Tag Archives: waterfront


The history of Malmö can be traced back through the centuries to its humble beginnings as a flourishing herring marketplace but the forward-looking city is setting ambitious goals for itself: to be climate neutral by 2020 and to run on 100% renewable energy by 2030.

Sweden’s third most populous city has undergone a major transformation with significant architectural developments, growing biotech and IT companies, and a new university, due in large part to the construction of the Öresund Bridge crossing the strait to Copenhagen.

Malmö is focused on becoming a global role model for urban environmental sustainability, and has gained recognition for large-scale developments such as the Western Harbour, Västra Hamnen. The first stage of its renewal began in 2001 with the Housing Fair Bo01, or the City of Tomorrow, a post-industrial district built in the former shipyard. The pilot project’s 500 homes, commercial and community facilities are constructed to standards enforcing a strong ecological approach as set out in the ‘Quality Programme.’ A ‘wall’ of tall mixed-use buildings fronting the sea acts as a wind shelter around a densely built interior of small-scale housing blocks separated by green space and alleyways. A few dozen architectural firms had a hand in the design, including Ralph Erskine, Mario Campi and Gert Wingårdh, lending variation to the energy-efficient dwellings. Unfortunately, for all its success, the heavily publicized, visionary branding project was criticized for being an exclusive, secluded urban residential neighbourhood and for sky-high costs.

The Västra Hamnen and Hyllie neighbourhoods continue to be active areas of growth, with broad initiatives taken to integrate environment and energy in their urban planning. As a leading city, Malmö is hosting the upcoming International Conference on Sustainability Certification of Urban Areas on September 16.

On an entirely different scale, the nearby 54-storey (190m) Turning Torso by Santiago Calatrava is Scandinavia’s tallest skyscraper. Completed in 2005, the tower’s twisting form, composed of nine segments of pentagonal floors wound a total of 90° from the structure’s base to the top, has become a symbol for the city of blue collar roots.

The design dialogue continues with an exhibition this summer entitled Ah Vådda-då? Malmö!’ at the Form/Design Centre, a non-profit organization aimed at promoting good design. An eclectic mix of objects, architectural projects and ideas were laid out, per the curators, “like a visionary medieval feast.” Examples addressed issues from climate concerns to multiculturalism, and included interactive city guides and bicycle campaigns, furniture made from ‘green’ materials, and a model of Malmö’s new World Village of Women’s Sports by the Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) due to be completed in 2014. Also on display: a video of invited architects and planners discussing what the “capital” of the Skåne province will look like in the future.

Harpa : Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre

(Cross-posted from Azure magazine. Photos and text by Stephanie Calvet)

Harpa’s dazzling glass façade will be illuminated for the first time on August 20 as Reykjavík celebrates its inauguration amongst the music and revelry of Culture Night.

Designed by Copenhagen-based Henning Larsen Architects and Icelandic architectural firm Batteríið Architects in collaboration with Danish-Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson, the long-awaited cultural institution has become one of the city’s defining landmarks and a symbol of the country’s dynamism.

Harpa stands solo against the powerful North Atlantic Ocean and the mountainous backdrop, fully exposed to the changing light and climate. With four concert and music halls housed in an “inner massif”, as described by Henning Larsen Architects, the entire 29,000 m2 complex is wrapped by a steel framework clad in irregularly-shaped glass panels. Ólafur Elíasson took the lead on the design of the city-facing southern façade and developed the complex architectural language for the remaining elevations and roof. Reminiscent of the crystallized basalt formations commonly found in Iceland, Harpa’s multi‐faceted glass exterior is composed of thousands of panels that create kaleidoscopic reflections of the city, sky and surrounding seascape. Coloured modules scattered across the surface dramatically alter its transparency and reflectivity in varying seasonal sunlight while multi-coloured LEDs – the most used in any construction to-date – make Harpa glow long after the sun has set.

