Bildmuseet – Contemp­orary Art Museum

Bildmuseet – Contemp­orary Art Museum

Part of an emerging Arts and Architecture Campus in the city of Umeå, Bildmuseet is a beacon for the riverside arts quarter, and a home for visual culture in all its forms. The building’s concept was influenced by the region’s restricted daylight conditions; the whole building conceived as a lighthouse, channelling and filtering light through its rooms.

Capturing the Nordic light

In a setting such as Umeå, with very few hours of sunlight per day in the winter and a sun that seems to never set at the height of summer, it is easy to understand why the light influenced the design direction. In an exhibition space, various forms of light are unified to create rooms for experiencing art and spaces for contemplation, subtly changing with the daylight conditions of different seasons.

Client: Balticgruppen Design AB
Location: Umeå, Sweden
Status: Completed 2012
Area: 3,500 sqm
Awards: 2013 Mies van der Rohe Award nomination
Visuals: Åke E:son Lindman

Light guides all aspects of the design.

The shape of the museum is in response to the compact waterfront site and the intense desire to capture light. By stacking programme elements and superimposing exhibition spaces around a large central room, light and views are able to permeate through to the centre via smaller side rooms. Small façade apertures, expansive walls of glazing, light niches and gallery lighting are the components which create an interplay between the cool sunlight, which indirectly blends with the warm gallery lighting.

Alongside the art museum, the campus comprises Umeå’s School of Architecture; a higher education building with lecture halls, teaching and learning spaces, library, public riverfront restaurant, as well as a multi-tenant office building. The buildings appear to embody individual identities however, all four are inspired by the grain of the town centre and their natural surroundings to create an architectural synergy throughout.

Like its sibling structures, the Museum of Art has the same distinctive façade treatment of vertical Siberian larch, yet the height sets it apart.

Like a tree on the edge of a frozen river, Bildmuseet creates an inviting placemaker for the creative campus. Bildmuseet is the only publicly accessible building on campus; its ground level entrance creating the perfect frame for recreation, or a visit to the café, exhibitions or library.

As a new piece of the city, the design of the public realm was as important as the architecture of the individual buildings. Working closely with the client and the city authorities, several key public spaces within the campus were designed to strengthen connections to the surrounding area. Existing links between the city and river were enhanced through a new waterfront promenade linking the cultural, educational facilities, studded by an abundance of public squares and green space.

On the initiative of Balticgruppen Design AB, White has been responsible for the project and, in collaboration with Henning Larsen Architects, for the architectural design of this creative environment for education and research in architecture, design, art and digital culture.

Contact & Team

Lennart Sjögren

Lennart Sjögren


+46 706 50 25 05

Marianne Rutberg

Gustav Jarlöv

Olov Bergström

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