The patriarchal atmosphere that prevailed in the young industrial society of the 1880s was clearly evident in the building that Ericsson erected for its operations during 1883 and 1884 at the corner of Tulegatan and Rådmansgatan in the block called Hälsan. The building was actually a five-story apartment building in which Ericsson had a mechanical engineering shop. Lars Magnus Ericsson and his family lived on the first floor and had direct contact with the office and the shop. Four apartments were rented out.
The shop premises were located towards Rådmansgatan with a single large workroom on each of the five stories. In comparison with the residential side of the building, this part had a less decorative façade with frieze that was ornamented with gear wheels just under the roof, thus reflecting the industrial operations.
When the building was erected, the company had some 40 employees and 20 apprentices. The premises naturally were not sufficient when the business expanded. In 1891, the architect and builder Wilhelm Klemming was commissioned to extend the building by seven window arches to accommodate 200 hundred employees. This building is still standing at the address Tulegatan 5.
The conversion to a limited liability company reflected the fact that Ericsson was now a modern and world-class company. For the workforce, which would soon number 1,000, a new industrial complex was erected on Tulegatan in the Taktäckarn block close to the old plant.
The architectural design was no longer anonymous as in the old building, but rather modern and distinct. Architect Johan Laurentz designed a plant in sandstone and plaster that was inspired by the latest style in the US, featuring a arched design with round forms that was introduced by the architect H H Richardson. A predecessor to this style in Stockholm style was Ferdinand Boberg's power station on Regeringsgatan, the entrance of which was moved after demolition of the building to the power station on Tulegatan.
Ericsson's plant was a large and functional facility, designed to be built in stages and with the same system of open workshops, supported by cast iron posts. Workbenches were placed along the windows, and lathes were located in rows in the middle of each shop.
This was the physical form for a work organization in the American spirit that was based on order, control and efficiency. Attention was given to every detail. The belts that transmitted power from the steam plant beneath the yard were carefully regulated. Gas lighting was abundant, meaning that efficiency during the 57-hour work week would remain high throughout the year. Workers were uniformly clothed in protective overalls.
Hygienic facilities for workers were still lacking. Outhouses were located out in the yard. However, the company had employed a doctor since 1891.
The significance of the physical form in profiling the company was reflected in the offices, where exclusive mahogany woodwork was ornamented with sculpted angels talking with each other on telephones. The woodwork has been preserved at the Telecommunications Museum in Stockholm.
The plant was completed in the 1910s using a simpler design with more a more modern construction using re-enforced concrete. Ericsson moved from these premises in the years around 1940, but the plant at Tulegatan 15-19 remains largely intact and is used by various small industries.
To visit the old board room, follow this link:
Author: Fredric Bedoire