To transform an empty square in Uppsala, Sweden, into a lively people-magnet, White Arkitekter has developed a program with a sinuous 65-metre-long “sofa” as its spine.
Just a few years ago, Forumtorget Square – a 1,600-square-metre plaza bordered on two sides by roadways, and by a shopping centre on the others – was an entirely empty space in the city’s downtown core. In renovating the square, White Arkitekter set out to reprogram it with zones for rest or social interaction, attracting visitors to the area and revitalizing it into a space for gathering, rather than simply passing through.
The Gothenburg-headquartered firm’s changes focus on three major elements: dark granite paving; a circular terrazzo platform, roughly 10 metres across, for sitting or staging informal performances; and a 65-metre-long “sofa.”
The sofa’s multilevel, double-sided benching system is actually a mammoth permanent installation that begins in the square, then continues up a pedestrian-only road to offer ample seating in both open areas (for people-watching) and in more intimate areas (for private conversations). The sofa dips in two places to create staircases that provide access from one side to the other.
The sofa’s soft yet clean lines undulate up and down in non-repeating patterns – thoroughly contemporary, with just a hint of retro Scandinavian design suggested by its boomerang-shaped solid-brass armrests. As furniture, it includes plenty of variety, with ergonomic spaces for sitting and reclining, and even a stepped sofa. All these seating types were tested in Forumtorget Square using 1:1 models before manufacture began.
Although from a distance, the benching system looks like a single, monolithic concrete sculpture, it’s actually composed of 3,500 individual 19-millimetre-thick slabs of glass–quartz composite, each water-jet-cut with a unique contour. These layers were then assembled on a steel substructure and mounted on a concrete foundation with brass detailing – a combination of hard-wearing materials that’s expected to hold up for a minimum of 30 years.
At predetermined intervals along the sofa, the composite slabs are alternated with inset sections of frosted glass. Illuminated from behind by various lighting schemes, these glass sections glow a deep red to resemble a row of fireplaces warming up the city’s chilly Nordic nights.