Journal article

The city and the urban space as a "forum" of collective living. The urban complex Stockholm Town Hall- Committee building of Ragnar Östberg (1909-1940)

“The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of eternal youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is”. To quote Proust’s meaningful passage (1923) is to be reminded that at the turn of the 20th century travel towards the South has still embodied a crucial step in Nordic architects’ self-development, but, they were able to go beyond the common mode of contemplation spread by the previous Grand Tour’s approach. In this perspective, the paper examines a case-study apparently remote from the internationally celebrated modern urban-scale projects, which reveals the evident influence of the Swedish architect’s 3-year journey (1896-1899) along the European peninsula. The interest focuses on Stockholm, specifically on the Town hall built by the major exponent of Swedish National Romanticism, that is Ragnar Östberg (1866-1945). The municipal building can be recognized as a concrete expression of what the French philosopher Renan (1882) describes as the goal of architecture: “the yardstick of a nation’s honour, discernment and earnestness”. The European tradition of the municipal building here becomes a catalyst for the new urban development scattered around the archipelago. The Town Hall has been a unique focus of critical interest, but this study investigates the entire project for the Eldkvarnen area, including the adjacent Committee building, which has neither been built nor examined until now. Nonetheless, the many proposals for these buildings highlight the Stockholm townscape and its unusual geographical structure. Östberg’s method still affords a valid example of theatrical design of the city, that consists spatial sequences composed of those travel memories in which collective space played such a large part.

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