Väven Cultural Centre

Väven is Sweden’s second largest arts centre and a new type of cultural building that entwines a diverse series of disciplines within a cluster of flexible spaces. Designed in mutual collaboration with Snøhetta, Väven is as a testament to culture-led, sustainable urban regeneration.

Weaving culture into the urban fabric

The centre is a new home for Umeå City Library and a children’s cultural centre in addition to new theatres, studios, cinema, Women’s History Museum, as well as a hotel and conference suites. Taking its name from the Swedish word for ‘weave’, Väven interlaces these multiple programs and activities together to provide one common stage. Occupying a central riverside location beside the City Hall; the open and flexible design ensures that the space is capable of adapting as cultural demands evolve over time.

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

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

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, sky, 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 Birch

Façade detailing took inspiration from native silver birch trees. Umeå is also known as Björkarnas Stad – City of Birch, after thousands of birch trees were planted in the city following the Great Fire of 1888 in a bid to minimise impact from future fires. This theme manifests in the façade in two ways; during the day, the opaque, light-coloured cladding is reminiscent of pale bark, interwoven with dark tinted bands of glazing. At night, these visual cues invert as Väven’s warm and vibrant interior glows through the glazed ribbons of the façade, while the opaque bands of cladding fade into shadow. Inside, the colour palette recalls the colours of birch leaves through the seasons; from buds to the winter frostbite.

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