Discover 25 excellent examples of Swedish architecture – from Turning Torso to Treehotel.
1. Old and 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.
2. Twisted skyscraper
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 tenth birthday in 2015, and won the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat's (CTBUH) ‘10 Year Award’ the same year.
3. Moveable church
Gustav Wickman’s Kiruna church 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.
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.
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 in the heart of the fictive nation of Ladonia in the nature reserve of Kullaberg. A big part of it burnt down in 2016, but was rebuilt. Visitors can climb into and enter the buildings made of driftwood.
6. Recycled sauna
A new neighbourhood is being developed in Frihamnen in Gothenburg, and a sauna – Svettekôrka ('the sweat church')– became the first step. This spectacular yet unpretentious small-scale landmark was built using locally recycled material and locally sourced volunteers. Free of charge and available to the public, the sauna is built in a basin that is part of the river Göta älv. Architects: Jan Liesegang and Francesco Apuzzo from Berlin-based office Raumlabor.
7. Civic hall with flair
Sweden’s arguably most extravagant civic hall, Medborgarhuset, 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, the material and aesthetic quality of the civic hall is nowadays considered a high watermark of detailed, expressive and spatially rich civic architecture.
8. Hotel among trees
The Mirrorcube is one of the half-dozen havens of contemporary architecture that is Treehotel, 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.
9. The bridge
The Öresund Bridge – with a structure encompassing a tunnel and an artificial island – connects Sweden with Denmark and was designed by COWI. It's the world's longest cable-tied road and rail bridge, finished in August 1999. It won the IABSE Outstanding Structure Award in 2002.
10. 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.
11: Ferry terminal buildings
Strömkajen’s ferry terminal buildings by Marge Arkitekter 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.
12. The Icehotel
The world’s first Icehotel lies in Jukkasjärvi, 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, and 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. One part of the icy hotel (Icehotel 365) is open all year round thanks to solar energy keeping the ice cool enough.
13. The forest
Featuring actual tree trunks and a forest-like atmosphere, the Swedish pavilion at the world expo in Dubai – Expo 2020– aims to recreate the feeling of a Swedish forest. 'The Forest' is an 18-metre tall building entirely made of wood. It was designed by three teams from three countries: Alessandro Ripellino Arkitekter in Sweden, Studio Adrien Gardère in France and Luigi Pardo Architetti in Italy.
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.
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.
17. The ski hotel
Ralph Erskine’s Borgafjäll ski hotel (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.
18. Visitor centre
Carmen Izquierdo is the architect behind the Cathedral Forum (Domkyrkoforum) the visitor centre at Lund Cathedral. The nearly thousand-year-old church receives about 700,000 visitors every year. The brass- and glass-clad visitor centre has an architectural lantern window that frames the cathedral like a painting when you look out through it. The building awarded Izquierdo the prestigious Kasper Salin Prize for outstanding architecture in 2012.
19. The Globe
The Avicii Arena (known as Globen) was in 2021 renamed in honour of late Swedish musician Avicii. It is the world’s largest spherical building and sticks up like a giant golf ball nestled between its residential surroundings. The arena, designed by Berg Arkitektkontor, opened in 1989, has a diameter of 110 metres and a ceiling height of 85 metres.
20. Stockholm City Hall
Stockholm City Hall, 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 has been accompanied on its eastern side by White Arkitekter’s sustainable Stockholm Waterfront building.
21. Nature centre
Naturum Vattenriket (roughly ‘the water realm visitor centre’) 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.
22. The nursing home
Trädgårdarna (‘the gardens’) is an nursing home in Örebro, a couple of hours west of Stockholm, that sets a new standard for future elderly care. The architect, Marge Arkitekter, has been praised for really incorporating the perspective of the elderly in the building. As a result, the facility has a home-like feel to it while being very functional.
23. The capital library
Stockholm City Library by Gunnar Asplund 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.
24. The cemetery
A visit to the 100-hectare Woodland Cemetery (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.
25. The railway station
With the Triangeln project in Malmö, engineer/architect/envirotech consultancy Sweco completed Sweden’s third busiest railway station six months early and 10 per cent under budget in 2010. Small on the outside, but spacious on the inside, it places an important role for the many Swedes and Danes who travel back and forth between the two countries.