On the small artificial island of Universitetsholmen, where fingers of water extend from the Øresund Sound into the centre of Malmö, Sweden, rises a miniature city. A short while ago, before Schmidt Hammer Lassen inserted this dense cluster of different-sized boxes and pillars into the site, it held nothing but a pair of parking lots. Soon, though, Malmö Live’s 54,000 square metres of hotels, performance and conference spaces will draw crowds downtown and redefine the city’s cultural life.
SHL chose to assemble the spaces of the cultural centre from differently sized volumes to suggest the different functions held within. The strategy also breaks up what could have become an overwhelming monolith into parcels that resonate with the scale of the surrounding architecture. Uniform cladding – yellow stone on the lower boxes, which hold the performance and conference venues, and white stone on the towers, which house the hotel and residences – tie the volumes together. Rotated at oblique angles to one another, and packed together with overlapping footprints, the components produce the effect of a massive cluster of sugar crystals.
“The clearly defined volumes create a hierarchy in the way the building is perceived,” says Kristian Ahlmark, a senior partner at SHL. Besides organizing the interior spaces, the composition of volumes also delineates public spaces for skating and watching soccer matches, a green park and a promenade along the canal, as well as two large decks that connect the water to the building.
The building’s main entrance faces a plaza to the north, but visitors can also enter from the canal-side promenade. Inside, the lobby flows into corridors that expand in all directions, swirling into small gathering spaces where guests can stop and take in views of the water. High walls of board-formed black concrete, stone, wood and brass bring the colours and textures of the surrounding city streets inside.
In the primary concert hall, the atmosphere changes. A soft golden light seeps from behind the staggered oak wall panels, generating a warm, welcoming tranquility. Brass fittings and upholstery in varying shades of muted green complete the look. “We worked very closely with Akustikon to achieve two things,” says Ahlmark. “An absolutely world-class sound, and a room with a musicality that works with the music, like sitting inside an instrument. Each surface has a function, angle and size that supports the acoustics.”
The outdoor spaces, nestled in a landscape designed by SLA, will be officially inaugurated on June 4th, while the concert hall’s first performance is scheduled for August 26th.