In 1866, the first railway line reached Uppsala, Sweden’s fourth-largest city just north of Stockholm. The railway and the train station were opened by king Karl XV, and suddenly, overnight, Uppsala became truly a part of Europe. Naturally, the railway station, the symbol of this all-important, hyper-modern, awe-inspiring connection to the world, was an important building, and it was designed accordingly: Uppsala Central Station is an imposing building, resembling most of all a small palace.
But 145 years later, the railway was not a novelty anymore, simply a utility, and when a new station, or "travel centre", was built right by the old station house, it was a no-nonsense steel and concrete cube.
The old railway station stood empty, a sad shell, monument to a bygone age. Some felt it should be torn down. Others protested and wanted to preserve the beautiful historic building - but as what?
And then, just in time, along came a bold restaurant entrepreneur who saw the building’s potential.
Local resturateurs Svenssons Krogar felt that Uppsala needed a new restaurant and meeting place, and that the old station house, with its status as a local landmark and its characterful design, was perfect. Even though the building was in dire need of renovation, they took the chance, and Stylt were brought onboard to create a concept and an interior.
In our research, we soon encountered the man who would become the inspiration for the restaurant concept: the building's original architect, Adolf Wilhelm Edelsvärd. As a young engineer in the 1850's, he traveled around Europe, visiting major cities as London, Paris and Rome, studying the new railway architecture and finding inspiration and ideas for his projects back home. Edelsvärd became one of Sweden’s greatest railway pioneers, designing nearly 300 station buildings during the 1800s. And of course, he would also have been more than familiar with the pulse of the major European cities, their culture, food, drink and pleasures...
In September in 2011, the station was re-opened as a restaurant experience, allowing the historic building to continue to play a central role in Uppsala. Stationen ("The Station") consists of three distinct parts that work together as a functional entity; a brasserie with a taste of Paris, a bar with London's pulse and a café with a fragrance of Rome.
"Despite his vast production, Edelsvärd was always careful to include variation and attention to detail in every blueprint," says Erik Nissen Johansen, creative director and founder of Stylt Trampoli. “Imagining him in London's clubs, the brasseries of Paris and cafés in Rome helped us to create the storyline for the new restaurant.”
"Nobody in Uppsala had a good answer to the question of what would happen to the house," says David Åström, CEO and co-owner of Svenssons Krogar. "We immediately saw that this could be the venue that has long been lacking in this city."
Since the new travel center and its surroundings are built very new and modern, Svensson’s Krogar wanted to highlight the building's history in an inspiring and inviting way that was classic and timeless rather than trendy and temporary. Over 30,000 people pass by the building each day and the station should be open for much of the day or night, welcoming travelers, visitors as well as locals.
"This is a place you can always rely on," says David Åström, "a pleasant meeting place where everyone can feel at home. An espresso on the spot, business lunch, a drink in the bar, family dinner or an evening with friends."
Just like the restaurant’s menu, Stationen’s interior design is meant to be timeless. “A major challenge has been to both bring out the best out of the old atmosphere and add the necessary new solutions,” says Karin Gullbrantz, interior architecht at Stylt. “We tried to imagine how a pioneer like Adolf Edelsvärd would decorate the restaurant today. Probably he would have used the best of 1860's crafts and mixed it with new and slightly futuristic solutions.”
"Since the building is classified as a historic site, it is especially gratifying that the restaurant is inspired by the building's original architecture," says Cecilia Göttinger-Bystrom, at Jernhusen that owns and manages the house. "That increases its historical value greatly."
And so the guests keep coming from early morning till late at night. What used to be a place you either rushed through or where you patiently waited has been turned into one of Uppsala’s new main attractions. The old station building is finally a destination in its own right.