This article deals with the historical reception of modern public buildings, advocating further research in this field in order to understand the role of monuments in the canon of modern architecture. Sweden’s most referred building in an international context, the Stockholm Public Library, serves here as a case study. Paradoxically, the library is still not officially listed, although most experts would agree on its importance, but this is not unusual with modern monuments of the 20th Century. On the contrary, modern public buildings constitute a mere fraction of Sweden’s built heritage, managed by the National Property Board.
Ever since Stockholm Public Library was completed in 1928, its reception has continuously changed over the years, both for ideological reasons and in response to practical demands. Originally, the monumental character of the building was partly criticised, while its rational organisation was generally acknowledged. From a Swedish perspective, the library was overshadowed by the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930. Thus, in the national historiography of Swedish architecture, the library has been interpreted as the final monument of Nordic classicism. However, from an international point of view, the library was included in the canon of modern architecture during the late 1970s. Its Post-Modern fame climaxed in 1985, in connection with the centenary of the architect, Gunnar Asplund.
More recently, in 2006–07, after the decline of the Post-Modern movement, the library was reappraised in an international competition for its enlargement. Following the competition, the plan for the extension was heavily criticised, both nationally and internationally, and the project was finally abandoned. The article holds that, given better knowledge of the library's international status, this reaction would have been foreseeable. In other words, analyses of the historical reception might serve to indicate possible examples of conflict in future heritage practice.
Uppsala: Bebyggelsehistorisk tidskrift , 2011. Vol. 62, 8-24 p.
History of Architecture, History of Built Environment, Historiography, National Heritage, Stockholm Public Library, Gunnar Asplund