Skellefteå Cultural Centre Q+A | White Arkitekten

ADF speaks with Robert Schmitz of White Arkitekten on the practice’s Skellefteå Cultural Centre project

1. How did you first get involved in the work on Skellefteå Cultural Centre?

“It was an open international competition announced by the municipality of Skellefteå that we won in 2016.

2. Why did the Skellefteå Municipality choose White? What was the evaluation process and criteria?

“From the jury statement: SIDA VID SIDA is elegant and appealing, an assembly of simple volumes, combining the different parts of the competition brief into one entity where all activities get a strong identity side by side, at the same time as they are challenged to new collaborations through the common flexible space for joint use. The hotel is well integrated in the center of the block as a volume of its own, creating a positive assembling force in the building.

3. Please describe the context of the building site; what is nearby? And how did the site provide:
i: Challenges?

“The site is located right in the heart of Skellefteå CBD. It stretches over an entire city block situated between the new train station and the main square.  The challenge was to maintain an active street as well as an active culture center which in itself will attract lots of people.  We managed to do so by placing all the theatre stages in the centre of the building and the cultural operations around with entrances on all four sides. 

ii: Opportunities

“Being in the heart of the city, the building becomes a node. Inside the main entrance facing the city square we created a lobby with an oversize staircase, connecting all of the cultural functions within to become a new public living room for the inhabitants.”

4. Any planning issues with local authorities

“Not at all, the local authorities even suggested to set a lowest height limit in the planning permit to ensure the high-rise was not reduced.”

Design brief
1. What was the original project brief?

“Our aim was to create a workshop for culture;  a place for meetings and production in the heart of the city.”

2. How was the brief developed from first contact? Any radical changes during the consultation process?

“We have been working on this project for almost five years and the end result is looking strikingly close to our competition proposal. So even though a lot has changed in order to adapt to an evolving program and budget, the main ideas are still intact. “

3. How was the client to work with, in general?

“Together with the developer/client, Skellefteå municipality has (from the very beginning) been very proud of this project and I think it has been a good collaboration between all parts, with everyone sharing the same strong mission to complete this unique project in timber.”

4. Was timber always going to be the main construction material and did this come from client/architect or both?

“Well, both! It was not mentioned in the brief, but we used Skellefteå’s timber construction strategy as an argument for the using timber in our proposal. Both where it is visible and where it is used as a load-bearing structural material.”

1. Please provide a run-down of the building’s programme, floor-by-floor.

“1th floor,     Ground floor, main entrence, City library, Hotel lobby, Stage.
2th floor,
    4 stages, largest one hosts up to 1500 people. Anna Nordlander Museum, Skellefteå Konstall, Production work shops, back stages,
3h floor,
    loges, costumes Artists green room.
4th floor,
    Offices, Resturant, conference.
6-18th floors,
    Hotel rooms
19th floor,
    a la carte restaurant
20th floor,
   Spa, sauna, roof top pool.

2. How much attention was paid to interior design?

“We were also assigned as the interior architects for the scheme; there is lots of focus reuse in the project.

3. What other interior features are there worth mentioning?

“The acoustic panels in the main theater stage is made from solid timber.

4. Please explain the rationale behind the name “Side-by-side”.

“The motto came from the placement of all the theatre stages. But it is also a very known phrase from an old Swedish punk rock band.”

Timber, engineering & technology
1. Please explain the two hybrid timber construction systems for the high-rise and low-rise elements, and how they were developed with the engineers. Which elements are glulam and which are CLT?

“The Low rise is constructed with a column and beams in GLT and shear walls and floorslabs in CLT.  The trusses spanning over the foyers is made from a combination of GLT and steel and can stretches up to 20 meters. The high-rise contains premanufactured hotel modules in CLT/GL stacked on top of each other for 13 stories. The timber cores are exposed behind a double skin façade.”

2. Were timbers exposed internally? Why (not)?

“We wanted the construction to be visible so it formed part of the overall design concept.”

3. What types of timber were used for the building, and why?

“Almost all the timber in this project comes from fir, which is the common material used for CLT.

4. What were the advantages of using offsite construction methods?

“There are many benefits. All the parts are made in a safe environment and then assembled in situ, resulting in shorter building time, less noise and no drying time since there in no concrete. These are just a few benefits of using off-site production, timber is a very suitable material for offsite.”

5. Please outline how Dipl-Ing and Florian Kosche (?) contributed to the project?

“They were very involved in the competition.

6. Was BIM used? To model harsh weather and its impact on the building?

“We used BIM from the very start of the design through to construction. Almost every construction part is premanufactured so working with a 3D model has ensured quality of the coordination reducing the errors on site to a minimum. The model has been used from everything to energy calculations to VR and communication.”

7. What are some of the ways that the building addresses energy requirements and green design? How was the use of timber fundamental to this?

“The amount of carbon dioxide the construction binds corresponds to roughly a 13,000-round flight from Stockholm to New York. As it’s made from timber this project will be totally CO2 neutral.

8. How does the placement and design of the lift cores enable them to be entirely made of CLT?

“There is not one core like you see in many conventional concrete high-rises. We used two cores on each end of the hotel to stabilise the structure.”

Construction & reception
1. What were the main challenges in terms of construction?

“To take down the forces from the high-rise in order to stabilise the structure to prevent it from moving.”

2. What has been the response from local community?

“Very good response – they are looking forward to the opening.”

3. What did the project cost?

“105 Million Euro”

Client: Skellefteå Municipality (competition organised in collaboration with the Swedish Association of Architects)
Partner: Dipl.-Ing. Florian Kosche AS (DIFK)
Schedule: estimated completion 2021
City: Skellefteå, Sweden
Images: White Arkitekter
Lead architects: Robert Schmitz, Oskar Norelius
Project architects: Maria Orvesten, Patrik Buchinger, Team: Amanda Ersson, Jens Hansson, Gustav Röstlund, Milla Nyström etc.
Structural engineers: Dipl.-Ing. Florian Kosche AS (DIFK), TK Botnia (from phase 3)
Structural materials: Massive timber core and shear walls in CLT, columns and beams in glelam, High rise: refabricated wood modules stacked between two stabilizing cores in CLT.
Façade materials: wood clad panels and louvres, structural glazing, High rise, double skin glass facade.