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21 May 2017 / leggypeggy

Stockholm City Hall a golden treasure

Evert Taube and Stockholm City Hall

Evert Taube, Sweden’s foremost musician, with Stockholm City Hall in the background

Looks can be deceiving and that’s just what Ragnar Östberg set out to do when he designed the iconic City Hall for Stockholm, the capital of Sweden.

Östberg, who won a competition in the early 1900s to create a new city hall, reworked his original designs throughout the entire construction period.

For starters, he added a 106-metre tower, which had been part of the original plan offered by Carl Westman, who came second in the competition. The top of the tower features three crowns from the Swedish coat of arms. He also added a lantern at the top and ditched his plans to have blue glazed tiles in what is still called the Blue Hall. That’s where the annual Nobel Prizes (except for the Peace Prize which is awarded in Norway) are awarded in December of each year. The organ in the Blue Hall, with its 10,270 pipes, is the largest in Scandinavia.

Stockholm City Hall, inner courtyard

Internal courtyard

Stockholm City Hall

Stockholm City Hall with tower

Many of Östberg’s tinkerings were done to make the structure look older than it really is. The eight million dark red bricks used in the construction are ‘munktegel’ (or monk’s bricks) that were traditionally used in the construction of churches and monasteries. After the bricks were in place, Östberg decided it was a good idea to have each brick roughed up so they looked more weathered. All that was done by hand, and contributed to a huge budget blow-out.

The columns in the arches are mix and match, reminiscent of times when materials from old buildings were removed and used in new ones.

Östberg’s efforts seem to have paid off. Our guide asked people in the group to guess how old the city hall was (we’d already read that it opened in 1923) and most of them speculated around 400 years old.

The overall design mixes several styles, blending North European, Venetian and Middle Eastern elements. The building surrounds internal and external courtyards, and overall is very effective.

Stockholm City Hall, Golden Hall

Golden Hall, far wall

The highlight is the Golden Hall, named after the decorative mosaics made of more than 18 million small tiles. Our guide explained that the gold is 24-carat gold, but pounded so thinly that only about 10 kilos of gold was used in making all of them. The mosaics, designed by artist Einar Forseth, show people and events from Swedish history and legend, as well as images from the rest of the world. The room is 44 metres (144 feet) in height.

Stockholm’s city council has 101 members—50 women and 51 men. The head of the council is a woman. The balance changes regularly. The previous council had 51 women and 50 men, with a man as the head.

Because the City Hall is a functioning government and administrative centre, you can visit only by guided tour. These run every hour and are offered in English and Swedish (and perhaps other languages by appointment). Certainly well worth a visit.

By the way, the City Hall is built on a place once occupied by an old mill, Eldkvarnen, that burned down in 1878.

Oh, and I should mention that one of the hallways has murals painted by the then prince. It took him five years and he was a bit fed up with the whole thing when he was done. Sorry there are no photos of it, but the sun cast such long shadows, I couldn’t do any of the panels justice.

Stockholm City Hall, Golden Hall, cats

IMG_2527

41 Comments

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  1. derrickjknight / May 21 2017 4:57 pm

    Good description, Peggy. He must have driven the treasury administrators mad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / May 21 2017 4:59 pm

    I guess this is Ostberg’s version of shabby chic! I like the eclectic mix of styles, but not sure I’d have wanted to work on a construction that changed with the designer’s whim. The mosaics are fabulous.What an interesting history here, thanks for showing us.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 21 2017 8:42 pm

      Usually it’s the client who tinkers with the design. In this case, I bet the architect drove the client crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Vicki / May 21 2017 5:06 pm

    It looks enormous and that Golden Hall stunning!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. beetleypete / May 21 2017 7:42 pm

    Great photos, Peggy. Another city I have yet to visit!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. spearfruit / May 21 2017 7:57 pm

    Fascinating – the photos provide great detail. Thanks Peggy for the tour. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. gerard oosterman / May 21 2017 8:22 pm

    I could not help think of our own Sydney opera house. Wasn’t it also bedevilled by many problems? Fascinating tour. Thanks Peggy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 21 2017 8:44 pm

      While the budget for this blew-out, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Opera House’s price tag.

