Wingårdh’s renovation of Nationalmuseum is finished, opening again after five years of work

Journal / Wingårdh’s renovation of Nationalmuseum is finished, opening…   More information

The two architecture firms of Wingårdh and Wikerstål were jointly commissioned to plan the comprehensive renovation of Nationalmuseum in 2012, and the following year the building closed and the reconstruction began. The architects’ brief was to create a museum that would be functional over the long term.

Nationalmuseum is Sweden’s national museum of art and design. Located on Blasieholmen in Stockholm, it was designed by the Berlin architect Friedrich August Stüler. Working together with architect Erik Wikerstål, Wingårdh based the new design on the original architecture, opening up, restoring, and modernizing the building. Stüler’s meticulous work generated most of Nationalmuseum’s new design, and the lion’s share of our work has been to bring today’s expectations into harmony with the inherent qualities of the existing building.

Most of what’s new is invisible, hidden in the walls and ceilings and under the floors. But in the south atrium, which had previously been built over, there is now a large freestanding elevator shaft. It is clad in a glittering weave of oxidized brass, and it resolves much of the museum’s circulation logistics. The elevator allows exhibition objects to be brought up from the basement archives to the galleries and can accommodate extremely large and heavy objects.

The formerly built-over south atrium, like the north one, is now bathed in a pleasant and natural light from above. Both courtyards have been fitted with glass roofs with shallow dome forms—a discreet solution that does not impact the appearance of the building from the outside.

We snuck large air ducts in undetected, and found a place for big mechanical rooms under each atrium. We have worked out the building’s circulation so that both visitors and objects (sometimes priceless art objects) can now move smoothly throughout the building.

In the atriums there was a risk for reflected sound and bothersome noise levels. Anyone who has visited the British Museum’s glazed-over courtyards knows just how noisy it can be beneath a vaulted glass surface. So instead of creating a continuous surface of flat glass panels, each opening in the structural framework is fitted with a shallow pyramid. That breaks up the reflected sound in myriad directions, dispersing it around the room where it can be absorbed by special sound-attenuating plaster walls. What is essentially a scientific solution to a problem has produced a delicate glass roof full of details. To the untrained eye, it looks almost like a nineteenth-century construction. Nationalmuseum has been modernized and adapted to the twenty-first century, and at the same time the building’s nineteenth-century charms and qualities have been uncovered, polished up, and restored—a modern, dressed-up interpretation of Stüler’s original design.

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