Façade renovations at the Royal Palace
The ongoing restoration of the façades at the Royal Palace is the biggest stonework project of modern times. The project began in 2011, and is currently expected to be completed in 2050.
The construction of the current palace began in the 1690s. Sweden was a great power at this time, and the palace was the centre of power. The façades of architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger's Romanesque Baroque style palace are richly ornamented with a wealth of details in Gotland sandstone. Today, just as then, the building attracts attention and is one of the foremost landmark buildings of the European Baroque.
From maintenance to restoration
The first signs that the porous stone was crumbling were noticed as early as the late 18th century, and stones have been replaced, repaired and reinforced ever since. A baluster fell from the roof in 2005. The subsequent urgent investigation revealed that the stonework was in an even worse condition than had been feared. The façades were covered with netting to minimise the risk of injuries if more stones were to come loose.
In April 2011, the first stage of restoration began on 22 pieces of stonework. The Swedish National Property Board is responsible for the palace, and is leading the work in association with several different experts and authorities that deal with historic monuments. This is difficult and time-consuming work. Not since the palace was built has such an extensive stonework project been carried out in Sweden.
The central section of the western façade
The project has now reached stage 8, which involves working on the central section of the western façade. This is expected to be completed during 2021. The western façade is richly ornamented, including ten caryatids – each of which is five metres high – and nine medallions in relief, featuring the portraits and names of Swedish monarchs.
The restoration work involves replacing the most damaged façade stones, while others will be recarved and reinstated. As far as possible, attempts will be made to preserve sculpted details with high artistic value using advanced conservation techniques.
More resistant stone
The palace's façade stonework is carved from Gotland sandstone. Initially, it was hoped that this sandstone could be reused except in the most climatically exposed positions, where more resistant stone is required. However, since Gotland sandstone is no longer quarried to a sufficient extent, the Swedish National Property Board has sourced suitable replacement stone from Germany, Poland and Switzerland.
Top image: Caryatid on the façade of the palace. Photo: Erik Kampmann