Stockholm’s ‘The Old Library’ celebrates vast history with forward-thinking sustainable Swedish design
Stockholm is a city of tranquillity, sophistication and elegance which are all words that you could use to describe Sweden’s ‘National Museum’s ‘The Old Library’ following its recent renovation. A transformation that makes it the embodiment of the country’s prestigious image.
Sweden is often seen as the pinnacle of modern design, however ‘The Old Library’ celebrates the nation’s rich history dating back to the 19th-century, a period of time which is frequently forgotten when one thinks of the country’s architectural heritage.
There are many elements that are present in the historic design — which was recently renovated by Emma Olbers — that are symbiotic of 21st-century Swedish vision. Take, for example, the vast open space areas which allow the artefacts that are on show to breathe and blends these two eras together.
Stockholm’s National Museum was originally constructed by leading European architect Friedrich August Stüler during a period of creation in 1866. Stüler, who brought fresh ideas to the country with his forward-thinking ethos, laid the foundations for one of Sweden’s most iconic locations. When Emma Olbers was tasked with the challenge of modernising the area, she didn’t want it to lose its unique charm and instead dared herself to make it as environmentally sustainable as possible.
Speaking about the project in an interview with Dezeen: “My brief was to make a room for rest and reflection,” explained Emma Olbers, founder of the studio, “and environmental issues are of high priority for me.”
She added: “I believe that sustainability and product life-cycles are key concerns and I strive to incorporate it into my work. I want to design good products – good in all aspects, including being good for our planet. As this project is in a public place, I saw it as a chance to get this message out.”
The esteemed Swedish designer managed to meet this brief while also embracing sustainability, adding woven hemp chairs which replaced leather becuase it is carbon dioxide-positive is a prime example. Olbers also added pine reading tables because her critieria when choicing a wood was to use the materials that contained the least carbon dioxide whilst, of course, not comprimising on its aesthetics.
“Reusing materials that have already been produced is actually one of the greatest opportunities we have to reduce carbon emissions,” Olbers told Make It Last.
Following her renovation, the expansive room is now centred by a lone lean table which is made solely from one Swedish pine tree. The table counter has been stained forest-green which compliments the lamps, as well as the green chairs seen in the room.
The locality of the products and who is producing them is another important objective that Olbers wanted to incorporate into the room which blends in with her sustainable approach by getting local designers Front and Monica Förster involved in the project. Förster created a one-off special edition version of her Sana chair, while Front provided the series of green lights with long thin stems which is a nod to the archetypal traditional library.
After a five-year restoration period, Sweden’s National Museum finally re-opened its doors in November 2018. Feast your eyes upon the magnificent results that Olbers and her carefully curated team created below which blends environmentally conscious forward-thinking design whilst respecting the building’s 150-year illustrious history.
All images provided to Far Out Magazine via Andy Liffner, see more of his work here.