      Like

  7. Forestwoodfolkart / May 21 2017 10:23 pm

    I also thought the Stockholm city hall was such a surprising treasure. I love that the architect created it in the old fortification style. Imagine how different it would have been, and how similar to so many other buildings if it was built in the architectural trends of the time. When I saw the Golden Room, I thought, I don’t need to see Egypt now – this is amazing!!! Although it was a tad colder when I was there. The weather looked great the day you took these photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 21 2017 11:25 pm

      It was bright and sunny when we were there, but freezing. Like you, I was impressed that an out-of-the-ordinary architecture was used for the city hall. An interesting rock church from Helsinki is coming up soon on the blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. pvcann / May 22 2017 12:38 am

    Enjoyed reading this, and feast of photos, what an achievement.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Curt Mekemson / May 22 2017 1:58 am

    Very interesting Peggy. I can picture the workers on scaffolds carefully roughing up each brick to make it look older. And the tower, that’s quite an afterthought. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 22 2017 3:25 am

      Yes, the tower is a rather huge change of mind. That and the brick doctoring certainly hit the budget hard.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Alison and Don / May 22 2017 4:16 am

    We’ve been to Stockholm three or four times and right to the city hall area, but never went inside. Obviously we must do that next time we go! The gold room is spectacular.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  11. IreneDesign2011 / May 22 2017 5:06 am

    Really beautiful art, Peggy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. wfdec / May 22 2017 6:37 am

    I don’t care about any of that. I just want to see the mermaid on the rock. (Actually I loved wandering with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dorothy / May 22 2017 7:24 am

    Love the golden wall. What an extravagance, real gold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 22 2017 1:12 pm

      We were so surprised when the guide told us it was real gold, but then realised that beaten thinly it would go a long way.

      Like

  14. forwardtogloryquartet / May 22 2017 9:44 am

    The Town Hall is a bonafide original. I love every inch of it. Did you climb the tower? As interesting on the inside as much as outside. And of course, the view topside is stunning. Oslo’s & Copenhagen’s town halls are just as amazing. And since Helsinki’s is much older, to my mind, Saarinen’s railway station offers up a town hall-like impact.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 22 2017 1:22 pm

      The tower wasn’t open the day we were there 😦 otherwise we would have climbed. I bet the view is amazing. And yes, Saarinen’s railway station is lovely, but a little chopped up now with shops and dividing walls.

      Like

  15. Phil Huston / May 23 2017 7:18 am

    The I am Siamese mosaic was a surprise! What? No Abba statue? Stockholm should be ashamed! There should be a City Council resolution that everyone wear bellbottoms containing at least 8 yards of material at least one day a year! It’s a beautiful city and you did it justice. But the way they name things? Like Munk kegel? That’s why I can’t keep a straight face in der funkundshitzen in IKEA.

    Thanks for sharing this amazing trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 23 2017 4:15 pm

      Thanks, and I’m glad you liked the monk bricks’ real name. I couldn’t let that one go! But I guess the Abba link is saved for the changing of the guards.

      Like

  16. dfolstad58 / May 23 2017 1:30 pm

    I enjoyed the detail And photographs in this post. So much information in detail that I want to travel and see these spots. My wife and I enjoy old buildings, paintings, and museums. I can see the work in your posts and I appreciate it

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 23 2017 4:16 pm

      Thanks. I appreciate it when people realise that each post takes time, thought and some research.

      Like

  17. Neethu / May 23 2017 9:51 pm

    Wow again..M not sure if I will ever get to visit this place…So a tour virtually through your post was awesome…👌👌

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 24 2017 5:06 am

      So glad you have enjoyed it. Your company is always appreciated.

      Like

  18. christie jones / May 24 2017 2:56 am

    So beautiful Peggy, thank you for sharing! Looks like you’re having a wonderful trip🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. jeanleesworld / May 31 2017 12:57 pm

    Catching up at last–I would have never expected to see such a Golden Hall–so beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

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