24 landmarks of Swedish architecture

From the world’s first twisting skyscraper to a melting ice hotel, a land art installation in a micronation and a UNESCO World Heritage cemetery – not to mention the world’s largest spherical building.

Start reading

The auditorium in Aula Medica, in Stockholm, seats 1,000 people. Photo: Ulf Sirborn

24 landmarks of Swedish architecture

From the world’s first twisting skyscraper to a melting ice hotel, a land art installation in a micronation and a UNESCO World Heritage cemetery – not to mention the world’s largest spherical building.

#1: The old and the new

Wingårdhs’ Aula Medica rises above the traditional cottage – Stenbrottet (the stone quarry) from 1771 – blending old and new Swedish architecture. It was completed in 2013 for the medical university Karolinska institutet, which selects the Nobel Prize laureates in Medicine or Physiology.

Turning Torso’s form is composed of nine cubes with triangular tips.

Photo: Kenny Hindgren/CC BY-ND 2.0 and Jonas Evertsson/CC BY-ND-NC 

#2: The Turning Torso

Malmö’s Turning Torso, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is the world’s first twisting skyscraper and Scandinavia’s tallest tower at 190 metres. It celebrated its 10th birthday on August 27, 2015, and won the CTBUH’s (Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat) ‘10 Year Award’ the same year.

Kiruna kyrka looks like a Laplander’s winter cot-tent, is painted a traditional Swedish red and smells like tar.

Photo: Bermax/wikimedia

#3: The moveable church

Gustav Wickman’s Kiruna kyrka from 1912 has been voted Sweden’s most beloved building of all time. Due to extensive mining, it will be taken apart, moved and reconstructed in a new location along with the rest of the northern city of Kiruna in the forthcoming years.

The Electron Microscope, aka Ångströmhuset, by Tham & Videgård from 2011.

Photo: Cecilia Larsson Lantz/imagebank.sweden.se

#4: The microscope

Europe’s most precise electron microscope – an instrument so sensitive to vibrations, sounds and electromagnetic fields that it needs a building of its own – is covered with titanium plates. It boldly stands out among offices and classrooms on the campus of Linköping University.

Nimis is part of the self-proclaimed micronation of Ladonia – with over 17,000 citizens from more than 100 countries – currently at war with Sweden and San Marino.

Photo: János Csongor Kerekes/CC BY-ND 2.0

#5: The micronation

Nimis, meaning ‘too much’ in Latin, is a controversial site-specific art installation started by Lars Vilks in 1980. Measuring 100 metres wide and with towers as high as 25 metres, it’s an impressive architectural playground. Viewers can climb into and enter the buildings made of driftwood, as well as admire them from the beach, the sea and the heights of the nature reserve of Kullaberg.

Victoria Tower, nestled between downtown Stockholm and the airport.

Photo: Ola Fogelström

#6: The tall tower

Wingårdhs’ Victoria Tower, in high-tech Kista, won first prize in the World Architecture Festival 2012 and reflects its surroundings – you can see out, but you can’t see in. The 117 metres high building, cast in steel and glass and completed in 2011, is the tallest hotel in Scandinavia.

The layout of Eslöv Civic Hall was inspired by the UN Building, on which Hans Asplund – son of Sweden’s perhaps most famous architect, Gunnar Asplund – was working at the time.

Photo: Ola Torkelsson/TT

#7: The small-town Civic Hall

Sweden’s most extravagant civic hall is located in the small, southern town of Eslöv. It was completed in 1957 by Hans Asplund as the young architect’s first major building. The materials for the deluxe civic hall were carefully chosen – without regard for either price or technique. Criticised at first, Medborgarhuset’s material and aesthetic quality is nowadays considered a high watermark of detailed, expressive and spatially rich civic architecture.

The Mirrorcube, a 4x4x4 metre hideout camouflaged by mirror walls reflecting their surroundings.

