Sweden is synonymous with timber. From the air you can hardly see the towns for allthe trees. Most of the timber goes to sawmills where it is sawn or planed into planks for the construction industry. This is an industry that previously built only on a small scale but which today has its sights fixed on large constructions and mass production.

From an ecological perspective this of course makes sense – timber is both a renewable and a recyclable resource. But also from an architectural point of view judging by the large number of timber projects on architects’ drawing boards.

The most original examples are to be found in small-scale projects – private houses and holiday cottages, modernist interpretations of traditional building techniques. But today even large-scale projects are breaking new ground. Vernacular architecture has been complemented by a more hi-tech approach and several local authorities are making their mark in wood. It is hardly surprising if richly forested districts choose to build most of their
major structures in timber, but now the Swedish capital itself is joining the throng. By looking back Swedish architects are leading the way forward.

Woodland Sweden has been produced by Swedish architects for the Swedish Institute.


Naturum Laponia

The visitor centre for the Laponia nature and cultural reserves in northern Sweden was built in 2014 after Wingårdhs’ winning contribution in a 2009 competition. Laponia is a large area (lager than, for example, Cyprus or Puerto Rico) in the Swedish highlands where the native Sámi community has been living since ancient times. As the landscape bears the marks of long and harsh winters even during the short and beautiful summer, the house will relate to all the majestic conditions of the site. The round shape of the building resembles the rounded forms that characterise the vernacular architecture, which was adapted to migration.

It also adjusts to the vast number of herding rein- deers passing by close to the building. The court- yard functions as a snow trap, a spot that will fill with snow that later slowly melts. The logs that cover the façade invite the surrounding nature to be part of shaping the appearance too.

The visitor centre tells the story of Sámi culture, and is also a destination for visitors to nearby nature reserves and national parks. Naturum Laponia is part of a national program, and was commissioned by local municipalities, The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and Laponiatjuottjudus, the organization responsible for stewarding Sámi cultural heritage sites in Swedish Laponia.


Aula Medica, Karolinska Institutet

The location of the building reflects its position in the academic society, as well as in the surrounding cityscape. The building, next to a main thorough- fare, protrudes over a walkway that connects the university with the hospital next door. These geom- etries – the street, the perpendicular walkway and the V-shaped auditorium – characterise the plan.

Daylight, efficiency and low energy consumption have been some of the key criteria when planning the lecture hall, but the building’s boldest visual statement can be found in the inclined façade. The twisted elevation is made entirely of flat glass panes, a geometry made possible by the triangular pattern that encloses the building. A variation of different panes handles the demands for insulation, transparency, as well as, shade without compro- mising the façade’s uniform character. The interior wooden framework creates an equally striking geometry. An ambition to provide a Nordic atmos- phere to the setting called for the use of fir in the foundational structures as well as visible surfaces.

The 1000-seat auditorium dominates the building that also hosts administrative offices and a faculty club. These are located on top of the lecture hall, which was made possible through the use of large trusses. The appearance of the auditorium changes as the light shifts, making it look different depending on the time of day.


Villa N1

Jonas Lindvall A & D

Villa N1 is a family summerhouse located on the west coast of Sweden, in an area that was once a popular holiday destination but is now inhabited by year-round residents. Drawing on the local ver- nacular, which is renowned for its wooden barns with horizontal planks, the 190 square metres, single-storey house is built entirely out of wood.

Villa N1 is comprised of five interconnected pavilion-like volumes arranged in a sequence. The bedrooms sit at either end of the main communal areas. Inspired by the traditional pitched-roof barn, its language is more modernist. The objective was to create a building that is rooted in history, yet is completely modern. This is particularly apparent in the interior where the architect created a rhythm by mixing the depths of each volume. The architecture follows the sloping topography of the site, which to some extent differentiates between the areas in both plane and section. On the west-facing side of the building, the children’s playroom and master bed- room sit at a lower level.

The use of wood for the façade was integral to the concept, as was the choice of interior materials. The austerity of the architecture allow for materials to stand out without distraction. The master bathroom is made entirely from Carrara marble. The objective was to create an opulent contrast to the simplicity of the wood façade, reminiscent of trinket boxes. Throughout the hall and main areas, Pietra Serena stone floors continue beyond the windows that slide into pocket walls, linking interior and exterior spaces.



Sundbyberg is a rapidly growing municipality next to the city of Stockholm. Folkhem, a housing devel- oper that previously has worked on smaller projects, wanted to build Sweden’s largest wooden house. Manufacturer Martinson developed a system that convinced everybody that it was possible to create tall buildings using prefabricated wooden elements.

The prefabricated wooden elements arrived clad with Canadian cedar shingles. They were mounted under a temporary roof, which kept the construction site dry and comfortable. As the elements of cross-laminated timber are very light compared to concrete, the attic had to be bolted to the foundation. The façade will turn grey with time as the wood ages. This greying process will not be completely even across the building, and shingles were chosen specifically for its capacity to handle this variation naturally and without any demands for maintenance.

The buildings have gained wide recognition, and have been awarded for their use of forward-looking, yet traditional and well-proven technologies. There is a duality in the character of the architecture; it is contemporary in its combination of wood, glass and balconies, while also conventional in its almost iconic “house” shape with references to a widespread style of Swedish post-war architecture. A low-carbon footprint is an important consideration for the industry, the customers and society at large.'


