Village life in the city
Communal vegetable patches, car sharing and a timber building that overtops many others. Sweden’s largest housing cooperative is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a project called Västerbroplan that shows how people will live in the future.
Västerbroplan is a traffic intersection in Kungsholmen, Stockholm. Or at least that’s what comes up when you enter the word in a search engine. But this is set to change very soon, at the latest in 2023. Next year, the eponymous plyscraper will become the new landmark in “King’s Island”, as the district’s name Kungsholmen translates. The opening of this socially and ecologically sustainable residential tower will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sweden’s largest housing cooperative HSB in style.
Almost a decade ago now, the architecture competition was held to find a suitable project. When it came to choosing the most innovative concept, property developer HSB decided to involve the general public. Via the company’s Facebook page, users were asked to vote how they would most like to live in the future. And in 2013 the design by architectural offices C.F. Møller and Dinell Johansson was chosen. The superlative “tallest plyscraper in the world” that was used to describe the 34-storey high-rise may have been correct at the time. But several other projects, like The Dutch Mountains in Eindhoven, now have the edge on it, at least height-wise.
Wood as fire protection
The construction method used for Västerbroplan is on the cutting edge of building development. Apart from concrete cores to provide the necessary stability, the tower will be built entirely of wood. Pillars and beams made of solid wood, with CLT walls, floors and ceilings. The architects at C.F. Møller are convinced that “wood is the natural choice when it comes to materials for innovative residential development”.
As a renewable building material, wood is unrivalled not just as regards climate change, but also because of its many other benefits. “You might be surprised to learn that the wooden structure also constitutes a very efficient form of protection against fire,” the project description reads.
Wood is the natural choice when it comes to materials for innovative residential development.
In fact, experts agree that timbers have comparatively high resistance to fire. Wood burns slowly and is a poor heat conductor. Besides this, the carbonization on the surface of the wood creates a protective layer. This effect is used in the Japanese wood sealing technique shou sugi ban.
Penthouse feeling and climate buffer
The project’s unique feature must surely be its facade with exposed timber construction. Furthermore, the double glass shell around the building protects the wood from the weather. And it also forms a continuous winter garden that surrounds the entire tower.
This gives each apartment its own energy-efficient thermal climate buffer and extra living space as well. As a glazed loggia, it gives the residents a kind of penthouse feeling independent of each individual location.
Ecological, social, sustainable
A central element of the design is its ecological and social sustainability. Future residents can grow their own cucumbers and radishes in the community centre, or buy vegetables in Västerbroplan’s supermarket. The produce will be grown especially in an adjacent greenhouse to avoid long transport routes. Residents can also use bike sharing, have their own bicycle repaired, visit the laundry, or get a good workout in the fitness centre.
Greened roof terraces on the high-rise are not only available for on-site leisure, they also produce solar power and collect rainwater, which is then treated and supplied in drinking water quality. The nursery is just an elevator ride away, and car sharing for a family trip is booked via an app.
Stand-alone village community
Västerbroplan intends to counteract the deterioration of local amenities and the decline in city centres over recent decades. It also aims to create a lively village community in an urban setting that is self-sufficient and takes responsibility for its own local provisions.
Residents in the entire quarter will benefit from its greenery and infrastructure. The small ecological footprint of the tower and its residents could be the ticket to a future in which climate change becomes more than just a theory.
Text: Gertraud Gerst
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Renderings: C.F. Møller Architects
that might interest you
Shenzhen is set to be home to a museum that should really be built in the sea. Although inspired by bobbing waves, the design ultimately looks like a group of clouds. And the spectacular structure has indeed been titled “Clouds on the Sea”.
Architect and biologist Timothée Boitouzet has used nanotechnology to give wood an upgrade. The new material “Woodoo” is translucent, fire-resistant, weatherproof and up to five times stronger than normal wood.
Timber construction can be decidedly high-tech, as illustrated by the head office built for SR Bank in Stavanger, Norway. Bjergsted Financial Park offers workplaces that are fit for the future, and it is among Europe’s largest engineered timber buildings.
So, what does "Noom" actually mean? While Sanzpont [arquitectura] and Pedrajo + Pedrajo Arquitectos don't exactly reveal this, their "Living the Noom" concept is pretty clear: it’s all about a fresh take on housing. With environmental protection and quality of life as a top priority.
HafenCity Hamburg is an urban quarter fit for the future. Its eco cherry on the top is the “Null-Emissionshaus” (Zero Emissions Building), which is completely carbon-neutral – and can be dismantled like a Lego house.
Apple’s former design head BJ Siegel has developed a concept for a timber modular house. The urban prefab named Juno is designed for mass production – and hopes for success on the scale of the iPhone.
Bearing the name Tree House Rotterdam, Holland’s new landmark-to-be looks like a gigantic stack of wooden shelves with glass lofts added on top. It aims to take the sustainability of timber high-rises to a new level.
Three tonnes of lettuce and vegetables annually will be farmed on top of the We-House, a timber construction project in Hamburg’s HafenCity. The on-site restaurant serves meals for residents of this sophisticated eco-house at cost price.
The design for the urban office building Saint Denis in Paris shows the potential of parametric design in timber construction. Architect Arthur Mamou-Mani is a luminary in this new discipline, and we were able to meet him online.
