Väven Cultural Centre in Umeå

Väven Cultural Centre in Umeå

With its prime location on the banks of the River Ume, Väven embodies a cross-boundary cultural arena that brings together a range of disciplines in a cluster of flexible spaces. Designed in mutual collaboration with Snøhetta, the building is as a testament to culture-led, sustainable urban regeneration.

Weaving culture into the urban fabric

The centre houses Umeå City Library and a children’s cultural centre, as well as theatres, studios, a cinema, a women’s history museum, a hotel and conference suites. Taking its name from the Swedish word for ‘weave’, Väven weaves together these diverse programmes and activities to create a common stage. Situated in a central riverside location next to the City Hall, the open and flexible design ensures that the space can adapt to changing cultural needs over time.

Clients: Umeå Municipality, Balticgruppen AB
Location: Umeå, Sweden
Status: Completed 2014
Area: 25,000 sqm
Cost: 700 million SEK
Awards: Kasper Salin Prize 2014

Environmental certification: Miljöbyggnad Silver
Visuals: Mattias Andersson, Åke E:son Lindman

The building was shaped by the residents of Umeå who didn’t just want to consume culture – they wanted to create it too.

A building that communicates with its surroundings

The architecture of the cultural centre takes its cue from this mesh of activities and functions, by wrapping the manifold functions of the building in one homogenous façade. A series of reflective glass ribbons woven together to form the building envelope creates a strong identity in one grand, unifying gesture. Glass was selected for the main façade material as it reflects the people, the sky, the river and the historic urban context; a building that communicates with its surroundings.

The weaving concept also influenced the building’s access points. There are no grand entrances or exits; six carefully placed routes into and through the building are accessible from three different levels. This design decision enables visitors to enjoy continuity in Väven’s endless array of experiences, as well as enhancing interaction between different areas. Despite the size and the array of different functions that make up the building programme, the volume of the cultural centre sits elegantly within Umeå’s historic urban fabric, occupying a relatively compact footprint.

City of Birches

Façade details were inspired by the local silver birch trees. Umeå is also known as Björkarnas Stad – City of Birches, after thousands of birch trees were planted in the city following the Great Fire of 1888 to minimise the impact of future fires. This theme is manifested in the façade in two ways: during the day, the opaque, light-coloured cladding is reminiscent of light-coloured bark, interwoven with dark-coloured bands of glazing. At night, these visual cues are reversed, as Väven’s warm and vibrant interior shines through the glazed bands of the façade, while the opaque bands of cladding fade into shadow. Inside, the colour palette evokes the colours of birch leaves through the seasons; from budding to winter frost.

A healthy building

Experiences and Knowledge, Health and Wellbeing and a Small Ecological Footprint were the sustainability drivers for the project. Careful consideration was given to air, noise and light to create a healthy indoor environment. Outdoors, terraces with overgrown sedum ameliorate visitor experience through improved air quality and biodiversity. Sustainable building products and materials with a low health and environmental impact were deliberately selected throughout the project. The design promotes the sharing of resources and lessens material and energy consumption to minimise the building’s ecological footprint, resulting in a 15% reduction against the standard requirement. The building is connected to the district heating and cooling system and is run on 100% renewable energy.

Spaces have deliberately been kept loose, playful and flexible, using as few surface materials as possible: wooden floors, ridged wood ceilings and columns of plain concrete.

Co-designed by locals

Instead of passive consumption, Umeå’s locals wanted active participation in cultural production through spontaneous and planned activities. Spaces have deliberately been kept loose, playful and flexible, using as few surface materials as possible: wooden floors, ridged wood ceilings and columns of plain concrete. Residents, local businesses, cultural departments, as well as private and municipal funding bodies provided input into the planning through in-depth interviews and workshops. This is perhaps the building’s true achievement; managing to incorporate disparate stakeholders needs in one unified building.

Contact & Team

Lennart Sjögren

Åsa Haremst

Marianne Rutberg

Agne Revellé

Mirja Westling

August Edwards

Marie-France Stendahl

Malin Ericson

Maeva Chardon

Albin Holmgren

Jonas Westman

Anna-Carin Dahlberg

Katarina Rasmusson

Johanna Larsson

Anna von Gegerfelt

Pernilla Engberg

Mats Holmberg

Katharina Björlin Wiklund

Jan Anundi

Gunnar Stomrud

Nilda Pulga

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