Tellus Nursery school
Tham & Videgård Arkitekter

Situated on the border between a former urban/ industrial development and a small forest where new housing is being developed, this nursery school mediates between different contexts and scales.

A semi-enclosed courtyard constitutes the first exterior space for parents and children meeting and leaving. The organic layout, with its continuous space of exterior and interior rooms of challenging shapes, encourages movement. Windows are freely placed at different heights to allow for light and views to be adapted to the scale of children, which furthers the relation between the interior and the exterior playground and the wooded hill.

A new way of organizing the interior was devel- oped together with the client and the nursery school teachers’ inspiration drawn from the Reggio Emilia school. The result is a rather unorthodox plan, where instead of separate rooms for each group of children, there will be a large, common interior plaza where the six groups can interact around different activities, play and learning projects. This main space is complemented with separate workshop spaces for water projects and art, as well as small, secluded group rooms for rest and quiet activities.

The façade, made out of 50 x 50 mm wooden slats, filters sunlight into the nursery school and creates hidden windows that underscore the curved interior and exterior spaces. The building complies with the highest standards for environmentally friendly and sustainable construction.


Skellefteå Cultural Centre
white arkitekter

Skellefteå Cultural Centre is a new home for the arts, performance and literature housed in the Nordic region’s tallest timber building to date. The new centre is a model for sustainable design that celebrates the spectacle of cultural production in all its forms.

The regional forest industry and construction knowledge play important roles in the project and are complemented by recent developments in engi- neered timber technology (CLT). The advancement of research in engineered timber has unleashed a world of previously unimagined design possibilities. Two different timber construction systems were developed specifically for this project in close collaboration with structural engineering firm Florian Kosche.

Skellefteå Cultural Centre celebrates the craft behind the creative process. The structure is rational and robust, but the wood lends it an inherent warmth and human scale. Keeping the design apparent throughout the building gives the spaces the character of a cultural centre open to all.

An open layout, combined with generous glazing, reveal the ingenuity and skill involved in set-build- ing and exhibition installation to visitors inside the building, as well as passers-by outside. The ground floor can be accessed through several entrances, which contributes to active streetscapes and a dynamic city centre. Towering above the centre is a 19-storey hotel, which offers dramatic views that stretch for miles over the city.


Summer House, Arboga
General Architecture

The red wooden barn is a Swedish archetype. It represents a traditional building style, and a profound national connection to the countryside and landscape.

The small granary we found for sale, deep in the countryside, was modest in design and dimension, but showed a strong individual presence that caught our attention. We decided to take the granary apart, move it to a new location and transform it into a summerhouse. New concrete walls formed a raised foundation, and the old timber structure was heightened with a new frame structure to allow for two floors. New windows and doors were installed in both the old structure and the new addition. A simple wood stove was added
for heating and cooking.

What intrigued us about this simple house was the reduced and refined building technique, where the characteristic qualities of timber were optimized. How could this simple construction meet today’s building techniques, and how would it fit into a contemporary architectural context? It raised ques- tion about style as well, questions we rarely need to address today. What are the connotations of these traditional building elements? How do we relate to the romantic and picturesque aspects of a building type, as is the case with the red timber barn in Sweden. This project can be seen as the result of these discussions, and is, in a way, a questioning of our own pre-conceptions about architectural tradition, tectonics and an imagined past.


UNNA chair
Monica Förster

Unna is a stackable dining chair with soft, minimalistic, yet humanistic expression. The lightweight structure represents the highest end of wood craftmanshipand its elegant joints support a sturdy seat and backrest. The chair can be costumized by applying Zanat’s exquisite carving techniques. Finding inspiration in nature, we have modernized the carvings, preserving, however, The genuine technique. The finish can be either natural or stained wood creating a contemporary expression and an additional way to personalize the chair. To enhance the comfort, a molded cushion in leather can be added. On the 6th of November in 2017, Zanat unique handcarving technique was listed on UNESCO’s world heritage list. Zanat works through the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility and universal sustainability.

Unna Chair is the winner of the Interior Innovation Award 2015, Cologne and the prestigious award Sverige Arkitekter’s Guldstolen 2015.

Log timber house
Gustav Appell Arkitektkonto

This vacation home is located on an island in the archipelago north of Stockholm. The family longed for a house that was ”different”. They wanted it to exhibit qualities that they would find in older houses, such as homeliness and the warmth and smell of wood.

During the design process we looked back onto the architecture of traditional wood houses in Sweden, homes constructed from massive timber logs that where piled and locked together with corner joints. The main typology of those days was the small farm consisting of several housing units arranged together, forming a courtyard.

These concepts led us to design a house with several log volumes arranged under a common roof. Developing the in-between spaces as a transition between inside and outside, creating the possibility to open the house up, partially or entirely depending on season and weather.

Log building requires skilled craftsmanship. Luckily, we found a manufacturer of traditional log houses in the north of Sweden. They liked our ideas and the result became a fruitful collaboration of design and craft.

The house was prefabricated in our manufacturer’s workshop. The logs are machine shaped, with manually cut corner joints. Each log was marked with an individual number, then taken down and transported to the building site. In just over a week the house was then constructed again on site.

This is a truly organic house. The logs are piled together with tongue and groove joints; no nails, screws or glue are required. The logs are then sealed using natural flax wool. There is no synthetic insulation in the walls, no plasterboards, plastic layers or metal studs. No surface treatment has been used on interior or exterior walls.