This architecture master's thesis project aims to explore the possibility of incorporating historical layers as narrative design elements in the process of modifying an existing structure to adapt it for a new use. The premise is that physical traces of the past add character and allow for an important sense of authenticity and continuity when experiencing an object or environment.

Theory and practice of cultural heritage management is discussed in a broader sense, and more specifically in the context of the object chosen for the experimental (re)design proposal. The object is an old building in the historical center of Stockholm, an area where the protection of cultural heritage within this projects is considered problematic.

The argument is made that when protection of historical environments is too strong, or too diffuse in objective, the risk is obvious that what is protected becomes frozen in time, and that modifications of it only are allowed if the qualities motivating the protection are underlined or even amplified. In order to allow for vital and dynamic development of historical urban environments, and to prevent them from becoming artificial and self-absorbed scenography, the historical value of environment and the objects within it must be clearly defined, and the purpose of protection well-motivated with an understanding of its consequences.

In this project a distinction is made between relics, monuments and utilitarian objects as different categories of built cultural heritage, justifying different types of protection and allowing various degrees of change. To prevent overprotection of a valued object, it is important that these categories are not thoughtlessly combined or mixed up. The building chosen for the design proposal is primarily considered a utilitarian object, justifying quite extensive modifications. Though this is in conflict with the current protection of the building, the process of continuous change is natural to the structure and has been going on for centuries. The historical layers accumulated in this process are in this project considered a more vital aspect of the identity and character of the building, than its current state at the introduction of a strong protection. They will in the design proposal therefore play a more important role in its new appearance.


Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Year: 2011-2012