Danish architects 3XN have successfully integrated a fully restored 19th-century property and a newly constructed office block in a historic neighbourhood in Stockholms Östermalm district.

Astoriahuset & Nybrogatan 17 has re-established this location as a key landmark in Östermalm, also winning 3XN the internationally-acclaimed MIPIM Award in the Best Refurbished Building category in 2022.

3XN’s design thoughtfully united old with new through form, materiality and architectural details.

People in Stockholm are justifiably concerned about new construction projects in the city centre – in particular, previous redevelopments from the 1960s came in for widespread criticism. So, it was crucial that the project complemented its historical surroundings,” says Audun Opdal, senior partner, 3XN, and the partner-in-charge of the project.

“We began by learning the architectural history of both the city as a whole and the neighbourhood. We then drew up a number of architectural concepts that would unite the old and new buildings and incorporate features from the surrounding district, albeit with a contemporary twist,” continues Opdal.

Completed in 2020, Astoriahuset & Nybrogatan 17 restored Astoria House, a multi-storey building from 1873, and constructed a new connected office building. The idea was to combine offices and apartments to create life in the area around Nybrogatan, a street home to classic, ornate townhouses clad in brick or plaster, with street-facing pitched roofs and gables overlooking rear courtyards.

“When you provide something new to a historic neighbourhood it’s important to add value. It has been imperative to give something back to the city and have Astoriahuset & Nybrogatan 17 attract different kinds of activity and city life,” comments Opdal.

Before it closed in 2007, the Astoria on Nybrogatan was one of Stockholm’s oldest and best-known cinemas. Astoria House, the building that housed the cinema, was originally home to luxury apartments, with the upper storeys later converted into offices.

The preserved part of the complex, including the façade and entrance to the former cinema on Nybrogatan, has been sensitively returned to its original residential use. Astoria House now contains a restaurant on the ground floor (Brasserie Astoria) and 18 renovated apartments across five floors. Although extensively renovated, each apartment’s design respectfully preserves the historical expression. The old cinema’s iconic canopy has been restored, marking the entrance to the brasserie. The restaurant extends over several floors where the old cinema once stood, in an annex that was demolished to make way for the new element: a state-of-the-art office block.

Nybrogatan 17 complements the architectural style of Östermalm. The new office building offers the flexibility of traditional office space and co-working environments to encourage communication and provide space for different ways of working. Inside, a spiral marble staircase spans the full height of the building, encouraging the use of stairs to move around. The staircase culminates in a glass-rooved atrium that attracts an abundance of natural light.

The surrounding area played a significant part in the material palette selection, taking inspiration from local buildings.

“One of the significant design decisions that visually connects the two buildings is the façade, which is a modern interpretation to the repetitional facade language of the 19th century buildings. We love to observe how these two buildings are connected by form, how they highlight each other by style and colour, and most important of all: how they add new and vibrant life to Östermalm,” states 3XN.

Indeed, the most striking feature of the 3XN design unfolds on the roof. A unique, two-storey construction forms a new pitched roof above Astoria House. From here, the roof rises in a twisting movement over the new building and ends at a right angle – greeting the neighbouring fire walls. The process turns the two storeys inside the pitched roof into ordinary office floors.

For this manoeuvre to work, the roof and the façades on the office building had to be clad in the same materials,” explains Opdal. This led us quite naturally to brick, which is used in the older buildings on the street. It was crucial for us that the new building would look weathered right from the very beginning, as if it had been there for years and years. But we also wanted it to have a contemporary look befitting the era. We felt that bricks from Petersen could be the element that tied these two together, particularly if we bypassed traditional brickwork with joints and devised a new way to mount the brick cladding.”

The architects worked with Petersen Tegl, conducting various experiments to find just the right brick and a fresh approach to mounting. The result was a special edition of Kolumba, 800mm long, in a deep, rusty red. To make the best possible use of the bricks’ rich play of colour and uneven, hand-moulded texture – the source of their unique patina – the bricks were mounted vertically on the façade, with their broad, rustic underside facing outwards. Naturally, this endowed the bricks with an entirely new aesthetic.

The horizontal lines of Astoria House continue into the new construction, as the original buildings regularly spaced windows give way to greater transparency and an increasingly syncopated rhythm of brick-clad pillars and floor-to-ceiling windows. Steel screens in front of the windows give the façade a compact look when viewed from an oblique angle, which is the normal view from the street, and help the building harmonise with the closed façades of its historical surroundings.

The steel screens are not purely for decoration but are our take on modern, functional ornamentation. Their lattice structure forms a pattern that mimics the joints we dispensed with on the brick façade. In this way, the screens both reference and contrast with the living, handmade brick,” remarks Opdal.

“We have put a lot of effort into designing the brick façade, steel ornamentation, and roof’s form to give Nybrogatan 17 an authentic patina and tactility that creates a thoughtful connection to the neighbourhood – and not least to the adjoining Astoriahuset,” concludes Opdal.

Astoriahuset & Nybrogatan 17 is indeed a magnificent result.

“We are very proud of the result where architecture from the late 1800s and new, modern architecture meet in a calm way and open to a square that was not accessible for many years. We have received incredibly positive responses after the opening of Astoriahuset & Nybrogatan 17, which we see as proof that the high level of ambition has been met,” says Viktor Sandberg, project development manager at Humlegården.

Photos: RasmusHjortshøj, Coast Stuio; Ulf Celander