In Sweden, a skyscraper built of wood became one of the tallest in the world

2021. december 04.

The town of Skelleftea is located in the northern part of the Scandinavian country, only 200 km south of the Arctic Circle. Until recently, the town of 33,000 people seemed to be just one of the typical small towns in the area, but now the Sara Cultural Centre opened in its 75-metre tall building, one of the largest timber skyscrapers in the world.


With vast forests and a thriving timber industry in northern Sweden, it only makes sense to use this easily accessible, organic and inexpensive material in the construction industry. In fact, until recently, this had been the norm in Scandinavia, and presently there is an architectural trend to return to traditional roots.

This was also the case with the Sara Cultural Centre. The architects at the firm White Architect designed a venue for art events, performances, and meetings, but the building also houses a hotel.

It didn’t start as a 20-story house in Skelleftea, it started with a strategy which basically means that Skelleftea didn’t just want to survive but develop,” said Skelleftea head of urban planning Therese Kreisel in the Artic Today. Kreisel said the building was constructed from 12,200 cubic metres of wood from trees harvested from within a 60-kilometre radius of the city.

The cultural centre, which takes up the lower four levels of the building, is built with columns and beams made of glued laminated timber and without the use of concrete. The cement industry currently accounts for about 7 percent of global CO2 emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

The building houses six theatre stages, the city library, two art galleries, a conference centre, restaurants, and a 205-room hotel with views of the surrounding city.

Apart from being one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings and a meeting place for the city’s residents, the building’s energy system tries to be as carbon neutral as possible. The building is equipped with solar panels, batteries and a heat pump that works with electrical, water and district heating. Excess energy from the building is passed on to other parts of the city or stored in the cultural centre’s on-site batteries.

It should be added that wood cannot always be called a sustainable raw material. Even experts seem to be divided on the question of whether we should build this kind of superstructure, or renovate old buildings.


Cover: Sara Kulturhaus / Facebook