Sara Hus, Skellefteå’s new cultural centre (Photo: White Arkitekter)

The Swedish town of Skellefteå has just under 35,000 inhabitants and is lost in the depths of Lapland. No matter. The little town should soon be a hot spot for tourism, especially for business trips and incentives.

This small town has just inaugurated an unusual structure. The Sara kulturhus, which is nearly 80 meters high, is indeed one of the largest buildings in the world… made of wood! The center is designed as the new heart of the city and dominates the small town from the top of its 20 floors. It houses six theatres and concert stages, the municipal library, two art galleries, a conference centre, restaurants and a 205-room hotel with a spectacular view of the city.

Wood, (almost) nothing but wood

The building is unique, not only in its use of materials but also in its respect for the principles of sustainability and its aesthetics. An open, transparent structure that becomes the symbol of this small city.

According to the project’s architect, Oskar Norelius, wood makes the essence of this building, whose structure is practically free of concrete. “In 2015, when we proposed such an all-wood building, people thought we were crazy,” he explained in an architecture magazine. “The hardest thing is to show that what works in theory also works in practice, because it had never been done before.”

“We got rid of a lot of the extra building materials that are usually needed in a building of this size, which makes for a much more sustainable building with no waste. In addition, wood actually works in concert with the indoor climate, so it can absorb and release moisture from the air,” says the architect. “Because of this, wooden buildings often have a better indoor climate fit than concrete buildings.

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The 12,200 cubic metres of wood needed for the centre’s construction came from trees harvested within a 60 km radius of Skellefteå. And it is used throughout the structure of the tower itself, but also in the auditorium, the library, the exhibition rooms and even the lift shaft.

A hotel and conference centre

The conference and meeting centre can accommodate up to 1,200 people seated in the auditorium and 1,500 people standing. The meeting room panels are removable. Ideal for any type of event.

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elite-hotels-skelleftea-start2.jpg”>On the upper floors, the rooms of the Wood Hotel are all-wood prefabricated modules that were assembled by crane in just a few hours. Visitors can see and touch the simple metal plates held together by screws that assemble the structure. The hotel offers 205 rooms or 410 beds and a restaurant with a panoramic view of Skellefteå and Lapland. It officially opens on 14 October.

“It’s a 21st century building and that’s one of the reasons to come here and see this structure,” says Oskar Norelius. And for MICE specifiers, this is a great opportunity to create an event that is truly environmentally friendly and carbon neutral. The future of MICE is here…