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Stockholm city council vetoes Chipperfield and Foster schemes

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Two Stockholm projects, David Chipperfield Architects’ Nobel Centre and Foster + Partners’ Apple Store, have been blocked following a change of municipal government in the Swedish capital

The contentious schemes by the two UK practices have been halted by the city’s new centre-right Alliance-Green government, which took hold following elections in early September.

The move comes five months after Sweden’s Land and Environment Court ruled against construction work starting on Chipperfield’s waterfront structure, saying it would ‘cause significant damage’ to the historic Blasieholmen district.

Following the verdict, the City of Stockholm’s former leadership announced it would appeal the ruling, which deemed the £100 million scheme ‘would affect the readability of Stockholm’s historical development as a port, shipping and trading city’.

But that appeal could now be abandoned, leaving the original court ruling blocking the scheme in place. In response, the Nobel Foundation has accused the City of Stockholm of reneging on agreements which dated back seven years.

Foundation executive director Lars Heikensten said: ‘For the past seven years, we have acted in accordance with our agreements. We interpret today’s announcement as meaning that the Alliance, in co-operation with the Green Party, is trying to diverge from signed agreements.

‘A project of major, long-term significance for Stockholm as a city of science and a centre for lively discussion in the spirit of Alfred Nobel is thus at risk of being sacrificed to short-term political interests.’

The foundation’s chair Carl-Henrik Heldin said: ‘Our aim with the Nobel Centre on the Blasieholmen peninsula has been to create a house of knowledge and for the people, located in the heart of Stockholm. It is an idea we still believe in.

‘If the political majority in Stockholm closes the door to Blasieholmen, a whole new project would be needed in order to turn this idea into a reality. It would be costly and would require bringing together many stakeholders once again. It would also require reliable partners representing the City of Stockholm.’

In a statement, David Chipperfield Architects said: ‘The project for the Nobel Centre has been developed over the last five years through a process of continuous dialogue between the client team, planners and the city authority. We are, therefore, extremely disappointed by this announcement.’

Chipperfield beat two Swedish practices – Wingårdhs arkitekter and Johan Celsing Arkitektkontor – to win the high-profile job in April 2014. Two years later Stockholm City Council voted through the scheme by 54 votes to 43 after the architect reduced the height of his initial concept by 3m in response to fierce opposition. 

The scheme was intended replace an 1876 customs house by Axel Fredrik Nystrom and two wooden warehouses from 1910. The £100 million project was originally due to open in 2019.

The latest setback comes two years after the King of Sweden voiced his criticism of the new Nobel Centre in an interview with Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter

Stockholm’s Alliance-Green coalition also announced it would block plans for an Apple Store designed by Foster + Partners in the historic Kungsträdgården. The decision followed both heavy criticism and revisions to the scheme which would occupy a prominent position within the historic city centre park.

The new municipal government has also abandoned Stockholm’s bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. The move came earlier this month, just days after the city had been shortlisted against Calgary and Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Comment from David Chipperfield Architects Berlin:

The project for the Nobel Centre has been developed over the last five years through a process of continuous dialogue between the client team, planners and the city authority. We are, therefore, extremely disappointed by this announcement.

We hope that the conversation will remain open and an acceptable solution for the Nobel Centre will be found.

The vision and purpose of the ‘Nobel house’ as a centre of dialogue, debate and understanding has gained enormous support for both its international and local significance, and we all believe that Blasieholmen is a suitable site for a place of such civic importance. While we acknowledge that this rather neglected site holds a sentimental place in the minds of the people of Stockholm, we remain convinced that this is a fitting location. We hope that the conversation will remain open and an acceptable solution for the Nobel Centre will be found.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Phil Parker

    Idiots. Stockholm’s loss.

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  • The Chipperfield comments on the Blasieholmen site read as a touch patronising, but it's an unarguable fact that the existing buildings aren't (weren't?) anywhere near as grand as their neighbours on the waterfront.
    So the attraction of such a prominent site to the Nobel Foundation is understandable, but from their comments it looks very much as if they've been relying on the 'spirit of Alfred Nobel' to shove through what reads as an overscaled lump more reminiscent of the turbine hall of a large 20th century power station than anything else, tarted up with gold coloured curtain walling.
    The pity of it is that - going by the interior images - even the largest spaces don't require external expression in quite such massive form, and so the proposed design can all too easily be read as a piece of insufferable arrogance, in this location.

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