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A new beginning for the King’s House

A red brick building. Photo
What was the rear of the King’s House has become the front, with the creation of new entrance through a former window recess now opening onto University Square. Photo. Kennet Ruona

The packing crates are emptied, new furniture is in place, the art is hung, and the tech is working. The Offices of the Vice-Chancellor and staff have moved into the King’s House.

The new entrance opens onto the University Square and the fountain. Behind the doors of the University’s oldest building, there’s a definite air of new and modern. You are greeted first by an exhibition about the building, a lift and a new stairwell, and the old, crooked oak staircase (that Karl XII never did ride up, despite a widespread myth to the contrary) is not immediately obvious. It is there, though, inside the tower.

A man at a desk. Photo
Karl Ageberg and his colleagues from the University’s Strategic Development Office now have offices in the King’s House. Photo: Kennet Ruona

New and old go hand in hand inside the lovingly restored building. On the first three floors, 42 staff members have settled in at their desks. Some in open plan offices, others in offices of their own. Vice-Chancellor Erik Renström belongs to the second category. When LUM pops into the Vice-Chancellor’s room on the third floor, it’s the day before the eve of Monsieur le President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Lund, and the Vice-Chancellor is dusting off his schoolboy French by reading aloud from his laptop screen. 

A man and his laptop. Photo
Vice-Chancellor Erik Renström swots up on a speech in French. Photo: Kennet Ruona

“I don’t speak French, but there’s something appealing about putting yourself out there, and I have a feeling they appreciate it. Thierry Gilles from the Centre for Languages and Literature helped me with the translation, so I think it should be fine.”

Management and staff moving into the King’s House feels like the University returning home. Starting in 1688, when the University was given the King’s House, the building was synonymous with the University itself for almost 200 years. 

The University Management vacated the Main University Building in 2018, and the years spent in the temporary home of Wrangel were good, says Erik Renström. He explains that Wrangel was a more convenient location in relation to a lot of departments. At the same time, the King’s House is a building that is meant to be occupied, so moving feels right. 

“I am conscientious. You can put me anywhere and I’ll work.”

A man in an office chair next to a bookcase. Photo
Per Mickwitz enjoying his new office. Photo: Kennet Ruona

Pro Vice-chancellor Per Mickwitz has settled in on the floor below. 

“The best room in the King’s House,” he says, looking out across University Square, before quickly adding that everyone else feels that way about their own rooms. One detail, however, sets his room apart.

“The Vice-Chancellor sits directly above me, so if he gets upset, I can hear him stamping,” he smiles.

A woman hanging art on a wall. photo
Alexandra Altmark hangs artwork. Photo: Kennet Ruona

Alexandra Altmark, of Skissernas Museum, is one of those who helped hang artwork in the King’s House. Forty-one pieces, all modern art from the turn of the last century onwards, the overwhelming majority of which were painted by artists from Skåne, were all taken from the University’s art collection. 

Which paintings were to end up adorning the walls wasn’t something that was left to chance.

“We envisioned a theme of modern art. The idea is that the art will hang there for generations to come, and suit all kinds of people. It isn’t an exhibition, it’s more like functional art,” she says.

A big room with pillars. Photo
Carolina Hall was previously used for the public defence of theses. Today, the hall is furnished for meetings and informal networking. Photo: Kennet Ruona
Three pods at a wall. Photo
Old meets new in the King’s House. Photo: Kennet Ruona
A circular room with a circular table. Photo
At the top of the tower is a modern meeting room with access to the tower’s roof. Photo: Kennet Ruona
A room with a massive table. Photo
The attic floor can host large meetings. Photo: Kennet Ruona
A kitchen. Photo
The kitchen is on the attic floor. Photo: Kennet Ruona
An old wooden spiral staircase. Photo
The current oak staircase in the tower was built in the early 1730s as a copy of the one that was there earlier. Now the winding crooked staircase has been complemented by a modern stairwell and lift. Photo: Kennet Ruona

The King’s House through the ages

The King’s House was built between 1578 and 1584 on the orders of Danish King Frederik II, as a residence for his seigneur and for the king himself when he was in town.

In 1660, two years after Skåne became Swedish, the King’s House was bought by Peder Winstrup, Bishop of Lund, as a private residence. When Lund University was inaugurated in 1668, the bishop opened his doors to the inauguration party’s 600 guests!

Initially, the University lacked premises of its own, and teaching had to be conducted in Lund Cathedral and the Liberiet building. In the 1680s, the Swedish Crown confiscated the King’s House from Winstrup’s descendants and gave it to the University in 1688. This was the start of an almost two-hundred-year-long period in which the King’s House was Lund University’s main building, since most of the University’s activities were housed there.

The King’s House was in very poor repair when it was given to the University and countless renovations and adaptations have been undertaken over the years. In the middle of the eighteenth century, the building gained a mansard roof, a light-coloured plastered facade, an anatomical theatre for the dissection of cadavers and an astronomical observatory.

Between 1837 and 1839, the building underwent a major reconstruction under the direction of Axel Nyström and C G Brunius, gaining an extra floor and a gable roof. The main entrance in the tower was given a new sandstone portal from the demolished walls that had previously enclosed Lundagård.

The current appearance of the King’s House emerged during Helgo Zettervall’s renovation between 1877 and 1879. The plaster was removed, and the tower was topped with decorative crenelles.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the King’s House was used primarily as a library and during the twentieth century it saw mostly teaching, predominantly in the humanities. For many years, the Department of Philosophy had premises in the building, but moved to LUX in 2014.


About LUM

The first edition of Lund University Magazine – LUM – was published 1968. Today, the magazine reaches all employees and also people outside the university. The magazine is published six times per year. Editor Jan Olsson.

LUM website in Swedish

Editorial staff

Jan Olsson

046-222 94 79

jan [dot] olsson [at] kommunikation [dot] lu [dot] se


Minna Wallén-Widung

046-222 82 01

minna [dot] wallen-widung [at] kommunikation [dot] lu [dot] se