Everywhere you go, there are some places that catch your interest more than others. Well, the building, or a pair of buildings actually, that we look at in this post is definitely one of those places. Not only does the Parliament House (Riksdagshuset) in Stockholm dominate the Helgeandsholmen island it resides on, but it is certainly one of the most notable buildings in the entire city centre of the Swedish capital.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Parliament House, just like the Stockholm City Hall I have covered previously, is not nearly as old as the nearby facilities in Stockholm’s Old Town (Gamla Stan). Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though, and start from the beginning.
The story of this building complex started when the Swedish Parliament (Sveriges Riksdag) decided to move from their facilities on Riddarholmen to the close island named Helgeandsholmen. Soon, another idea was born which suggested that since the Swedish National Bank (Sveriges Riksbank) was in need of a larger facility as well, these two projects could be combined and eventually the two institutions put together only across a narrow street from one another.
This was meant to be a big and important project. That by itself meant that not everyone would agree with the idea. Some opposed it and stated that it was unsuitable for these two institutions to reside next to each other. Eventually, the project moved forward, though, and its scope was pretty impressive.
Essentially everything that stood on the island at that point was to be ripped apart. Therefore, the potential participants in the architectural competition were expected to deliver proposals describing plans for all of the following: The Parliament House, the House of the Swedish National Bank, Riksgatan street, Riksplan square and Strömparterren, the park on the eastern end of the island.
The discussion regarding the design of the premises did not go without problems either. After long battles among the authorities, the original architect selected for the job, Helgo Zettervall, resigned. His position was taken by Aron Johansson who was originally assisting Zettervall.
Before we jump into the story of the construction itself, we need to make something clear. Today, the buildings on both sides of Riksgatan are used by the Swedish Parliament but that was originally not the case. As I said earlier, the Swedish National Bank was meant to reside on the same island. Therefore, the building on the western side of the street was built for the bank and the one on the opposite side was planned for the Parliament.
The foundation of the Parliament House was laid in 1895 while the works on the actual building started in May 1897 after a ceremony honoured by the presence of King Oscar II. Most of the material for the building was delivered to the site on boats from different parts of Sweden. The most characteristic materials of the building are granite, sandstone and brick.
The eastern side of the Parliament House was designed in Neo-Baroque style while the rest can be considered to follow the lines of Neoclassicism. This choice was not popular among young architects of the National Romantic movement who saw the design of the building as of poor taste and not in sync with Swedish traditions of simplicity.
In 1905, the Parliament House with its 5 floors (excluding basement) and a total living area of around 500 000 square metres was completed. Apart from the gigantic dimensions, there were more elements that have been successfully catching people’s interest ever since. For example, the main stairwell which stretches from the bottom floor all the way to the second one and is considered to be one of the most impressive in Sweden. Almost a half of the entire area of the building was taken by the two halls originally designed to serve one chamber of the Parliament each.
Only a year after, the new neighbour of the Parliament House, the House of the Swedish National Bank, was completed. That was when the most impressive part in the area from the visitor’s perspective was officially born. Riksgatan, the street between the two majestic buildings, is bordered by splendid facades made of granite and sandstone from both sides.
Despite the size of the Parliament building, it is said that it became clear immediately after the Parliament has moved in that there was not enough space for all of its operations. For this reason, several other buildings in the Old Town were rented to accommodate additional staff. The situation, however, needed to change and therefore the Parliament moved out of the building in 1971 temporarily until a permanent solution was found.
While the Parliament resided at its temporary location on Sergels Torg, a new plan was created. It was decided to reconstruct and repurpose the Bank House on Helgeandsholmen so as to be used by the Parliament and the Swedish National Bank would therefore move to another location. The plan was executed between 1975 and 1983 when the new Assembly Hall was built on top of the former Bank House.
This addition to the original building created the nice combination of the new and the old that we can observe today. The new hall is where most of the important action in the Parliament happens and is also considered to be among the most recognised facilities in the country together with the Blue Hall at Stockholm City Hall. The need for the new Assembly Hall arose after organisational changes were made to the functioning of the Swedish Parliament in 1971, but we will talk about these in detail in the next post.
One of the interesting design elements worth noticing on the former House of the Swedish National Bank is the contrast between the round windows on the bottom floor and the rectangular ones on the floor above. However, there are many more things to notice at this beautiful building complex so you should go ahead and explore it for yourself.
Another curiosity connected to the building and the island on which it resides is the Medieval Museum which is located at the eastern edge of Helgeandsholmen. Originally, it was meant to be a parking garage with 350 parking places for the Parliament but even before it was completed, it was repurposed to serve its present-day purpose.
Interestingly, despite taking over the former Bank House, the Parliament currently occupies a total of 8 buildings in Stockholm, 7 of which are in the Old Town. It therefore seems that there is no building large enough to accommodate the needs of the Swedish Parliament.
In this post, we discovered the story of the Parliament House in Stockholm. As I suggested earlier in the post, though, there is more to the story of the Parliament itself. That is why the next post will be dedicated to its predecessors and changes that this organisation has gone through in the past as well as its functioning.
In the meantime, find more interesting stories of places in Stockholm and other major cities and take the chance to share your own stories with others in our mobile app Trevl. We would love to see you on our Instagram account, too, where we post images of all kinds of interesting places.
Hultin, Olof, Johansson, Bengt O., Mårtelius, Johan, Waern, Rasmus, 2009. The Complete Guide to Architecture in Stockholm.
Lidberg, Nordin, 1997. Architekturguide Stockholm.
Bedoire, Fredrik, 2012. Stockholms Byggnader. Architektur och Stadsbild.