Longlisted in the civic and cultural interior category of this year’s Dezeen Awards , the Old Library has been overhauled by Emma Olbers Design to include a host of furnishings made from sustainable materials.
It’s set inside Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum – erected by German architect Friedrich August Stüler in 1866 – and serves as a space to exhibit special archive pieces.
“My brief was to make a room for rest and reflection,” explained Emma Olbers, founder of the studio, “and environmental issues are of high priority for me.”
“I believe that sustainability and product life-cycles are key concerns and I strive to incorporate it into my work. I want to design good products – good in all aspects, including being good for our planet.”
“As this project is in a public place, I saw it as a chance to get this message out,” she told Dezeen.
Olbers first grasped an understanding of environmentally-friendly production methods during her 2016 exhibition Where Does it Come From, Where Does it Go?
When putting together the show, she worked with the Swedish Environmental Research Unit to form a list of how much carbon dioxide different materials emit.
“The materials that had the least carbon dioxide were the groups of coniferous and deciduous wood, so we chose to focus on different types of wood in the [Old Library’s] interior,” explained Olbers.
“And instead of leather, we have chosen hemp and seaweed, materials that are carbon dioxide-positive.”
The room is now centred by a slim table made from a single Swedish pine tree. Its counter has been stained forest-green, in a nod to the green chairs, leather-bound books and tabletop writing mats seen in traditional public libraries.
A couple of oak chairs with woven hemp seats and backrests offer visitors a place to sit.
They perch on top of a rug created in collaboration with homeware brand Asplund. Crafted from Tencel – a fibre derived from the pulp of trees – the rug features an illustrative sketch Olbers made of the Old Library at the start of the redesign process.
Förster offered a remix of her existing Sana chair, while Front created a series of green lights with long thin stems that are meant to be a reimagination of the typical library desk lamp.
While one curves up from the floor, a couple have been placed on the ledges of the room’s huge arched windows.
“[The lights] stretch, wind and curve like they might grow a bit by the next time you come to visit,” added Olbers.
The project also saw Olbers and her team restore the library’s existing wooden bookshelves with flax oil and touch-up the paintwork on the domed ceiling with egg tempera paint.
Stockholm’s National Museum reopened its doors in November 2018 following a five-year restoration by architecture firm Wingårdhs.
To mark the occasion, the institution asked five Swedish designers to work alongside 21 local manufacturers to produce furnishings that could decorate the museum’s new rooms.
Pieces included floor lights comprised of undulating strips of plywood, dappled glass vases and rust-red tubular sofas.
Photography is by Andy Liffner .
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