Why rebuild the National Archives in Lund?

In less than two years, the National Archives will move out of its historic premises in central Lund. It will leave behind an iconic building with no specific function - an archive that is no longer an archive, but a building of very high architectural quality. How do you deal with it?

It is obvious that a new activity has to move into the building and, unless another archive needs new premises, this also means that renovation, more or less extensive, is necessary. The alternative is an empty and unusable building.

Most controversial, at least in architectural and cultural circles, is the question of how to deal with Bernt Nyberg's closed brick volume from 1971. An icon that is as much a sculpture as a building.

There have been many ideas. Cultural centers, experimentariums and theaters have been put forward as examples of activities that do not require much daylight. This would leave the sharply cut but fragile brick shell wall relatively untouched. For a fragile shell wall, it is nevertheless massive in appearance - and in need of renovation.

In fact, it has proved difficult to find stakeholders for these prospective activities, despite many attempts. The closest was perhaps Spyken, which needed premises for its music education, but this never materialized.

Not until Lund Nation, which has been trying unsuccessfully for nine years to create central student housing in Lund, saw an opportunity in the property has anyone been willing to take on the buildings.

Is student accommodation the right activity for the old premises of the National Archives?

The answer is far from obvious. The existing structure is well suited, but the requirement for daylight means that openings in the façade will inevitably affect the original design. However, the other buildings can be adapted relatively easily.

Thomas Hellqvist relaunches the good idea of music rooms for Spyken in Sydsvenskan on January 7. If the municipality were to repurchase the archive in return for Lund Nation being given a different and equivalent exploitation opportunity elsewhere, it would probably be attractive to all parties. Perhaps an operation with less demand for daylight would have been better from a conservation perspective. We see advantages in such a solution.

But regardless of how the building will be used in the future, any non-archival activity will require redevelopment. And assumes that there is someone willing to work towards and pay for such an alternative solution.

One can continue to speculate on what would be best for the National Archives. But whatever the outcome, it is not about saving or destroying the building. It is about preserving the qualities of the old building in interaction with the new activities. With care, respect and qualified architectural work, interventions in the exterior are also possible.

The conditions for any intervention, on the other hand, is a bigger question that depends on which stakeholder(s) are willing to run a future operation in the National Archives.

FOJAB architects,

Ulf Kadefors
Daniel Nord
Mattias Hedberg Ek
Kjell Adamsson