My words, thoughts and photos from a Swedish perspective

Architecture

Studying a tower

The Kaknäs Tower may not represent what we think of as “pleasant for the eye” but it has a function as radio and television link to fulfil, in fact that’s what it was built for. Construction works began in 1963 and were completed in 1967. Architects were Hans Borgström and Bengt Lindroos. The tower is 170 metres high with the mast on top included (155 metres without the mast), there is a “restaurant with a view” in it and on top of the restaurant two stories from where one can enjoy the view of the city.

Working within the field “Architecture” is a tricky thing and I’m definitely no expert but I try to understand what the architect had in mind while working on the drawings. There is probably something he or she wanted us to see and the photographer’s task is to find it. The mantra about the right light is still valid. The image above would have looked different – and probably very flat – had it been taken on a cloudy day. If shot on a sunny day in June, the angle of the sun would have been different and I would probably have lost the effect the shadows create. That’s probably where the excitement lies, to get something interesting and fun out of a square concrete tower. This is my rendition of it, but there are many more interesting shots out there.

I allowed myself to play with the perspective and desaturate it. The outcome reminds me of the days when television was Black & White and there was only one channel.

I’m not sure what to call this shot. How about “Supposed surveillance in the Toblerone factory”?

 

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Bridges again

Today I’m going to show you another version of the same railway bridge with the old railway bridge behind, the latter currently undergoing renovation. This is all for today because I have a headache and will also try to go to bed in time for a change. The fact that my creativity seems to awake around midnight is a bad thing but I guess I’ll have to live with it.

 


Today’s image

My idea was to do a portrait session during the weekend, but nobody volunteered. The old myth about the necessity of sunshine is still alive, despite the fact that it was true in the childhood of photography when the film’s sensitivity to light was low. Slow shutter speeds and tripod were therefore a must, but a bright sunny day made a difference. Films improved but the old idea remained true and modern digital cameras can do an excellent job under conditions that were difficult to master only a couple of years ago. Getting good portrait shots on a cloudy day in November should be a piece of cake and I like that particular light, because it brings out the whole register of tones nicely.

I was a bit grumpy when I grabbed the camera and left home, determined to capture some beauty one way or another and you can see the result above. I wonder why, but I’m not grumpy anymore…


The Chinese Pavilion

I have kept these images in store for over a month. This explains how we suddenly got summer in October. There is nothing wrong with the four seasons – I have simply not had time to write this post before. Anyhow, instead of showing the traditional front view of the pavilion, I prefer to begin the post with a view from another angle hopyfully giving you an impression of entering something special and a lost world that is still available for us to enjoy.

Ok, now when I have set the mood, let’s go back to 1753. King Adolf Fredrik has decided to give his queen Lovisa Ulrika a surprise on her birthday – a Chinese pavilion. The house was built in Stockholm and secretly shipped in sections on barges to Drottningholm where the construction work took place at nighttime.

The 18th century’s establishment of East Asiatic shipping and trading companies and their transocean shipping launched a keen interest in Chinese and Japanese culture and handicraft. Chinoiseries soon became a fashion all over Europe and the queen really appreciated the birthday present.

This first Chinese Pavilion was built of wood andit began to rot after a couple of years. The foundation to a new brick pavilion was laid in 1763. Architect was Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz, but Jean Eric Rehn was responsible for the interior.

Foundations to two small pavilions (built to last) were laid in 1754. One was “The Confidence” (picture) equipped with “a magic table and magic dumb waiters” which were laid in the basement and sent upstairs with the help of a refined machinery. This meant that the royal family could dine “en confidence” with an absolute minimum of servants present – the table and dishes came through the floor and disappeared the same way when not needed.

The other pavilion was the king’s pavilion. His lathe was brought to that pavilion from Drottningholm; the king had a reputation for being very keen on turning a lathe but there are no records showing that this was true, nor has any work that could verify this survived. There are, however, accounts preserved showing that the queen had ordered material to be used for this purpose. Turning a lathe was a popular pastime among members of the nobility and in the courts of Europe and I suppose it did many of them good.

