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.
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.See more
As a Main category prize winner in the regional Holcim Awards 2020, Towering Virtuoso in Sweden automatically qualified as a finalist in the Global Holcim Awards 2021.
This project is a mixed-use cultural center that includes a hotel, six theater stages, a public library, two art galleries, an auditorium, restaurants, and a spa. The facility is conceived to become the new “living room” of the city where everyone should feel welcome. The building is framed in glue-laminated timber, with a minimal use of prefabricated concrete structural elements. Engineered wood framing offers easy prefabrication, low emissions from material processing and transport, and carbon sequestering throughout the life of the building. Prefabrication is a key aspect of the concept, simultaneously supporting local business and enabling a more precise and efficient construction process.
“The timber structure drastically reduces the carbon footprint,” says architect Oskar Norelius of White arkitekter, Stockholm, Sweden. “To realize this project in timber we’ve had to develop innovations such as the modular hotel rooms. These new solutions can now be applied in future projects.” The jury was particularly fascinated by the innovative timber construction techniques deployed to achieve this beautiful and sustainable architectural project, which showcases the potential of working primarily with timber. The fact that all the building structural elements are made of wood, including the structural core and elevator shaft, makes this tower quite unique in its genre.Read more »
A mixed-use, public building in timber (Resource and environmental performance – Planet)
The project is to become a showcase for sustainable timber construction, by developing and realizing innovative solutions in a large scale and high-rise mixed-use building. As a result, the project aims to generally broaden the possible applications of timber construction in the industry.
Key benefits of using timber in Sara Culture Centre are:
• Reduced emissions from material production and transports as compared to a traditional steel and concrete solution.
• Carbon storage during the life cycle of the building.
• The structure is visible from within the building (not covered in gypsum) ensuring a high-quality indoor climate and giving warmth to the spaces.
Pursuing 100% prefabrication through modular construction (Innovation and transferability – Progress)
• Timber construction allows for a high rate of prefabrication.
• The columns, beams, slabs, and walls of the culture center are prefabricated in a local factory and quickly assembled on site.
• Hotel rooms are prefabricated as 3D-modules complete with bathrooms, installations, and finishes.
• Factory prefabrication in a controlled indoor environment allows for higher accuracy and better working conditions.
• Prefabricated elements are transported on site in a "just-intime"- manner and assembled, minimizing noise and disturbance.
• Construction time on site is reduced, minimizing the impact on neighbors, commerce and passers-by.
• Reduced construction time results in lower costs, compensating for the high level of innovation.
A showcase for holistic sustainability (Contextual and aesthetic impact – Place)
Sara is composed of timber volumes of varying scale and transparency combined to give a human scale at street level with lower volumes towards narrow streets, staggering up to the landmark hotel facing the main square. Public areas are accessible from the attractive pedestrian areas, and backstage workshops are also made visible to celebrate the craft behind the creative process, thus vitalizing all surrounding streets.
Facades at street level feature natural wood that will age over time, the timber structure of the high-rise is visible through a double-skin facade. The sustainability concept aims to highlight timber as a sustainable material. Hybrid ventilation, mobile sunshades and high efficiency envelopes allow for great transparency, showing the timber structure from close and afar.See more
A mixed-use timber building in Skellefteå uses elegant and innovative construction systems to achieve a carbon neutral profile.
Author comment by Robert Schmitz and Oskar Norelius of White arkitekter, Stockholm, Sweden on Towering Virtuoso in …
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