The proposed Nobel Center (center) would host the award ceremony for the Nobel Prizes.

© David Chipperfield Architects

Swedish court blocks new home for Nobel Foundation

A Swedish court has blocked construction of a controversial new Nobel Center planned for central Stockholm’s waterfront.

The eight-story, brass-clad structure is expected to serve as a hub for the Nobel Foundation’s activities, including the annual December award ceremonies for the world’s most prestigious science prizes. But critics have argued that the 1.2 billion Swedish krona ($140 million) center will destroy the historical character of the waterfront, and on 23 May, the Land and Environment Court in Stockholm agreed.

The center would house the offices of the Nobel Foundation, an auditorium for the award ceremony (now held in Stockholm’s concert hall), the Nobel Museum, and also provide space for exhibitions, educational programs, and a restaurant. Construction was originally scheduled to begin in 2017. But the winning design by the Berlin office of David Chipperfield Architects has been controversial since it was unveiled in 2014. The plans were scaled back in 2015 and revised again in 2016, but critics say the building is still too big and clashes with the historic harbor buildings that would surround it. They also object to tearing down or moving the current buildings at the site, a customs house built in 1876 and several wooden harbor warehouses.

The Land and Environment Court this week sided with the critics, saying the plans would “damage the public interest” by obliterating a visible record of the city’s development as a harbor and an important shipping and trading port. It also said the traffic plan was inadequate. And it agreed with the owners of several neighboring buildings who say construction would block their current view of the harbor.

Stockholm city officials have said they will appeal the court’s decision to the regional appeals court, which will have the final say.