Photo: Fredrik Broman/Human Spectra

#8: The hotel among the trees

The Mirrorcube is one of the half-dozen havens of contemporary architecture that is Treehotel (2010), way up in Harads in the north of Sweden. Renowned Swedish architects – Tham & Videgård, Cyrén & Cyrén, Inredningsgruppen and Sandell Sandberg – have worked on the buildings.

Read more about the Treehotel in ’10 amazing places to stay in sweden’.

Öresundsbron begins/ends in a rather dramatic way – from over water to under water.

Photo: Jan Kofod Winther/Öresundsbron

#9: The bridge

Öresundsbron – with a structure encompassing a tunnel and an artificial island – connects Sweden with Denmark and was designed by COWI. Besides being our planet’s longest cable-tied road and rail bridge, it was finished in August 1999, three months ahead of schedule, and won the IABSE Outstanding Structure Award in 2002.

Restaurang Tusen won 1st prize in the World Architecture Festival (Holiday category) 2009.

Photo: Hans Murman & Åke E:son Lindman

#10: The birch hut

Murman Arkitekter’s Restaurang Tusen, built in 2008 in the family-owned ski resort of Ramundberget, serves up local and Sami food. The building stands in harmony with nature and is made of birch – the only local tree that grows up to the altitude where the building is located.

Marge Arkitekter’s ferry terminal buildings from 2013 reflect the buildings and water around them in Stockholm.

Photo: Johan Fowelin/Marge

#11: The ferry terminal

Strömkajen’s ferry terminal buildings provide a gateway to the Stockholm archipelago. The terminals, in the form of cones constructed with squares of brass alloy, are scaled down to highlight the surrounding monumental edifices: the Royal Palace, Grand Hotel and National Art Gallery.

The Icehotel won the TRIP Global Award in 2013 for ‘the best travel experience in Sweden’.

Photo: Peter Grant/imagebank.sweden.se

#12: The melting hotel (or not)

The world’s first Icehotel, in Jukkasjärvi, 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, was founded in 1989. New artists and ice experts create the rooms anew during eight weeks in October–December each year. The hotel, consisting of 1,000 tons of ice and 30,000 m³ of snice (snow and ice), takes three months to melt and return to Mother Nature every spring. As of November 2016, a new part of the icy hotel will stay open all year round thanks to solar energy keeping the ice cool enough.

Dalhalla is an impressive 400 x 175 x 55 metres. Its current attendance record is 60,000.

Photo: Calle Eklund/Wikimedia/(CC BY-SA 3.0)

#13: The gravel pit

The disused limestone quarry Dalhalla, in Dalarna, opened for the public as a concert venue in 1995. Its countryside location – far away from buildings and road traffic – makes it an ideal summer destination for all things musical; from opera to electronica.

Emporia won a World Architecture Festival award 2013 and INSIDE and MIPIM awards shortly after.

Photo: Tord-Rickard Söderström

#14: The mall

Emporia’s gigantic golden chasm, bold colours and bent sightlines break shopping centre conventions. It was built by Wingårdhs in 2012 and is part of an urban planning project – where offices, houses and retail come together in a mixed-use development integrated into the fabric of Malmö.

Uppsala Konsert & Kongress is one of Sweden’s foremost venues for concerts, congresses and conferences.

Photo: Magnus Östh/CC BY 3.0

#15: The concert hall

Uppsala Konsert & Kongress, designed on the outside by Henning Larsen Architects and inside by White, opened in 2007. Its reflecting metallic facade, reminiscent of piano keys, is an important gathering point in the historical student town that is Uppsala.

Sigurd Lewerentz’s simple flower kiosk in Malmö was his final act of architecture.

Photo: Fotograf Bojana Lukac/Stadsbyggnadskontoret Malmö stad

#16: The flower shop

Sigurd Lewerentz’s brutalist flower kiosk from 1969, by the Eastern cemetery (Östra kyrkogården) in Malmö, is a much-debated icon of Swedish architecture. The renowned architect’s most scaled down and extreme building, mostly based on squares and golden sections, still attracts architecture buffs from all over the world.

