Luleå learns from the best? Wooden wonder echoes Skellefteå gem

Luleå is preparing to construct a high-rise building made primarily of wood, sparking discussions about its resemblance to Skellefteå's renowned Sara kulturhus. However, Luleå's city architect, Mia Persson, refutes claims that the new building is simply a copy.

Does this ring a bell? This is how the main building in the Bävern block in Luleå will look when it's built.

Does this ring a bell? This is how the main building in the Bävern block in Luleå will look when it's built.

Foto: Sweco

Skellefteå2024-04-24 12:00

– Since there aren't many tall wooden buildings in Sweden, Persson explains to NSD, a local newspaper, it's understandable that they might share some visual similarities.

Skellefteå took the lead in this architectural trend when they opened the 75-meter-tall Sara kulturhus and The Wood Hotel in October 2021. The project garnered international attention, even receiving coverage in The Guardian. Recently, Norran reported that Gävle's new cultural center drew inspiration from Sara kulturhus during its construction.

Sara kulturhus was opened in autumn 2021.

Following suit, Luleå has announced plans for its own giant wooden structure in the Bävern quarter. This decision came after Student Consulting Invest/Pite Havsbad and Sweco Architects emerged victorious in an architectural competition organized by Luleå municipality.

The winning proposal incorporates elements like a hotel and a market hall, and its resemblance to Sara kulturhus has been a recurring theme in discussions. Mia Persson, who participated in the jury that selected the proposal, addressed these concerns in her interview with NSD.

Does this ring a bell? This is how the main building in the Bävern block in Luleå will look when it's built.

– One of the jury members brought it up after hearing about the comparisons, Persson explains.

– We also received public comments regarding the similarities during the exhibition period, and a politician raised the issue after the winner was announced.

Persson emphasizes that architectural parallels are not uncommon.

– Think about the town halls of Luleå and Boden. They share the same building type, constructed around the same time for similar purposes. It's natural for them to have similarities, just like Bävern and Sara kulturhus.

"It doesn't bother me that there are similarities," says Mia Persson, city architect in Luleå municipality, about the Bävern quarter in Luleå and the Sara kulturhus in Skellefteå.

She expresses no worries about public perception of the project being a mere copy.

– We can't control people's thoughts or interpretations. While similarities exist, both buildings possess unique characteristics and functionalities. It's easy to focus solely on aesthetics, but architecture is heavily influenced by function as well. Content, flow within and around the structure, and how the building connects to its surroundings are all crucial aspects, and these areas hold significant differences between the two projects.

The discussion doesn't stop at Sara kulturhus. The Kust Hotell in Piteå, built with concrete, has also been mentioned as a potential source of inspiration due to its height and architectural style. However, Persson disagrees.

– For me, there's a clear distinction between the wooden structures and the Kust Hotell.

Kust Hotell and Spa in Piteå isn't built in wood, but is undeniably a distinctive building.