OMA has completed the first of two towers the comprise ‘Norra Tornen’ – a residential complex designed by OMA / Reinier de Graaf and located in Hagastaden, a new district in the north of Stockholm. Titled ‘Innovationen Tower’, the building’s design is the expression of a modular system of precast exposed concrete elements.
The structure is articulated in a composition of alternating bay windows and recessed terraces – a tribute to Brutalist architecture, which, according to architecture critic Reyner Banham, was invented in Sweden. With a wall-to-floor ratio coming close to 1 the design would have probably discouraged most developers (for a tower, it rarely goes above 0.5). However, in a country with scarce daylight for half of the year, extra square meters of windows and multiple orientations for each apartment become a precious asset. All apartments have been sold before construction broke ground.
“The Norra Tornen project represents a milestone achievement for us: the culmination of an ongoing effort by our office to create the next generation of modern housing typologies, creating the largest possible variety from a limited number of (prefabricated) elements, allowing the usual formalism of the apartment tower to give way to individuality, domesticity… and perhaps even humanism,” says Reinier de Graaf.
The Innovationen Tower comprises 182 units ranging from 44 sqm one-bedroom apartments to a 271 sqm penthouse on the top floor. The residential units are complemented by a cinema room, a dinner room for parties and celebrations, a guest apartment, a gym with a sauna and a relaxation area. At a height of 125 meters, the tower is the highest residential building in Stockholm’s city center. The Helix Tower is due to be completed at the end of 2019 and will include 138 units, plus amenities.
In a city center with a housing stock largely built before the Second World War, the two towers introduce a new way of living which increases the city’s density while giving residents the possibility to enjoy outdoor space (Stockholm ranks fourth among the cities with the highest air quality in the European Union).
“The Norra Tornen project started with two inherited building envelopes, the remains of a cancelled project initiated by the former city architect Aleksander Wolodarski,” De Graaf explains. “Each a kind of ‘crescendo’ composition of different heights – neither slab nor tower – prohibit the unfolding of an uncompromised typology. Conversely, the opted program, apartments with an emphasis on large outdoor spaces, prevented too literal a translation of the envelopes into architectural form.”
“Through a kind of ‘Freudian flight forward’ – a passionate embrace of the inevitable in order to conquer and overcome one’s initial fears – the prescribed building envelope was adopted as a given,” continues OMA. “Its initial vertical segmentation was complemented by a second, horizontal segmentation that gives the buildings’ exterior a single, homogeneous treatment: a rough skin, formed through an alternating pattern of withdrawn outdoor spaces and protruding living rooms.”
“The chosen material, ribbed colored concrete brushed with exposed multi-colored aggregate pebbles, echoes brutalist architecture and that is not by chance,” De Graaf states. “According to architecture critic Reyner Banham, the term brutalist architecture was invented by Hans Asplund, the son of Gunnar Asplund, when referring to a design of his studio colleagues in a letter to his British architect friends. Concrete at Norra Tornen comes in the form of prefabricated panels – a construction technique that allows work on the building site to continue even below the five-degree Celsius limit which prohibits in situ concrete pouring. Prefabrication also significantly reduced construction costs.”
The residential units are complemented by a cinema room, a dinner room for parties and celebrations, a guest apartment, a gym with a sauna, and a relaxation area. ‘Innovationen Tower’, which is the highest residential building in Stockholm’s city center, will be joined by ‘Helix Tower’ at the end of 2019 — completing the Norra Tornen project.