Väven

White arkitekter AB as Architects

Designed by Snøhetta and White, this new building weaves (hence the name Väven, meaning ‘weave’ in Swedish) multiple cultural programs and activities together, providing one common stage. This weaving concept is achieved by ‘wrapping’ the manifold functions of the building in one homogenous façade, consisting of varying and slightly shifting façade bands forming the building envelope and creating a strong graphical reference. The building also weaves into the city – in between, above, and below the existing city picture. At the same time, the reference of the birch trees, a tree typical for Umeå, was used in creating the concept. The white bark resembles the closed parts of the building, while the darker areas symbolize the open, glazed parts.


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Designed by Snøhetta and White, this new building weaves (hence the name Väven, meaning ‘weave’ in Swedish) multiple cultural programs and activities together, providing one common stage. A weave of culture, literature, knowledge, socializing, recreation, and food is expressed in the building’s facades and levels.


One part of the building lies on a site defined by the existing city grid, while the rest occupies part of the quayside – a zone characterized by transient activity and flexibility of use. The design takes its cues from the building’s intended use, as well as the characteristics of the site. Väven unifies various public functions in one complex building. The overall experience emphasizes a whole made up by many parts, giving the building a human scale, braking down the barriers between internal activities and public space. The concept of weaving is not only present in the cultural aspects, but also in the many different functions of the building; hotel, conference center, black-box theatre, museum, library, and many others – all with one large, unifying gesture. This is achieved by ‘wrapping’ the manifold functions of the building in one homogenous façade, consisting of varying and slightly shifting façade bands forming the building envelope and creating a strong graphical reference. At the same time, the reference of the birch trees, a tree typical for Umeå, was used in creating the concept. The white bark resembles the closed parts of the building, while the darker areas symbolize the open, glazed parts. These two concepts, as well as the wish for a building that communicates with its surroundings by reflecting the people around, the sky, and the river, led to the choice of glass as the main material for the façade.


Last week, Väven was nominated for the Kasper Salin Prize 2014. Since 1962, the Swedish Association of Architects annually awards the Kasper Salin Prize to a Swedish building or group of buildings of high architectural quality. The winner will be announced November 28th.


For decades, White has been deeply involved in the renewal and development of Umeå, and as architects responsible for a majority of the projects that have radically enhanced the city's profile. Apart from Whites role in the creation of Väven, their most notable work in Umeå is the Arts Campus with its School of Architecture, School of Design, School for Fine Arts and Bildmuseet, a centre for visual culture.

Väven

Snøhetta as Architects

The cultural center Väven is part of an urban development project - the City between the Bridges. The new development is seen as an important catalyst for Umeå’s urban regeneration, and it aims to create a cultural area along the river Ume. Väven is located in Umeå’s city center, next to the town hall park on the river. The new cultural center covers a whole block in the heart of the city. Designed by Snøhetta in collaboration with White Arkitekter AB, this new building weaves (hence the name Väven, meaning ‘weave’ in Swedish) multiple cultural programs and activities together, providing one common stage. A weave of culture, literature, knowledge, socializing, recreation, and food is expressed in the building’s facades and levels. One part of the building lies on a site defined by the existing city grid, while the rest occupies part of the quayside – a zone characterized by transient activity and flexibility of use. The design takes its cues from the building’s intended use, as well as the characteristics of the site. Väven unifies various public functions in one complex building.


The overall experience emphasizes a whole made up by many parts, giving the building a human scale, braking down the barriers between internal activities and public space. The concept of weaving is not only present in the cultural aspects, but also in the many different functions of the building, including hotel, conference center, black-box theatre, museum, library, and many others, with one large, unifying gesture. This is achieved by ‘wrapping’ the manifold functions of the building in one homogenous façade, consisting of varying and slightly shifting façade bands forming the building envelope and creating a strong graphical reference. The building also weaves into the city – in between, above, and below the existing city picture. At the same time, the reference of the birch trees, a tree typical for Umeå, was used in creating the concept. The white bark resembles the closed parts of the building, while the darker areas symbolize the open, glazed parts. These two concepts, as well as the wish for a building that communicates with its surroundings by reflecting the people around, the sky, and the river, led to the choice of glass as the main material for the façade.

Swaying birch trees inspire people to connect

Mosa as tiles

When designing the Väven cultural centre in Umeå, Sweden, the architects of Snöhetta and White Architects were inspired by the birch tree, the city's symbol. With its white bark and characteristic black stripes, the birch tree provided the inspiration for Väven's abstract appearance. Väven is Swedish for ‘weave’. In the evenings and darker seasons, the building's white exterior radiates the warm interior light to the outside world. During the day, you can see how the white façade and irregular black windows form the tree's bark with its intriguing graphic pattern.


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The idea of the birch bark was ingeniously interwoven by the architects through the exterior to the interior design. The undulating setting of the glass emphasizes the natural, buoyant shape of the design. Furthermore, the windows provide the transparency that brings into view the building's activities – from hotel and conference centre to theatre, museum, and library. In addition to the birch tree, the surrounding nature, the changing seasons, and the region's multi-coloured houses also formed a source of inspiration for the contemporary materials and colours that were used.


What is striking about Väven is that it lacks a specific front or back. There are six access points that are accessible from three different levels. As a result, different entrances can be opened or closed at various times depending on the activities. The interior has been fitted with wooden floors and ceilings. For the staircases, which convey information to visitors and function as possible exhibition areas, we opted to use Mosa's black and vibrant Terra Tones 216V tiles in different sizes. Our criteria for sustainability, functionality, design, and coherence with the type of glass used played an important role in this choice. It is clear that no concessions have been made to detail in this building. Its quality and uplifting appearance will stand the test of time. And rightly so. After all, Väven is not just simply a building.

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