Change of plans for a visitor centre

In the midst of turning the King’s House into a visitor centre, the moisture problems in the main University building became worse and required a change of plans. The new plan is that the main University building will be made into a visitor centre, and the University management and Office of the Vice-Chancellor will move into the King’s House.

After several years of planning for a visitor centre in the King’s House, the plans have suddenly changed. The vast majority of this 16th century building will now be converted into offices for the University management and the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, and the visitor centre will be moved to the main University building. Photo: Petra Francke

The project of turning the King’s House into a visitor centre began in mid-2016, with the anticipated start of renovation, reconstruction and building of a new addition in autumn 2018. Meanwhile, however, moisture damage was discovered in the main University building. University director Susanne Kristensson, who is responsible for the building and the staff in it, argues that the building must be emptied of its staff in order to eradicate the moisture. Given that both buildings would be empty and under renovation, an opportunity presented itself to rethink the previous decision taken regarding the visitor centre. Which of the two buildings would be best suited as a visitor centre and which is most suitable for administration? After many meetings and finally a workshop in January this year, at which all the pros and cons of the buildings were considered, the vice-chancellor concluded that the visitor centre would be best placed in the main University building, but that both buildings are to be open to the public.

The benefits of having the visitor centre in the main University building include it being more spacious and that it already attracts many visitors looking for information. There is plenty of room to have an information counter and LU shop, and opportunity for more study areas than in the King’s House. Overall, the vice-chancellor finds that the main University building offers greater development opportunities for a visitor centre, including space for exhibitions of the University’s art collection on the third floor, and an exhibition about Helgo Zettervall’s architecture and the history of the building on the second.

The visitor centre will also have an exhibition about the University’s history. Between 1688 and 1882 (when the main University building was inaugurated), the King’s House was the centre for most of the University’s activities. By moving the exhibition from the King’s House to the main University building, the opportunity to experience the University’s early history in person is lost. The move will therefore require the historical exhibition to be reworked. The exhibition will be displayed in the southern wing on the ground floor of the main University building, and some parts in the Pillared Hall. However, a small exhibition about the history of the King’s House and the people who worked there is intended to be placed on the ground floor of the King’s House.

Both buildings have great symbolic value and need to be made more accessible to the public, argues the vice-chancellor. A student tour guide project will be launched, offering guided tours of the auditorium of the main University building, and of the exhibitions in both buildings. The Carolina Hall in the King’s House will be bookable for meetings, conferences and social events.

The Consistory room as well as the vice-chancellor’s and university director’s offices in the main University building will remain intact but will be used more broadly, as official meeting rooms, for example.

The process of turning the main University building into a visitor centre involves looking back to what once was. The University’s historically well-versed archivist Fredrik Tersmeden says that both the Historical Museum and the former Ancient History Museum were housed in the Pillared Hall, and that there were lecture halls on the second floor and exhibition activities on the third. The University administration and management have always been situated on the ground floor.

“It feels a bit strange that the vice-chancellor and the management will no longer be in the building that was intended for them. Obviously, it will be nice to see the main University building becoming more open to the public, but it’s a pity that it will be at the expense of the exhibition of the University’s history”, says Fredrik Tersmeden, who has been involved in planning the exhibition project for the King’s House.

The plans for the King’s House will now need to be adapted to the building’s new purpose, causing a delay in the renovation. It is also not clear (at the time of writing) when the moisture eradication in the main University building can begin. A search for evacuation premises for the affected staff is underway, and as soon as the building is emptied, the National Property Board of Sweden will begin the eradication. As the building must also be adapted to the needs of the new visitor centre, the project will become more expensive.