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Skellefteå Cultural Centre

Written by Roma Publications

Skellefteå Cultural Centre – High praise for tall building

Shortlisted in the category Best Futura Project in the prestigious MIPIM Awards

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

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 building was designed by White Arkitekter. 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.


Skellefteå 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 visiting the city, as well as to provide a source of revenue for the local authority.

“The design pays 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,” said Oskar Norelius, Project Architect, White Arkitekter.

The regional forest industry and construction knowledge play an important role in the project, and are complemented by recent developments in engineered timber 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 hybrid 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 pre-manufactured 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 69 metres tall, the 19-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 beam.

In the lower part of the complex, the cultural centre, the floors are made from a HBV-system (Holz-Beton-Verbund). This hybrid of concrete and timber redistributes loads from the high rise and enhances structural stability, while also improving acoustics between floors.

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 rainwater run-off.

Skellefteå 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.

“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,” said Robert Schmitz, Project Architect, White Arkitekter.

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