Sara Cultural Centre, Skellefteå

Sara Cultural Centre, Skellefteå

Housing venues for arts, performance and literature as well as a hotel, Sara Cultural Centre in Skellefteå is one of the world’s tallest timber buildings to date.

A new home for culture

Located just below the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, Skellefteå has a long tradition of timber building; this was the primary inspiration behind the international competition winning design for the city’s new cultural centre.

The proposal was named Sida vid sida – Side-by-side; a timber-frame tower complex that placed art, performance and literary organisations alongside each other in a spectacular setting. Sara  Cultural Centre will be a new home for the Västerbotten Regional Theatre, Anna Nordlander Museum, Skellefteå Art Gallery, as well as the City Library. The complex will also contain a new hotel to accommodate the growing numbers of tourists to the city, as well as to provide a source of revenue for the local authority.

Client:  Skellefteå Municipality
Location: Skellefteå, Sweden
Status: Completed, 2021
Area: Approx. 30,000 sqm
Awards: Träpriset 2024, Best Tall Building under 100m and Best Tall Building Europe 2023 – CTBUH, WAF Awards 2022 – Completed Buildings, Culture category, International Award for Wood Architecture 2022, Bronze in the International Design Awards 2021, Bronze in Holcim Awards 2021, Architectural Review/MIPIM Future Project Awards 2018
Images: Åke Eson Lindman, Patrick Degerman, Sven Burman, David Valldeby

A model for sustainable design and construction where all forms of culture live side-by-side.
The design is an homage to the region’s rich timber tradition that we hope to take forward with the local timber industry. Together, we can create a beautiful civic centre for all; a contemporary expression that ages with grace.
Oskar Norelius, Lead Architect

Timber innovation

The regional forest industry and construction knowledge play an important role in the project and is complemented by recent developments in engineered timber (CLT) technology. The advancement of research in engineered timber has unleashed a world of previously unimagined design possibilities. Collaborating with structural engineers Florian Kosche, two different construction systems have been developed; one for the cultural centre and one for its sibling structure, the hotel.

The high rise, which houses the hotel, is constructed of premanufactured modules in cross-laminated timber (CLT), stacked between two elevator cores. Thanks to the placement and design of the cores, they can be entirely made from CLT. Standing 75 metres tall, the 20-storey hotel offers dramatic views that stretch for miles over the city from one of the world’s highest timber framed buildings with glue-laminated timber (GLT) pillars and beams.

BIM Strategy and BIM Coordination

Our BIM strategy and an efficient digital workflow enabled a climate-positive building – the world’s third-tallest wooden building. Communication was integrated with real-time models, with an easily accessible platform solution which enabled a higher degree of collaboration. We ensured quality information and design solutions, saved time needed for communication and reduced the risk of costly rework during production. Read more about our BIM expertise.

The hotel is located in the 20-storey tower, which is made up of prefabricated timber modules with a core of cross laminated timber. The glazed façade offers dramatic views that stretch for miles over the city.

We want people to witness the amount of creativity that occurs behind-the-scenes. From the street, people passing by will be able to see how a new exhibition is being built, or how a stage set is coming along.
Robert Schmitz, Lead Architect

The low rise consists of a timber frame with pillars and beams made of glue lam and cores and shear walls in cross laminated timber. The construction helps redistributing loads and enhances structural stability from the high rise. The high rise has 13 floors and consists of stacked 3D volumes of timber between two cores at each end.

The characteristic trusses above the grand foyers are composed of a GLT and steel hybrid that enables a flexible, open-plan space that can host a range of activities and functions within. Flexibility of use guarantees the building’s long-term sustainability by allowing it to adapt to future demands.

The glass façade wrapping the building reflects the sky while revealing the spectacular exposed timber-framed ceiling inside. This ceiling is a recurring motif that guides visitors through the venue. The wood construction is designed to endure Skellefteå’s harsh weather conditions, while also remaining energy efficient. The green roof contributes to thermal insulation, as well as absorbing noise pollution, enhancing biodiversity and delaying rain water run-off.

A celebration of making

Sara Cultural Centre uniquely celebrates the craft behind the creative process. Open layouts combined with generous glazing reveal the ingenuity and skill involved in set-building and exhibition installation to visitors inside the building, as well as passers-by outdoors. At the heart of the centre lies a stage, its productions visible to the outside world. Similarly, exhibitions can be programmed at the entrances, inviting non-traditional gallery goers into the centre.

Contact & Team

Robert Schmitz

Robert Schmitz

Architect, Office management

+46 703 74 26 52

Oskar Norelius

Lead Architect

Robert Schmitz

Lead Architect

Maria Orvesten

Björn Norén

Marianne Rutberg

Patrik Buchinger

Marte Noedtvedt Skjaeggestad

Jens Hansson

Andreas Ivarsson

Johan Björkholm

Sarah Dahman Meyersson

Charles Gårdeman

Elin Rooth

Gustav Söderberg Röstlund

Fredrik Källström

Jesper Källgren

Ulrika Wallin

Fredrik Källström

Clara Fraenkel

Amanda Ersson

Erik Falkenström

Isabel Villar

Katharina Björlin Wiklund

Robert Niziolek

Mats Selin

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