Hotell Borgafjäll’s architecture is celebrated for responding to its particular site and conditions.

Photo: Hotell Borgafjäll

#17: The ski hotel

Ralph Erskine’s Hotell Borgafjäll, from 1950, is one of the famous architect’s most original projects. The surrounding climate has influenced the long sloped roofs that become part of the local Lapland landscape when covered in snow – and can even be used as a ski slope.

Since 2011, you can travel around the Globe in two spherical glass globe gondolas known as Skyview and enjoy an unobstructed view of Stockholm.

Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

#18: The Globe

The Ericsson Globe – or Globen – is the world’s largest spherical building. It sticks up like a golf ball nestled in between its residential surroundings. The arena, designed by Berg Arkitektkontor, opened in 1989 and has a diameter of 110 metres and a ceiling height of 85 metres.

Stockholms stadshus, home to the Nobel Prize Banquet, is one of Stockholm’s most famous silhouettes.

Photo: Werner Nystrand/imagebank.sweden.se

#19: The City Hall

Stockholms stadshus, Ragnar Östberg’s masterpiece of Swedish National Romanticism, was completed in 1923. A total of 365 steps lead up to its 106 metre tall bell tower, with a spire featuring the golden Three Crowns – Sweden’s national emblem. Since 2010, it is accompanied on its eastern side by White’s sustainable Stockholm Waterfront building.

Naturum Vattenriket, designed by White arkitekter and inaugurated in 2011.

Photo: Åke E:son Lindman/White

#20: The nature centre

Naturum Vattenriket (roughly ‘the nature room/the water realm’) is situated in a wetlands reserve a five minute walk from the urban area of Kristianstad. The building acts as a reception between visitor and lakeside, while boardwalks offer the possibility to roam from city to nature and to explore the lake landscape from a variety of vertical perspectives. There are over thirty ‘naturums’ – visitor centres in nature reserves – in Sweden.

Energy-efficient Kuggen in Gothenburg, completed by Wingårdhs in 2011, has won the MIPIM Sustainability Award.

Photo: Tord Rikard Söderström

#21: The cogwheel

Kuggen (‘the cogwheel’) stands tall at the centre of a square by the Chalmers University of Technology. The circular building looks different from every direction and livens up its surroundings with its surprising form. It only has one elevator – to encourage exercise and spontaneous staircase meetings.

It took Gunnar Asplund 10 years at the drawing board to complete the Stockholm City Library, inaugurated in 1928.

Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

#22: The library

Stockholms stadsbibliotek is famed for its round lending hall in the shape of a rotunda, with a ceiling height of 23 metres. Despite its relatively modest size, the building’s unique shape – a cylindrical central tower surrounded by three cubical wings – projects a monumental character.

The Woodland Cemetery– one of the few examples of 20th century architecture on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Photo: CC/Archileaks

#23: The Woodland Cemetery

A visit to the 100 hectare Skogskyrkogården, designed from 1920 and onwards by Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz, is a tragic and sublime journey through a beautifully rolling landscape of subtle romanticism. It’s probably also the most magical place in the world to spend All Saints’ Day. Sadly, Asplund himself was the first to be buried in his Woodland Crematorium. The simple stone plaque reads ‘His work lives’. Indeed.

The 25 metres deep Triangeln railway station, a modern example of Swedish architecture, is built as a rock cavern with a glass dome on top.

Photo: Werner Nystrand/imagebank.sweden.se

#24: The railway station

With the Triangeln project in Malmö, Sweco, Scandinavia’s leading engineer/architect/envirotech consultancy, showed why they’re at top of their game. How? By completing Sweden’s third busiest railway station six months early and 10 per cent under budget in 2010. It’s nice and spacey inside too – take a further look.

Last updated: 16 May 2016

Sweden.se