The disadvantage with these pavilions was that they made the Chinese Pavilion look rather modest and I think that the rottening of it came as a gift from above. The new Chinese Pavilion was completed in 1769. Adolf Fredrik and Lovisa Ulrika used the Chinese Pavilion as their privage refuge from the strict and formal life at the court. They had paid for it out of their own pockets and it was therefore their private property. An invitation to the Chinese Pavilion was the ultimate evidence of royal grace back then. Times would, however, change soon.

Lovisa Ulrika’s different building projects put her in debt and in 1777 her son Gustav III had the state pay all his mother’s debts provided she would give up her right to use Drottningholm. It didn’t take long before life in the Chinese Pavilion was part of the king’s official life and the court had to follow the king on his day trips to it. Besides, he also had the bad habit to change his mind a couple of times which annoyed members of the court because the dresscode at Drottningholm was different from the dresscode at the Chinese Pavilion.

The decline of Drottningholm that followed Gustav III’s death did not seem to have affected the Chinese Pavilion to the same extent, possibly because it soon became a popular place to go to, possibly because it was small and therefore easy to keep in shape. A man was employed and given accomodation in one of the adjacent pavilions already in the 1830’s. His job was to guide visitors in the pavilion dressed like a Chinese. It is still a popular place to go to and there is a café on the grounds where one can get something to eat while one enjoys the atmosphere.


The Theatre at Drottningholm

The entrance

The theatre at Drottningholm is the world’s best preserved 18th century theatre. It has an advanced machinery, designed by Donato Stopani, which makes it possible to change the scenery in a matter of seconds and the curtain can therefore remain open. There are trapdoors in the stage, waves that can move, machinery to change the light and to create sound effects like howling winds and thunder to set the right mood during a performance. The stage is still one of the deepest in the country – about 20 metres – but it is certainly not the widest.

The theatre with the Déjuner saloon seen from the English Park

The theatre replaced a theatre from 1754 which was destroyed by fire during a performance in August 1762. Queen Lovisa Ulrika took the initiative to have it replaced and it was completed in 1766. It was mainly a stage for French theatre companies and the actors lived in the theatre, so it is not only stage, auditorium and dressing rooms; it was also designed to accommodate actors and acresses.

Its era of greatness was of course during the reign of Gustav III and performances were held here every summer from 1777. Before the opera house in Stockholm was completed in 1782, many operas and plays were performed at Drottningholm for the first time. The last change of the theatre was made in 1791 when the Déjuner saloon was built.

A view through one of the Déjuner saloon’s windows. There is a little gallery under the ceiling where musicians could play “heavenly music” for the king and the court. Unfortunately I can’t fix that but at least I can get some heaven with clouds for you.

A long period of national mourning followed the murder of Gustav III in 1792 and the theatre was therefore not used for a couple of years. When performances began again, it was obvious that the new king did not share his father’s interest in the performing arts and the last years of the 18th century marked the end of the court theatre era. A couple of performances were given in the 1850’s – the last known was in the summer 1858 the celebrate the birth of prince Gustav who later became king Gustav V. Then the long slumber began.

The theatre seen from the parking

In early spring 1921 came a man named Agne Beijer, who then worked at the Royal Library, to Drottningholm to look for a painting he thought was stored there. I don’t know whether he found it or not, but I do know that he found something else – he found a complete 18th century theatre. Renovation works began and a limited number of performances has been given there every summer since 1922.

I have seen a couple of performances there myself. There are, of course, no things such as air condition or ventilation so the auditorium can be quite stuffy on a warm summer day and the benches one sits on are the same as the courtiers had to put up with centuries ago but the atmosphere is unique and cannot be described. The acoustics is excellent and the music is performed on contemporary instruments which, at least in my opinion, have a slightly softer tone than modern instruments have and I must say that a performance at the theatre at Drottningholm is something special and definitely something to remember.

