Modern carpenters, Medieval techniques

A steady tapping escapes from the wood shop at the grounds of the historic Gunnebo House and Gardens near Gothenburg, Sweden, as the sun trickles through the centuries-old windows, onto work benches covered in saw dust and scattered tools. It is the sound of a mortise and tenon joint in the making, the old-fashioned way. When the carpenters at Gunnebo work their magic, they do it mostly using simple hand tools, architectural drawings from the 1700s and techniques dating back to Medieval times.

“Our job is to try to understand the intentions of the eighteenth and nineteenth century architects that designed this place, and what they wanted it to look like. A lot of times we have to make more or less educated guesses,” says Andreas Bergerson, carpenter at Gunnebo.

gunnebo_fristads_desktop

Renovation underway​​​​​​​

Andreas is part of a team of four people – two carpenters, a timberman and a specialist conservation architect – who work together to restore Gunnebo, which is now a cultural reserve and museum, to its old glory. The last major restoration of the estate began in 1949, after the City of Mölndal purchased it from the last private owners. Now, another ambitious renovation project is underway, beginning with three rooms in the main building. In the coming years, the ageing windows will be repaired, the copper roof replaced, and the peeling walls will be fixed and get a new coat of paint. Everything is done in consultation with Gunnebo’s in-house specialist conservation architect Stefan Günther and restoration experts. The team takes utmost care to stay as true to the original designs and materials as possible.

“Our work is part art history, part high-level craftsmanship. It is conducted on a very high academic level,” says Andreas.

In addition to sprucing up the ageing interiors and exteriors of the existing old building, Andreas and the rest of the team are working on creating an exact replica of the Orangery, which was the first building that was raised on the property, at the end of the 18th century. Like the main building, the Orangery was the creation of architect Carl Wilhelm Carlberg and had a spectacular design. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before the Orangery fell into disrepair, and eventually it burned to the ground.

Andreas is part of a team of four people – two carpenters, a timberman and a specialist conservation architect – who work together to restore Gunnebo, which is now a cultural reserve and museum, to its old glory. The last major restoration of the estate began in 1949, after the City of Mölndal purchased it from the last private owners. Now, another ambitious renovation project is underway, beginning with three rooms in the main building. In the coming years, the ageing windows will be repaired, the copper roof replaced, and the peeling walls will be fixed and get a new coat of paint. Everything is done in consultation with Gunnebo’s in-house specialist conservation architect Stefan Günther and restoration experts. The team takes utmost care to stay as true to the original designs and materials as possible.

“Our work is part art history, part high-level craftsmanship. It is conducted on a very high academic level,” says Andreas.

In addition to sprucing up the ageing interiors and exteriors of the existing old building, Andreas and the rest of the team are working on creating an exact replica of the Orangery, which was the first building that was raised on the property, at the end of the 18th century. Like the main building, the Orangery was the creation of architect Carl Wilhelm Carlberg and had a spectacular design. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before the Orangery fell into disrepair, and eventually it burned to the ground.

Craftsmen and detectives

To recreate the Orangery, the Gunnebo craftsmen of today rely on Günther’s interpretations of Carlberg’s original drawings, watercolours of the property from that time, historical research and information derived from archaeological digs to recreate the Orangery from the ground up. It is a long and arduous process that requires both high-level craftsmanship and a fair amount of detective work. Periodically, the small in-house team is assisted by craftsman students from Gothenburg University who flock to Gunnebo to learn traditional techniques that were long left for dead.

The construction of the Orangery is now eight years in the making but the craftsmen are not rushing it.

“We could just slap up a new building but we are doing it the more complicated way because we want as many students as possible to learn the old techniques and to see the craft from our point of view,” explains Andreas while inspecting one of the handmade windows from Germany that he has installed in the Orangery.

“This craft is part of our immaterial cultural heritage. These skills cannot be taught through books, they must be passed on through the hands of the craftsmen, from generation to generation.”

Sustainable craft and clothes

The meticulous reconstruction of the Orangery will ensure that once the building is finished, it will stand for a long time to come. Using quality materials and rigorous processes may be more costly upfront but will make the project more sustainable in the long run, which aligns well with Gunnebo’s ambitious environmental policy. Gunnebo is also strengthening its commitment to sustainability by providing the craftsmen and their students with workwear from Fristads’ Green collections. The garments in the Green collections have an Environmental Product Declaration, meaning that the environmental impact of all steps of the production has been thoroughly analysed and minimised.

“We have a high ambition to become sustainable on all levels of our operation but finding workwear that lives up to the goals of our environmental policy has always been a challenge,” says Andreas. “When I learned about Fristads Green, all the pieces fell into place. Choosing this collection was a natural next step for us.”

Getting close to the finish line

The grand opening of the Orangery is planned for 2022 and will be an important milestone in returning Gunnebo to its stately historic past. For Andreas, who was hired by Gunnebo in 2013 to facilitate the completion of the Orangery, the opening will be extra special.

“Reconstructing the Orangery is a long-time dream,” Andreas says, before putting up his tools and wrapping up another day at work.  

About

Name: Andreas Bergerson
Age: 50
Lives: Älvängen, Sweden
Title:  Carpenter
​​​​​​​Workplace:  Gunnebo House and Gardens, Mölndal, Sweden
Favourite tool: “My small block plane; I use it all the time.”

About

Name: Andreas Bergerson
Age: 50
Lives: Älvängen, Sweden
Title:  Carpenter
Workplace:  Gunnebo House and Gardens, Mölndal, Sweden
Favourite tool: “My small block plane; I use it all the time.”

About

Name: Andreas Bergerson
Age: 50
Lives: Älvängen, Sweden
Title:  Carpenter
Workplace:  Gunnebo House and Gardens, Mölndal, Sweden
Favourite tool: “My small block plane; I use it all the time.”