Self-sufficiency is no longer a dream reserved for downshifters. The modular building system named The Farmhouse designed by Studio Precht allows residents to grow food in big cities.
Homerton College at the University of Cambridge has chosen the design by Alison Brooks Architects for a pavilion that combines modern timber construction with high-tech facilities. It is expected to be a future-facing answer to their needs.
The Swedish university city of Växjö has been named “the Greenest City in Europe”. Half of all its new buildings have been built with timber. But the city plans to go even further.
The Scandinavians have shown their pioneering strength once again, this time in the design for a new cultural centre. The Sara Kulturhus in Sweden’s Skellefteå is among the world’s tallest high-rise structures built entirely from wood.
When it comes to timber construction engineering, the United States has been lagging behind other countries. Ascent Tower in Milwaukee aims to change this. Topping out as the world’s tallest timber tower at a height of 284 feet, the building uses expertise and structural elements from Austria.
As many as 40,000 pieces of wood had to be fitted together for the gift shop in the National Museum of Qatar. The inspiration behind this award-winning interior design was supplied by a miracle of nature in Qatar’s desert.
Canada’s Earth Tower aims to outshine all existing timber high-rise buildings. Its energy concept means that this 40-storey skyscraper in Vancouver will be the world’s tallest passive house.
On the edge of the tropical rainforest in Mexico, a research museum will explore how nature and progress can be reconciled. Known as Xinatli, its sophisticated design takes a fresh look at circular building materials.
The eco-friendly residential project Roots will be the new landmark of Hamburg’s HafenCity and the tallest timber high-rise in Germany. Architect Jan Störmer reveals what its future residents will have in common.
The Danish office 3XN is planning to build North America’s tallest timber office building in Toronto. Called T3 Bayside, the complex will offer more than 500,000 sq. ft. of next-generation office space when completed.
Oslo was once built entirely of wood. The project chosen to redesign the area around its railway station heralds the return of this traditional building material to the Scandinavian metropolis. A spectacular office tower with an innovative hub is being developed, named Fjordporten.
Dutch architectural firm Gaaga has designed a residential building in Eindhoven that is distinctly people- and environment-friendly. Surrounded by trees, it is situated in the middle of a park.
The redevelopment of an above-ground Nazi-era bunker is Hamburg’s largest building project since the Elbe Philharmonic Concert Hall. With spectacular rooftop gardens and nhow Hamburg design hotel, this new landmark in the heart of the St. Pauli district is sure to become a magnet for visitors.
Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and Australian artist Geoff Nees teamed up to design the Botanical Pavilion – a wooden pavilion that is constructed like a 3D puzzle – without using any kind of glue or screws.
The round construction known as TECLA has created quite a stir. Having teamed up as 3D printing pioneers, WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects have produced the first CO₂-free housing prototype printed entirely from raw earth.
Japanese architectural firm UENOA has created a wooden office that has no need for bearing walls. Folded origami-style, the ceiling construction gives a whole new lightness to cross-laminated timber.
Sustainability is a top priority for the Powerhouse Company. In an interview, partner Stefan Prins explains why this means more than just a careful choice of materials and energy efficiency, and how essential it is to consider all the changes brought about by climate change when building.
The Life Cycle Tower One was the first timber high-rise in Austria and the prototype for a new type of serial construction. CREE founder Hubert Rhomberg explains the green building concept and why we have to learn to think in lifecycles.
Researchers at Cambridge University are helping to turn London’s spectacular vision of a wooden skyscraper into reality. The Oakwood Timber Tower is to rise 300 metres into the sky, almost level with the tallest building in the city.
Most people looking for a new home with a sustainable design need to have deep pockets. Rotterdam’s Pendrecht district aims to buck this trend courtesy of timber building Valckensteyn, the brainchild of the architects at Powerhouse Company.
In Düsseldorf, The Cradle is gradually taking shape. The timber hybrid office building is being constructed according to circular economy principles, and these will also govern its future use.
The Dutch city of Eindhoven will soon be home to the world’s highest “plyscraper”. The two towers – 100 and 130 metres high and known as the Dutch Mountains – are to set new standards in high-rise timber construction.
An entire residential complex in Berlin-Kreuzberg is to be built out of timber – vertically. With a planned height of almost 100 metres, WoHo is set to be Germany’s tallest timber building.
A mixed-use project in Sweden’s Gothenburg is being crowned by star architect Dorte Mandrup. The jewel in this crown is its use of timber. The new eco construction is intended to become an icon in sustainable urban architecture.
Designed by US architect David Rockwell, built according to WELL Building Standard principles. The Sage Collection by British furniture maker Benchmark is good for humans and the environment.
Swiss urban planning combines prominent architecture with ecological timber construction. Lausanne’s Tilia Tower is setting a high standard in future-proof urban development.
Munich’s Prinz-Eugen-Park is the site of the largest integrated timber settlement in Germany. And that’s not all – the city planners have even more in the pipeline.
Once Europe’s largest freight station, Brussels’ monumental Gare Maritime is now the largest European CLT project. Neutelings Riedijk Architects have transformed the historic structure into a covered district, giving it a sustainable new lease of life using cross-laminated timber.
The plans just unveiled for the new, 180-metre-high timber tower designed for the Sydney-based software giant Atlassian represent a milestone in environmentally friendly construction using this renewable raw material.