 

 

 


Drottningholm

A very nice place to visit is Drottningholm on Lovön near Stockholm. I spent an afternoon on a restday there just strolling around, taking pictures and I really enjoyed it. This is the sight that meets the visitor when coming from the car park.

Suitable music must accompany this blog post and the only possible choice is a suite from “The Drottningholm Music” composed by Johan Helmich Roman for the wedding between Crown Prince Adolf Fredrik (of Holstein-Gottorp) and Lovisa Ulrika of Prussia (sister to Fredric the Great) in 1744.

The first records of Drottningholm are from Gustav Vasa’s time (ruled 1523-1560). It was then a farm named Torvesund that belonged to the crown. His son Johan III, who loved architecture and building palaces, decided in 1579 that a palace should be built on the premises. The palace was namned Drottningholm after his queen Katarina Jagellonica (drottning = queen in Swedish). After her death he rarely paid the place a visit and last time he set foot there was in the summer of 1592.

A number of owners succeded each other. Some were members of the Royal family, others were members of the nobility and around 1650 the palace was taken over by Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie who took an interest in the palace and renovation works commenced in cooperation with the architect Jean de la Vallée.

In 1661 it was time for a new owner to take over. The buyer was Queen Hedvig Eleonora, but her happiness did not last very long. On December 30 1661, the palace was destroyed by fire and only the vaults and walls remained of what had been a house with about 20 rooms on the ground floor, 10 rooms on the first floor, a salon with 36 windows and a chapel. Johan III’s Drottningholm was gone.

It did not take long before the architect Nicodemus Tessin sr was asked to submit a suggestion for a new palace to be built on the remains of the old one and in spring of 1662 he presented drawings that met with the queen’s approval. The main building was completed in june 1664 and got the roof on the following year but Drottningholm remained a construction site for decades with Tessin sr in charge until his death in 1680 succeeded by his son Nicodemus Tessin jr.

Drottningholm is a baroque palace inspired by French-Dutch classicism. Symmetry was the highest fashion during the baroque and I therefore tried to take the pictures with that in mind simply because that was how the architects wanted (and expected) visitors to look at Drottningholm.

The palace and its exterior is mainly the work of Tessin sr while the interior and the garden are designed by Tessin jr. Fountains were a must in those days but they never worked as intended despite the fact they were constructed by a French expert and some of the fountains – the cascades – were torn down in the 1820’s because of malfunction. These were later reconstructed according to Tessin’s drawings but are slightly simplified by architect Ivar Tengbom and were opened by king Gustav VI Adolf in 1961. Thanks to modern pipes and pumps they now work as intended, even if it took about 300 years to accomplish.

Time passes and new fashions, needs and standards as result. After the Tessin family, the architects Jean Eric Rehn, Carl Hårleman and Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz were involved in adapting the palace to the new tastes and needs.

Drottningholm has been the Royal ladies’ palace. Lovisa Ulrika got the palace as wedding gift in 1744 and she liked spending time there with her family. The wings got their second storey during her ownership to accomodate a library and a portrait gallery.

Lovisa Ulrika sold the palace to the state in 1777 and a long period of neglection began. Her son Gustav III spent time here with his court and he asked the architect Fredrik Magnus Piper to lay out the English park, but he turned his attention to the construction works at Haga instead.

The decline lasted until 1846 when king Oscar I began a renovation of the palace, partly financed by money from the king’s own pocket. A thorough renovation began in 1907 when Gustav V succeeded to the throne. The renovation work was completed in 1911 and palace architect Erik Lallerstedt was in charge. Drottningholm has been used by the Royal family since then and our current Royal family made Drottningholm its home in 1981.

Drottningholm was listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1991 and I think it definitely fits in there. I have more pictures to share with you in two blog posts and I think you will agree with me after having read them.

 


The wall

This wall is a familiar sight, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I looked at it with the photographer’s eye and decided it was worth a try, just for the fun of it.