Sweden's old buildings 'threatened'

James Savage
James Savage - [email protected]
Sweden's old buildings 'threatened'

Many of Sweden's old buildings are under threat because officials are not doing enough to protect them, according to a new report. Most local councils do not have access to experts in old buildings, and the country's building stock is not properly catalogued from a historical viewpoint.


"We often talk about people's right to a good apartment, but there has been a prioritization of practical standards rather than cultural or historical values," Otto Ryding, one of those behind the report for the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning (Boverket) told The Local.

Sweden lags behind many other European countries in the protection of old buildings. This could according to Ryding be due in part to the fact that older Swedish buildings were not destroyed in the Second World War. In countries where large numbers of buildings were destroyed by bombs, a movement to preserve what was left emerged.

"The proportion of older buildings we have protected is small compared to the continent," he said.

Sweden in fact has a relatively low number of old buildings by European standards. For instance, only 13 percent of apartment buildings were built before 1913. "If you go to Germany or England, you have a much higher proportion of older buildings," Ryding said.

The report estimates that preservation orders should be placed on around 225,000 buildings nationally. Today fewer than 22,000 buildings are the subject of such an order, which prevents them from being demolished.

Much of the responsibility for protecting buildings falls on local authorities, but Ryding says that they are not doing enough to protect Sweden's built heritage.

"They often don't pay enough attention to the problem. You perhaps should not always protect buildings, but you should at least be aware of their cultural significance," he said.

According to Ryding, the future of Sweden's older buildings can be protected through further use of preservation orders. The report calls for the government to consider protection of whole categories of buildings, such as those built before 1600. It also calls for an increased general knowledge, particularly among local authorities.

The report also points out that laws in other areas, such as health and safety, can have a detrimental effect on buildings.

"We need to think about the consequences of new regulations on older buildings," Ryding said. New laws and regulations in a whole range of areas should therefore be evaluated to see what effects they have on old buildings, the report says.


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