Folke Zettervall, architect of Swedish railway stations

colour photograph of a wooden railway station building.

Head architect of Swedish State Railways (Statens Järnvägar) who designed 250 train stations

Adrian Murphy (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

In Sweden, one architect is responsible for more than 250 railway station buildings. Folke Zettervall was the chief architect of the Swedish State Railways in the early part of the 20th century.

When we pass through railway stations in a rush to catch our trains, we don't often think about the architects who designed the station. Despite being mostly functional, many train stations are beautiful buildings, which reflect art and architectural movements.

black and white portrait photograph of Folke Zettervall, a man with a moustache wearing a suit and tie, his signature is also on the photograph.

Born in 1862, Zettervall was educated in his home-town Lund, as well as Uppsala and Copenhagen. He graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1888.

Zettervall initially worked for a Swedish government agency which administered state buildings. In 1890, he was recruited to work in the architectural office of the Swedish national railway system. By 1898, he was appointed the railway's chief architect, a role he held until 1931.

What were Folke Zettervall’s railway stations?

Over the course of his career, Zettervall designed around 260 different railway station buildings across Sweden, including those in Gällivare, Jönköping and Sundsvall.

black and white photograph of a railway station.
colour photograph of a railway station, painted light yellow, with many criss-crossing overhead cables.
colour photograph of a train station with red tile roof, seen in background behind an arch on a platform.

He even designed the station at Stångby, just outside his home town of Lund. It was opened in 1901.

black and white photograph of a railway station with a man standing outside.

He designed the railway station in Kiruna, a mining town inside the Arctic Circle. The brick building was completed in 1915. However, the building was demolished in 2017 as part of Kiruna's plans to move their town to accommodate the mining industry.

colour photograph of a brick railway station with many windows.
black and white photograph of people standing outside a brick railway station building.

The culmination of Zettervall's career came in the 1920s, when he re-designed and extended Sweden's three largest railway stations: the central stations in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.

black and white drawing of a large railway station building.

What were Folke Zettervall's architectural influences?

Zettervall's buildings were primarily built from brick and wood. He was influenced by the work of American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who revived elements from 11th and 12th century Romanesque architecture from southern Europe.

Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen was similarly influenced by Richardson.

As well as railway stations, Zettervall also designed offices and residences for railway employees. Outside the railways, he designed buildings such as courthouses, hotels, and churches.

black and white photograph of a large building with at least five storeys and many windows.
black and white photograph of a wooden building.
black and white postcard image of a large school building.

Folke Zettervall's legacy

Folke Zettervall married twice. He married his first wife, Emma, in 1895. Tragically, she died a few months after the wedding. He later married Ellen Bergman, in 1900. They were married until her death in 1944.

black and white portrait photograph of Folke Zettervall, a middle-aged man with a moustache.

Folke Zettervall lived until 1955, leaving a legacy of hundreds of railway stations across Sweden, allowing people to travel and connect. That’s not all. In their wills, both Ellen and Folke left money to establish a foundation to support architecture students and the future of architecture.