Stockholm Waterfront by White Arkitekter 17.08.11

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Perched on a triangular site in central Stockholm, sandwiched between a busy expressway and a large railway station, is the new Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre. Designed by Swedish practice White Arkitekter, it contains a series of auditoriums for conferences, a hotel and an office block.

The site is one of the most prominent in Stockholm – down by the water, next to the central station and opposite the town hall – but to fit this building into it required considerable shoehorning. At the northern end is a slick, conventional office block with an H-shaped plan, and a 414-room Radisson hotel aligned to the same grid. The narrow sliver at the southern end is the location of the conference facilities, which are dramatically cantilevered out over the site boundary on angled columns, creating an exaggerated canopy for the entrance.

The black boxes of the auditorium spaces are externally dramatised by a "veil" structure. This consists of a steel scaffold upon which are fixed 3,500 stainless steel Z-profiles, creating a shimmering ribbon-like effect. As an approach this is fairly successful – rather than trying to create extraneous forms that are ill-suited to the interior programme, the lightweight and relatively simple decorative structure gives the project a delicacy that stands out against its infrastructural context. No attempt is made to conceal the structural workings that go into making the veil, creating an effect that is reminiscent of Frank Gehry's 1992 Fish sculpture on the Barcelona waterfront.

The innovative aspects of the building continue inside. The building implements a number of technological tricks to reduce energy consumption: it reuses a substantial amount of structure from the 1980s mail depot that previously occupied the site, it mechanically redistributes solar gain from the facade to reduce heating requirements, and water is drawn from Lake Mälaren into an internal ice store to help cooling.

As well as these environmental systems, the 3,000-capacity auditorium can be reconfigured both horizontally and vertically across floors. It's a clever solution – which the architect describes as an "advanced jigsaw puzzle" – to a tricky functional predicament, and gets maximum flexibility out of an awkward space perched above the railway lines. In some ways, you could consider it a 21st-century corporate cousin to the projecting, partitionable auditoriums of Konstantin Melnikov's 1927 Rusakov Worker's Club in Moscow.

 

Image

Wojtek Gurak

 

Words

Douglas Murphy

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The site is one of the most prominent in Stockholm but to fit this building into it required considerable shoehorning

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