Sara Culture Center
by White Arkitekter
A new home for culture
Housing venues for arts, performance and literature as well as a hotel, Sara Cultural Centre in Skellefteå is one of the world’s tallest timber buildings to date.
Located just below the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, Skellefteå has a long tradition of timber building; this was the primary inspiration behind the international competition winning design for the city’s new cultural centre.
The proposal was named Sida vid sida – Side-by-side; a timber-frame tower complex that placed art, performance and literary organisations alongside each other in a spectacular setting. Sara Cultural Centre will be a new home for the Västerbotten Regional Theatre, Anna Nordlander Museum, Skellefteå Art Gallery, as well as the City Library. The complex will also contain a new hotel to accommodate the growing numbers of tourists to the city, as well as to provide a source of revenue for the local authority.
"The design is an homage to the region’s rich timber tradition that we hope to take forward with the local timber industry. Together, we can create a beautiful civic centre for all; a contemporary expression that ages with grace." - OSKAR NORELIUS, LEAD ARCHITECT
The regional forest industry and construction knowledge play an important role in the project and is complemented by recent developments in engineered timber (CLT) technology. The advancement of research in engineered timber has unleashed a world of previously unimagined design possibilities. Collaborating with structural engineers Florian Kosche, two different construction systems have been developed; one for the cultural centre and one for its sibling structure, the hotel.
The high rise, which houses the hotel, is constructed of premanufactured modules in cross-laminated timber (CLT), stacked between two elevator cores. Thanks to the placement and design of the cores, they can be entirely made from CLT. Standing 75 metres tall, the 20-storey hotel offers dramatic views that stretch for miles over the city from one of the world’s highest timber framed buildings with glue-laminated timber (GLT) pillars and beams.
"We want people to witness the amount of creativity that occurs behind-the-scenes. From the street, people passing by will be able to see how a new exhibition is being built, or how a stage set is coming along." - ROBERT SCHMITZ, LEAD ARCHITECT
The low rise consists of a timber frame with pillars and beams made of glue lam and cores and shear walls in cross laminated timber. The construction helps redistributing loads and enhances structural stability from the high rise. The high rise has 13 floors and consists of stacked 3D volumes of timber between two cores at each end.
The characteristic trusses above the grand foyers are composed of a GLT and steel hybrid that enables a flexible, open-plan space that can host a range of activities and functions within. Flexibility of use guarantees the building’s long-term sustainability by allowing it to adapt to future demands.
The glass façade wrapping the building reflects the sky while revealing the spectacular exposed timber-framed ceiling inside. This ceiling is a recurring motif that guides visitors through the venue. The wood construction is designed to endure Skellefteå’s harsh weather conditions, while also remaining energy efficient. The green roof contributes to thermal insulation, as well as absorbing noise pollution, enhancing biodiversity and delaying rain water run-off.
A celebration of making
Sara Cultural Centre uniquely celebrates the craft behind the creative process. Open layouts combined with generous glazing reveal the ingenuity and skill involved in set-building and exhibition installation to visitors inside the building, as well as passers-by outdoors. At the heart of the centre lies a stage, its productions visible to the outside world. Similarly, exhibitions can be programmed at the entrances, inviting non-traditional gallery goers into the centre.
Client: Skellefteå Municipality
Location: Skellefteå, Sweden
Area: Approx. 30,000 sqm
Awards: Architectural Review/MIPIM Future Project Awards, 2018
Images: Åke Eson Lindman, Patrick Degerman, Sven Burman, David Valldeby
About White Arkitekter
White Arkitekter is one of Scandinavia’s leading architectural practices. We work with sustainable architecture, urban design, landscape architecture and interior design for current and future generations. Our mission is to enable sustainable life through the art of architecture.
We work with sustainable architecture, design and urban development in an international context. As our work affects the lives of many both present and future generations we need to act responsibly by operating within the sustainable limits of our planet. We create spaces for people to thrive and grow in harmony within the ecosystem. We design healthy living environments that inspire and engage.