Holcim Foundation


A sustainable building with civic significance

Using materials and techniques to reduce emissions and environmental performance

The Sara Culture Centre in Skellefteå, currently one of the tallest wooden high-rises in the world, aims to be accessible and enhance the city’s attractiveness. The design by Oskar Norelius, Robert Schmitz, and their team from White Arkitekter won an international design competition in 2015 for a new cultural center in the heart of the city of Skellefteå in the north of Sweden.

In the Sara Culture Centre, named after the Swedish writer Sara Lidman, all of the columns, beams, decks, and walls of the cultural center were prefabricated in a local factory and assembled on site. This method reduces the emissions and gray energy generated from transporting materials over longer distances, reduces construction time and cost, and creates work for local companies.

An insulated envelope

The hotel tower has a double-layer glazed façade through which the wooden structure remains visible. Between the inner layer of high-performance triple glazing and the outer layer of glazing is an adjustable sunscreen made of glue-laminated timber (GLT) louvers. The double-skin glazing encloses an insulating air space that envelops the entire high-rise. This enhances the thermal efficiency of the entire building – an advantage not to be underestimated, since Skellefteå is located close to the Arctic Circle and has correspondingly cold winters.

A20EUbrSW-gl-08.pngTo maximize overall energy efficiency a hybrid ventilation system was installed to provide controlled ventilation to the large foyers and theater stages. This significantly reduces the loads on the main HVAC system. The architects also implemented a smart grid equipped with an AI unit that, over time, learns to autonomously predict and control the building’s energy consumption according to projected use and occupancy.

The Sara Cultural Center is to become a meeting place for the people of Skellefteå, whether they are interested in culture, want to borrow a book, or just want to talk to each other in a warm, cozy environment.

Read the full interview:

“Informative architecture – Towering Virtuoso in Sweden” in Sixth Holcim Awards

Last Updated: July 01, 2022
Article Details
Skellefteå, Sweden
Related Information
Related Video
Towering Virtuoso in Sweden – Author Comment
Towering Virtuoso in Sweden – Author Comment

Author comment by Robert Schmitz and Oskar Norelius of White arkitekter, Stockholm, Sweden on Towering Virtuoso in …

Related Video
Towering Virtuoso in Sweden – Project Overview
Towering Virtuoso in Sweden – Project Overview

A mixed-use timber building in Skellefteå uses elegant and innovative construction systems to achieve a carbon neutral profile.

Holcim Foundation

Search Help

Our website search engine covers the web pages including project descriptions and expert profiles, PDFs, images and videos on the Holcim Foundation website. To improve your search results, here are some tips:

Basic search

Our search defaults to term-pairing AND. If you search sustainable construction - then the search engine will look for any items containing sustainable AND construction


photovoltaic OR solar

Looks for either word


(clay OR mud) AND (school OR university)

Combine alternative terms for more specific searching


geothermal -heating

Excludes a term from results, automatically ANDs other terms listed


"zero carbon"

Use quotation marks to search for a specific phrase or combination

Wildcards (one or more characters)


Asterisk (*) matches any word or phrase - so archit* will find architect, architecture, architectural as well as architrave