- The Central Post Office was completed in 1903
- It was designed by architect Ferdinand Boberg
- The building served its original purpose for 100 years
- Now it is a part of the Regeringskvarter (“Government Quarter”)
The arrival of the twentieth century changed the way we live in many different ways. While plenty of inventions that are commonplace today, were still unknown a hundred years ago, we can say that the modern lifestyle was very much born around the turn of the century. With more people concentrated in large cities than ever before, the urban infrastructure was only one of many areas that needed rapid development.
Post services. A field which still faces numerous issues in the 21st century, experienced its first wave of quickly growing demand and fast innovation during the aforementioned era, too. With so many people moving to cities, continued globalisation, and the emerging mail-order industry, Swedish post offices were becoming more important than ever.
The story of the Central Post Office in Stockholm is a perfect example of this development. It was in 1875 that a new headquarters of the post office was opened at Rödbodtorget, in the neighbourhood of Tegelbacken. No coincidence was involved in choosing this location in close proximity of the Central Railway Station.
Although railway was still very new in Sweden and Stockholm’s Central Station had only been in operation for a few short years, most of the mail and goods were arriving in Stockholm by train. The proximity of the Main Post Office to the railway was hence essential for its efficiency.
However, it only took about twenty years for the building to become too small and the authorities started looking for new solutions. When they decided to build a new building for the main office, they needed to find a large enough land in the same neighbourhood where they already resided.
Eventually, they decided to build on Vasagatan right across the road from the Central Station exit to this busy street. Architect Gustaf Dahl, who was responsible for post office buildings at the time, took a study trip to continental Europe where he explored how similar structures were designed there.
Upon his return to Sweden, he had designed a plan proposal for the building before an architectural contest was announced. Five of the foremost Swedish architects were invited to submit their designs, but it was Ferdinand Boberg whose proposed design caught the attention of the committee the most.
His design clearly understood the importance of the building and Boberg managed to highlight its prominence even in the crowded city landscape on Vasagatan. The realisation of his design was put in motion in 1898, and the monumental building was inaugurated five years later by King Oscar II.
From the outside, the most distinguished feature of the building in its tall tower at the bottom of which you would find the original main entrance. The tower, as well as the entrance itself, is heavily decorated with references to traditional symbols of Sweden and the Poste.
You would find the name of the organisation for which the building was built right above the main entrance and the well-known Swedish symbol of three crowns just below the golden letters.
Even the rest of the sandstone façade standing on a granite base carries many references to postal services, Sweden and primarily its capital in the form of sculptures. Pigeons carrying letters in their beaks, post horns, three crowns, and some of the most renowned buildings visible on Stockholm landscape all made it to Boberg’s original design.
While the architect himself reportedly disagreed with associations of his design with any popular architectural styles, the building is commonly considered an example of Art Noveau, Jugendstil, and even early National Romanticism, though its playfulness and rich décor go against some of the principles of this style popular in later decades of the 1900s.
At the time of the completion, the Central Post Office was denominated as a top-modern building thanks to its having electricity, elevators, and flush toilets which were still far from common at the time.
Like pretty much all historic sites, the building we are looking at has also been renovated on several occasions since its creation. With the continued growth of demand for postal services, the organisation felt the need for expansion of their facilities again in the 1930s.
Fortunately, there was still some space left on the plot of land they had acquired decades ago, and an addition to the existing building could be built. The new part was designed by Erik Lallerstedt in a functionalist style.
In the ‘50s, it was the interior that went through a renovation. New marble floors were installed, as well as more modern counters. Toward the end of the century, the Central Post Office received a new Aula, and three of its four courtyards were covered by a glass roof.
Almost exactly a hundred years after the inauguration, it was time to write a new chapter in the life of the massive building. As the 21st-century needs of a post office differ largely from what such a place needed a hundred years earlier, the Poste moved out, and the edifice was acquired by the National Property Board of Sweden (SFV).
After a thorough but careful reconstruction, the historic site listed since 1935 became the latest addition to the so-called Regeringskvarter (‘Government Quarter’). In relation to this change, the main entrance to the building was moved from Vasagatan to Mäster Samuelsgatan and a new 200-square-metre reception designed by the Finnish artist Nanna Hänninen was installed.
With its area of 40,000 square metres, the Central Post Office in Stockholm is now a facility accommodating around 800 government employees who enjoy top-modern work environment in the premises of a well-known historic site.
While it is unlikely that you will get to explore much of the building’s interior, you are more than welcome to admire its stunning façade with all the thorough details.
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Från post till regeringskansli. [byggindustrin.se].
Miras Mirakel. Ferdinand Boberg – Centralposthuset i Stockholm. [mirasmirakel.blogspot.com].
Stockholm kn, BLÅMANNEN 21 CENTRALPOSTHUSET I STOCKHOLM. [www.bebyggelseregistret.raa.se].