I never managed to make a blog post regarding the first Kulturnatten (Culture Night) I visited in Stockholm in 2017, but in writing about my visit in 2019, I was prompted to make a side note of the visit in 2017. This visit in 2017 inspired me to make return visits each year to this annual event. The highlight of that visit in 2017 was realising a dream of standing in the Blå Hallen (Blue Hall) of Stockholm’s Stadhus (Town Hall). Why? Well that will become apparent for 2 very good reasons, so read on.
This beautiful building dominates the island Kungsholmen upon which it sits and has commanding views of Riddarfjärden on Lake Mälaren. Taking 15 years to build between 1908 & 1923, the architect Ragnar Östberg was inspired by the Doge’s Palace in Venice and combined influences from Italian renaissance, Nordic Gothic and Islamic art to create his own style. At a time when art nouveau was the style and dominating Europe aesthetics, it places well with its counterparts. The building consists of nearly eight million dark red bricks, called “munktegel” (monks’s brick) and its towers boasts a height of 106 metres.
Within the building, it houses several well known rooms with names such as Blå hallen (the Blue Hall; 50m long x 30m wide x 22 m high), Gyllene salen (the Golden Hall; decorated by golden mosaics) and Prinsens galleri (the Prince’s Gallery; with Prince Eugén’s paintings). A large number of well known national artists and designers have contributed to the decoration of the building – the brothers Aron och Gustaf Sandberg, Carl Eldh, Christian Eriksson, HRH Prince Eugén, Axel Törneman, Einar Forseth, Axel Wallert and Carl Malmsten. Stockholm’s Town Hall has become a masterwork of modern architecture & design. A favourite of mine.
So why all this raving about this particular building apart for the wonderful design. My first reason for this side note. Well here on the 10th of December every year is the Nobel Banquet to celebrate the Nobel Laureates. The banquet of banquets! The pinnacle of all academia celebrations. A happening unrivaled in splendor, dignity, decorum and decadence. Men in tails and women in fantastic ball gown creations adorned with tiaras, jewels, orders och medals. Only 1200 guests can attend and after all the Laureates & family, members of the academies, academics and dignitaries have their places there are a few seats every year for the general public which are balloted for. Unfortunately, my name has not come up yet, however, our Faculty does receive a few invitations and in 1999 it looked like I might get one of them but the Dean had to withdraw the offer for another more prominent guest. Ah well, next time.
After the ceremony takes place at the Concert House, the guests are bused to the Town Hall. They enter the Blue Hall draped in flowers sent every year by the city of San Remo, Italy (the city where Alfred Nobel died). It is fantastically lit by candle light and upon the tables is the beautiful Nobel Dinner Service (produced for the 90th anniversary of the Nobel prize) with gold trimmed glass & porcelain in the colours of each of the Nobel prizes, and cutlery in gold and silver. I received for my 50th birthday collectively from family, friends, workmates & members of different societies I am a member of, parts to make up a complete Nobel Dinner service for 6 persons. Since then I have chased pieces at auction over the years to built the set out for 12 persons.
Following the dinner the Royals, Laureates and families retire to the Prince’s Gallery while the rest retire to the Golden Hall for the dance. The sun often appears before the night is over. The Golden Hall is adorned with golden mosaic tiles with the Queen of Mälaren (nickname for Stockholm) presiding over the room. In one corner of the Golden Hall, there is a small mosaic of a distant Swedish relative – John Ericsson – known for the invention of the screw prop propeller and for the building of the famous Civil War ship, the USS Monitor. He was half brother to my maternal great great grandfather Johan Fredrik Ericsson who immigrated to New Zealand in 1840.
Wandering these hallowed halls on Culture Night you could almost imagine you were there at the festivities so what better than to take a glass of champagne and soak up the atmosphere in the Golden Hall. Cheers Patrik & Stefan!
Leaving the Nobel festivities behind us we continued our wanderings through the building visiting the beautiful Prince’s Gallery and the magnificent City Council chamber. We also passed through a little room called the “Oval” where the civil marriages of Stockholm are performed. The room is draped in french tapestries from the 1690s. Little did any of us know that with in 7 weeks Patrik & Stefan would be standing in this very room saying their “I do’s”. Not even they knew. My 2nd reason for this side note.