- The Royal Institute of Technology is Sweden’s oldest technological university
- Its roots date back to the late 1600s
- The main campus on Vallhalavägen was built mostly between 1914 and 1917
The Royal Institute of Technology (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan) in Stockholm belongs to the oldest and most traditional educational institutions in Sweden, especially in its field. While the main campus of the university, known simply as KTH, today accommodates only a relatively small part of the students and staff, it is a beautiful place to visit, which resembles traditional university environments from places such as the United Kingdom or from across the Atlantic Ocean.
Historically, the origins of the school date back as far as to the late 1600s when the predecessor of the modern-day institution started educating people in technological fields. The Technology Institute as such was established in 1825 and opened its first programmes two years later.
At the time, the institution was fairly unorganised by modern standards. These issues were tackled later during the century, in 1876, when the school underwent restructuring, made the education more organised and well-defined. The Konglig Teknisk Högskola, which was then the official name, consisted of five separate departments. The departments of Architecture, Machine architecture and mechanical technology, Chemical technology, Mining and metallurgy, and Road and water architecture.
During the 1800s, several proposals were presented for potential new homes of the school. First, in 1839 a design of the building that was meant to be erected in place of the Old National Archives of Sweden (Gamla Riksarkivet) on the Riddarholmen island was presented. Later, in the 1850s, an architectural contest had been announced and won by the well-known architect Helgo Zettervall. His monumental palatial structure was supposed to stand between the Royal Opera House (Kungliga Operan) and the Karl XII’s square (Karl XII:s torg). Experts agree that the decision not to proceed with this plan was a good one as the location did not offer essentially any space for future expansion at all.
Instead, a building was erected on the northern end of Drottninggatan near Observatorielunden between 1860 and 1863. The total costs of this new facility were 400,000 riksdaler riksmynt and students of the Chemical Department, as well as those in the lower grades of several other departments, used to be taught there until the 1940s.
Another important change came at the turn of the twentieth century when women were allowed to be admitted to KTH as regular students. At the same time, the Department of Electrotechnology was established.
One final important decision related to the organisation and structure of the oldest Swedish technological university was made in 1911 when the school changed its name to Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (The Royal Institute of Technology). The authorities also decided that the institution shall receive new facilities.
A special committee was appointed with the task of creating future-proof solutions for education in the country. The same year as the university changed its name, a proposal describing the requirements for the planned new facilities for KTH was submitted to the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag). The proposal specified that the university shall admit 200 additional students every year.
The Parliament approved more than 4.5 million SEK for the building but cut the proposed number of new students to 150 a year. At the same time, KTH was meant to continue using its existing facilities on Drottninggatan 95 during a ‘transitional period.’
Following this decision, the government announced a Swedish architectural contest for the new campus. To ensure extraordinary quality, they invited three of the most notable Swedish architect of the time, Ferdinand Boberg, Erik Lallerstedt, and Lars Israel Wahlman, to participate in the contest for a guaranteed fee.
The requirements for the contest participants clearly stated that every proposal needed to depict the finished campus capable of accommodating 300 students in every grade, a provisional solution for 200 students, and not less importantly, how the transition between the two would look.
Moreover, the aesthetic goals of the projects were clearly defined as well. Robust materials were meant to form the base of the structure as was often the case during the era from which other remarkable buildings in Stockholm, including Stockholm City Hall, come. To achieve a beautiful unity of science and art, only the best artists were supposed to be allowed to leave their mark at the new campus.
A total of fifteen proposals had been submitted to the contest and eventually, Erik Lallerstedt, one of the invited architects, was chosen as the winner in late April of 1912. Lallerstedt himself was a professor of architecture at KTH since 1907, which in a way meant that he was designing his own future workspace, too.
The foundation stone of the new campus located on Vallhalavägen near the legendary Stockholm Olympic Stadium (Stockholms Stadion) was laid on 20 May 1914. KTH’s new home was inaugurated on 19 October 1917 when the first academic year taught there also began. Only the two highest grades formed by over 500 students were being educated on Vallhalavägen.
For comparison, there are around 12,000 students, 1,000 researchers, and 2,500 members of the staff studying and working at KTH today. Only around 2,000 of them are located at the main campus, though.
Remember that the KTH campus on Vallhalavägen is only one of many amazing university campuses you can visit in Stockholm. Before you go on to explore all of them, do not forget to share this story with you dear ones who might also find it interesting.
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Nilsson, Staffan, 1997. Lallerstedt Redivivus. Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan.