King Carl XVI Gustav has become the most august Stockholm resident yet to object to plans to build a British-designed Nobel Centre on a historic city centre site.
“It does not have to be so gigantic, of this huge volume,” the generally restrained monarch told Dagens Nyheter newspaper on Thursday, adding his voice to a storm of protest that has greeted the 1.2bn krona (£100m) project.
“Nobel is a name that we want to protect, of course. We want to preserve and increase its value. The purpose is laudable. [But] the fact that the building has become so big, and has landed a bit in the wrong place – it’s a shame.”
The king also said the sprawling brass-clad structure, designed by the British architect David Chipperfield to house the Nobel Foundation and host its prestigious annual prize ceremony, would dominate Stockholm’s celebrated 19th-century waterfront.
Last month Stockholm city council gave the green light to a scaled-back design for the 18,000 sq metre building, which is being partly financed by the wealthy Wallenberg dynasty and the Persson family, who own the H&M fashion chain. Construction is due to begin next year and the centre is scheduled to open in 2019.
The council has rejected previous criticism of the building, saying the site had long been reserved for a major cultural project and that the Nobelhuset, which will also house exhibitions, research facilities and an education centre, would be an important asset for the city.
But the project’s many critics, including local residents’ groups, political parties and heritage organisations, have lodged multiple appeals, angry that the centre, to be built next to the National Museum on Blasieholmen peninsula, will replace a 140-year-old customs house and other historic harbourside buildings.
Chipperfield, who beat two Swedish architecture practices to win the design competition, said last week that such major public projects would inevitably run into opposition.
He said the Nobel Centre would be a “building with meaning”, with “a strong civic role that conveys the notion of dialogue and meeting and discussion, which I think is absolutely critical to our time”.
He also told Swedish national radio: “The size of the building is determined by what is necessary for a Nobel Centre It’s not exploiting the value of the land or something – it’s not a developer building, an office building or a hotel. I disagree with the criticism, but I respect that it is part of the dialogue.”
Carl Gustav, who personally presents the Nobel prizes for physics, chemistry, medicine and literature in Stockholm each year (the peace prize is presented in Oslo), will be able to see the building from the royal palace – a prospect that seems not to amuse his wife very much either. “Why not have a referendum,” Queen Sylvia suggested, according to Dagens Nyheter.
Roger Mogert, a Stockholm city councillor who is one of the project’s main supporters, said the king’s opinion was irrelevant. “He’s 100 years too late,” Mogert said. “He’s entitled to have an opinion on aesthetics. But Sweden has been a democracy since 1919.”