Done and dusted

Early one morning in 2005, a large rock fell from one of the façades of the Royal Palace. That was the start of extensive work to survey the façade, which was in a worse condition than expected. Subsequently, the National Property Board Sweden commenced one of Sweden's largest restoration projects in modern times.

Construction work on the present Stockholm Palace began in the 1690s, when Sweden was one of Europe's Great Powers. The architect, Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, was inspired by the masterpieces of Ancient Greece and Rome, the Renaissance and Baroque, and created a Roman palace which was completed in 1754. The Palace drew the attention of Europe, and does so to this day. It is one of the landmark buildings of European Baroque and the largest royal palace in northern Europe. Now as then, it is the official residence of Sweden's head of state.
Behind the great façade, roughly 30,000 sq m in area, there are 660 rooms with windows. A third of it comprises natural stone with major problems. The Roslagen sandstone forming the lower sections is cracking because the iron wall ties are rusting. The Gotland sandstone of the upper façades is crumbling due to rain and frost, and is cracking and breaking off. To prevent personal injury caused by falling masonry, the façades have been covered with nets.

In April 2011, the National Property Board began the most extensive façade restoration project in Sweden's modern history. The work is expected to take 25 years and cost 500 million Crowns. It is being carried out in collaboration between several experts and heritage conservation bodies. The Palace architect drafts guidelines for how the work is to be done.

The film about the renovation

The façades have been maintained since the 1770s. Weather and wind, as well as efforts in the late 20th century to conserve weathered stone, have meant that the craftsmanship of masons in the past has to some extent been erased. To restore its magnificence, there is a need to return to traditional materials and methods, and to apply new ones. However, the original Roslagen sandstone is no longer quarried and Gotland sandstone is no longer available in sufficient quantities. They are therefore being replaced with similar but much more durable sandstone from Germany, Poland and Switzerland.

Just as when the Palace was built, the masons are from Germany, where the traditional craftsmanship lives on. Most new masonry work is done there too, based on models manufactured in the workshop at Lejonbacken near the Palace. When the newly-hewn stones are then put in place, fine adjustments are needed, since no two stones are identical. At a later stage in the ongoing restoration, the plasterwork will also be changed. The exact shade has not yet been decided, but it will be based on the façades in 1898-1902 sand-coloured plaster to harmonise with the bare, aged Gotland sandstone.