Royals ignite fresh row weeks after £100m project wins planning

The King and Queen of Sweden have criticised the design and size of David Chipperfield’s proposed £100m Nobel Centre in Stockholm.

The king said the façade, to be made from a brass-coloured steel alloy, was “very domineering” and a “sharp, strong colour”. He was also critical of the building’s “unnecessarily gigantic” volume.

The royal couple waded into the long-running row in an interview with a Swedish newspaper in which Queen Silvia suggested a referendum should be held on the plans and said it was “a bit strange an architect is making such a proposal”.

The king, Carl Gustav XVI, pointed out that they were not allowed to intervene, prompting the journalist to draw parallels with Prince Charles, another royal who has “shown great interest in the cultural heritage”. Charles’ interventions have infamously led to the dismissal of a number of architects over the years.

Despite local protests, Stockholm’s council approved Chipperfield’s revised scheme in April and work is due to start next year – although the whole thing could still be delayed by an appeal.

City councillor Roger Mogert accused the king of being “100 years too late” since Sweden became a democracy in 1919.

“This issue has been settled and whether there should be a referendum is not for the royal family to decide,” he said. “It feels a little absurd in 2016 to respond to what the royal family wants. We have a system in Sweden where the royal family does not interfere in political issues.”

He suggested NIMBYism might be behind the couple’s comments because the royal palace overlooks the site.

The royals were speaking to journalist Maria Schottenius during a visit to see renovation work at the National Museum which backs on to the Nobel site.

Speaking before the king’s comments were published, David Chipperfield told Swedish radio: “I think if anybody is not totally convinced of the need for the building then they may think it’s too big, but the size of the building is determined by what is necessary for a Nobel Centre. It’s not exploiting the value of the land or something – it’s not a developer building, an office building or a hotel. I disagree with the criticism but I respect the fact that is it part of the dialogue.

“The whole of Swedish society is built on a very sympathetic consensual social democratic structure, which I absolutely admire. Of course, that makes daily life very nice and rich. It makes extraordinary moments, where you have to do something which is bound to upset somebody, more difficult.”

Susanne Lindh, chief executive of Nobelhuset, a company set up by the Nobel Foundation to build and run the centre, declined to respond to the royal couple but said: “We are satisfied with the design and the city’s decision. Changes now means a new project and start over again.”

Campaigners against the centre praised the king’s comments and said he had “every right” to speak out.