The Nobel Laureates and the Stockholm City Council –

Photo: Javier Claure C.

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The month of December in Sweden is full of holidays: advent (from the Latin “adventus”, arrival), Lucia, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. And as if that were not enough, the activities of the Nobel Prize are added. At the beginning of December there is a special air in Stockholm, and everyone has their eyes riveted on the Swedish capital. Thus, for example, December 10 of each year is Nobel Day. That is to say, the day on which the king, Carlos Gustavo of Sweden, awards the Prizes that bear the name of the inventor of dynamite: Alfred Nobel. That same day the Nobel Banquet takes place in the Blue Room of the Stockholm City Hall. A large enclosure that was designed by the famous architect Ragnar Östberg. This majestic architectural work began to be built in 1911, in the place that was once left in rubble after a fire mill caught fire in the second half of the 18th century. And it was inaugurated, with great fanfare, as a symbol of Mother Svea on the eve of the summer solstice (Midsommar), on June 23, 1923. Its beautiful image, with its 106-meter-high tower where three golden crowns, stands on the shores of Lake Mälaren in the residential district of Kungsholm. Behind its façade, built with eight million bricks, there are offices, party rooms, a restaurant, conference rooms and other additional rooms. Part of the Town Hall is open to the public from Monday to Friday. The visit lasts 45 minutes, and together with a guide one can observe different compartments; such as a small Nuptial Room where couples get married civilly, a Council Room where political meetings are held, the Blue Room, the Golden Room and the Prince’s Gallery adorned with paintings, mirrors and pillars that represent man and the woman as a couple.

Ragnar Östberg traveled to many countries in Europe and was inspired by the Renaissance palaces of Italy, but also by other solemn European constructions, especially the City Hall of Copenhagen (Denmark). Thus crystallized his dream with many components of Swedish history based on myths and legends. At that time, Swedish society was leaving behind an agrarian system to enter an industrialized society. And Stockholm, like the other European capitals, had to show progress not only in technology, but also in the urban aspect. In addition, it had to reflect the Swedish spirit. That is why the interior and exterior decoration of the Town Hall is impregnated with Swedish characters.

From the beautiful garden, covered with grass and interspersed with cement walkways, which is also well visited in summer, you can see an amazing landscape of Stockholm. In the outer courtyard there is a sarcophagus of the founder of Stockholm: Birger Jarl. And a few meters away there is a granite trunk, designed by the artist Aron Sandberg, which refers to the founding of Stockholm. A legend that has been passed down since the time of the Vikings says: Estonian and Finnish Vikings often pillaged the cities built along the huge Lake Mälaren. Sigtuna is one of those cities, and the people who lived there, tired of so many robberies, planned a strategy to avoid the robbery of the bearded men who attacked with axes, shields, leather garments and horned helmets. Once they heard that the robbers were approaching, and they began to collect all the riches of the city. They hid them in a huge trunk hollow inside. Then they threw the log into the lake. When the aggressors arrived they found nothing and saw the trunk floating in the water, as if it were an insignificant wooden object. The inhabitants of Sigtuna had decided that in the place where the trunk ran aground, a city would be born. And that place was the Riddarfjärden sector located in the heart of what is now known as the capital of Sweden.

The Blue Room and the Golden Room are, without a doubt, the rooms most exhibited by all television stations in the world, since part of the Nobel Prize festivities is held in these rooms. The Blue Room is a huge 1500 square meter room with a high ceiling and windows from which the sun’s rays enter. The floor is made of turquoise marble with round, square and other geometric figures. On one side there is a terrace and marble arches. It gives the impression of being a medieval construction. The walls are red brick. Actually, it should be called The Red Room. Rumor has it that the architect, Ragnar Östberg, had planned to paint the bricks blue, but when he saw the finished work, he and other artists fell in love with the beautiful scenery, and the bricks kept their natural tint. And the name of Sala Azul stayed forever. This has to do with the colors of the Swedish flag, and with the lakes that pass through different parts of Stockholm.

Another important detail is the stands that are outlined with great precision. The designer knew that, through those rectangular pieces of marble, ladies with high heels, long dresses and men in tails would go up and down. The movement of people, according to the architect Östberg, should be seamless and elegant. And for the stands to have a perfect slope, so that it produces the desired effect, they say that the designer’s wife had to go down and up the stands with different inclinations. In short, those wide steps, which year after year are stepped on by many personalities and scientists in different fields of science, lead to the Golden Hall.

The Nobel Banquet is held in the Blue Room. Tables decorated with flowers are set up to receive 1,400 guests. That is, the Nobel Prize laureates, their families, members of the Swedish Academy, the Royal Family, members of the government, a large diplomatic corps, important personalities from industry and representatives of the world of culture. Also participating in this famous activity are two hundred students from Swedish universities who dine in a room adjacent to the Blue Room.

The Gala Party is held in the famous Golden Room after dinner. Entering this room is like entering a Palace of One Thousand and One Nights, or a small castle decorated with Byzantine art. The artist Einar Forseth, only 28 years old, designed this magnificent room inspired by Sicilian churches. The walls are lined with 18 million mosaic chips and 23.5-carat gold foil. In total, there are 10 kilos of gold embedded in these walls that show the viewer places and characters from Sweden, but also from abroad. The drawings reveal the history of Stockholm in particular and of Sweden in general. On the north wall is a drawing of the Swedish King Erik Jerdvardsson sitting on a horse with his head severed. This failure, say experts in the field, is due to a miscalculation of the height of the ceiling. Jerdvardsson reigned during the period 1156 -1160, and was never canonized by the Pope. However, he was considered a saint because in his reign taxes were fair and laws were applied impartially. The irony of this story is that Jerdvardsson died when an enemy lopped off his head.

Along the side walls hang, from the lying down, chandeliers that perfectly illuminate the room. One of the central walls is decorated with the image of the “Queen of Lake Mälaren” (Mälardrottningen) sitting on a throne. She has hair like snakes. In her left hand she holds a crown and with her right hand she wields a staff that bears authority. On the skirts of it rests an illustration of the Stockholm City Hall. On one side of her are Swedish characters paying homage to her. You can also see drawings of the American flag, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. On the other side, she is guarded by animals, people from Africa and the East. And from the heights falls a mystery moistened with the waters of the Mälaren.

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The Nobel Laureates and the Stockholm City Council –