“Showcasing the potential when working exclusively with timber”

Regional Jury Report – Europe

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    Towering Virtuoso in Sweden

    The building is very energy efficient thanks to a compact form factor, high performance envelope, designed with virtually no cold bridges, a hybrid ventilation system, mobile sun screens, and an innovative energy system alternating between hydro- solar- and geothermal power depending on what is best for the city as a whole.

Last updated: November 13, 2021 Eclepens, Switzerland

Project description by jury

Located just below the Arctic Circle, the Sara Culture Centre is a new mixed-use building in Skellefteå, Sweden that includes hotel and cultural facilities for the city while showcasing sustainable timber construction practices. Characterized by a 20-storey-high tower that rises amongst other lower rectangular volumes, the building includes six theater stages, the city library, two art galleries, a hotel and conference room, and restaurants and spa. Public spaces are programmed to attract those who would not typically visit a cultural center. The building complex named in honor of Swedish author Sara Lidman (1923-2004), adopts innovative solutions for high-rise timber construction.

All structural parts are glue-laminated timber, prefabricated in a local factory and assembled on site; hotel rooms consist of prefabricated 3D modules in cross-laminated timber; floors of hybrid timber and concrete (HBV-system) redistribute load from the high-rise and enhance structural stability. Wooden façades alternate with generous transparent portions of the building envelope that allow for passive solar gains and abundant access to daylight inside the rehearsal rooms and other spaces. The building aims to be carbon neutral over its lifespan thanks to the low embodied energy of the structure, the integration of solar panels, and the use of a highly energy-efficient double skin façade integrated with a mobile sun shading system.

Jury appraisal

The Holcim Awards jury Europe was particularly fascinated by the innovative timber construction techniques deployed to achieve this beautiful and sustainable architectural project, which showcases the potential when working exclusively with timber. Making the material choice a question of both engineering and spatial quality was considered a powerful claim. The fact that all the building structural elements are entirely made of wood, including the structural core and elevator shaft, makes this tower quite unique in its genre. The jury applauded the refined expression of the building, the elegance of the massing and the showcasing of the timber structure through a delicate curtain wall.