"Working with existing properties is a real passion for us as a studio and the challenge is to create a genuine dialogue with the existing building. This starts with listening to the building, the city and the people." —Jason Holley, Principal at Universal Design Studio
In the late 19th century, the Brunkebergstorg Square area was a fashionable hotspot frequented by intellectuals and artists and celebrated for its ornate belle epoque architecture – Sweden’s very own version of Paris’ Left Bank. This changed in the 1960s when, in a bid to modernise the city, the socialist government of the day tore down the old square and commissioned a series of uncompromisingly brutalist buildings. These included the Riksbank designed by Swedish architect Peter Celsing at the north end of the square, which is considered a modernist masterpiece.
When it was bought in 2014 by Petter Stordalen’s progressive Nordic Hotels & Resorts group, it had been derelict for some time. Its restoration is part of Stordalen’s wider master plan to rejuvenate the Brunkebergstorg Square area. In 2015 local architectural practice White Arkitekter refurbished the building’s listed facade and added three new modern floors, and we began the two-year process of transforming the interior so that it could fulfil its original intended purpose as a hotel.
Raw, brutalist architecture and a chic, comfortable 21st-century luxury hotel are perhaps unlikely bedfellows. We therefore faced a complex and contradictory challenge – to create an interior that is authentic and in keeping with its context, yet still feels warm and inviting. We sought to humanise the architecture, using fine layers of natural textures such as timber, sawn stone, polished granite and marble, contrasting brass and blackened steel.