled oak, doorways beautifully proportioned, while walls are massive and whisper with the sound of the High-Tech ventilation they enclose. The ensemble has the cool and enclosed feel of an expensive German car. Drama and gesture is left to the art, a strategy whose success becomes especially marked when the rooms are empty of people. Contained by an architecture so quiet, the pieces are able to speak among themselves.

While the architecture of the Modern Museum deals with mass, space and quietness, that of the Architecture Museum is open and light. Housed in a sensitive, Modernist pavilion, architectural researchers have been given the most visually delightful spaces in the building. The library, particularly, underlines Moneo's architectural mastery both in its volume and in its detailing.

With a spectacular island site in the inner harbour, a restaurant with a view and food to die for, and opening hours from 10.00-23.00, Moneo's Moderna Museet is a must for anyone visiting Stockholm during its year as European capital of culture.

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