Situated apart from the city centre, the angular glass icon creates a new focal point in the skyline and enhances the connection between the harbour and the city. Adjacent to a large outdoor plaza, the building’s vast entry foyer, with its minimal interior of concrete mixed with coal to resemble the black basalt rock of the coastline, is in stark contrast to the transparent façade. Natural light that pervades the entire space creates beautiful colours and patterns on the floor, an ever-changing art piece. Additional amenities include meeting rooms, an auditorium, a boutique, viewing balcony, bar and restaurant overlooking the harbour, and a ground-floor bistro.

Harpa, whose name is both that of the string instrument and the ancient Icelandic name of a month in the old Nordic calendar marking the beginning of summer, is now home to both the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (ISO) and the Icelandic Opera. Reykjavík has waited for decades for a proper music hall; until recently, the ISO was occupying a minor university theatre. With the acoustical design, sound equipment, and technical facility planning provided by Artec Consultants Inc, Harpa joins the ranks of the most prestigious international concert halls in the world, offering performances from classical to contemporary. An emphasis on versatility allows the complex to simultaneously host everything from large events to intimate gatherings without interference from one another or from the active waterfront. Named after elements in Icelandic nature, the halls range from a small chamber with sloped floors, to a multi-purpose hall with foldout bleacher seating, to the striking red main concert hall at the rocky core that accommodates 1,800. Flexible acoustic elements support a diverse array of events and walls are clad with wooden lamellas and felt, or dual-faced panels (one side fabric, one side painted wood) which can be flipped to absorb or magnify sound, and visually enhanced with LEDs in varying hues.

Harpa, whose construction began in 2007, was originally part of a masterplan seeking to expand and revitalize Reykjavík’s East Harbour with a mix of apartments, retail, and restaurants. When the financial crisis hit, the proposal was partially abandoned and Harpa’s construction was halted mid-way. Controversy surrounded the building when the government decided to fully fund the remaining costs of the structure. Besides hosting major business and trade events, the Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre will become a vibrant hub for the country’s rising music scene and will attract an enthusiastic international audience of art, culture, and architecture.

For a complete schedule of Culture Night festivities and the inauguration of Harpa, see website for more information. http://www.visitreykjavik.is/

Stockholm’s outer archipelago

Stockholmers by and large spend their holidays in the Stockholm Archipelago or Stockholms skärgård, which, with over 30,000 islands and islets, make it the largest of Sweden. There are some 50,000 cottages but it’s pricey to have a summer residence along that particular stretch of the Baltic nearest the city so they are mainly owned by the wealthy or inherited. (However, even the not so well-to-do in Sweden have access to summer homes – that’s the Swedish social welfare system for you). An excursion from the capital to the outer reaches of the archipelago through the Strömma Kanal requires a boat that can navigate its shallowness and the passages densely bordered by tall grasses that can narrow considerably at points. Cruising between the small islands reveals lovely archipelago-style houses with elaborate woodwork and beautiful gardens, oftentimes dotted with matching secondary and tertiary structures like guesthouses, boathouses, and sheds, all ever-so-tastefully done.

The island of Sandhamn, a natural harbour in the outer archipelago, has historically been a meeting place for international sailors and a key piloting station. Now it’s a popular vacation spot with a vibrant summer party scene. Though it has only 100 permanent inhabitants, 3,000 avid yachters and holiday-goers take up residence each summer and thousands of visitors flock to the island to experience its maritime terrain, its taverns and B&Bs, and to see and be seen at the marina and the prestigious Royal Swedish Yacht Club. Even from the innermost parts of the village can you find picturesque views to the sea, along characteristic gravel alleys framed by picket fences and native flowers. It’s the Martha’s Vineyard of Sweden, folks! (Even Mikael Blomkvist, a central character in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, is known to have a cabin there that he uses as a place to relax and write.)

The clichéd deep red is in full force here. Known for its use on wooden cottages and barns, the traditional Falu red paint, which dates back to the 17th century, is still widely used in the Swedish countryside. 


Gamla Stan (Old Town)

More Stockholm …

Stockholm Waterfront, the new Congress Centre by White arkitekter


Before visiting Dublin, I had flashbacks of a poster I had coveted in the 80s – the infamous, multi-coloured Georgian Doors of Dublin. (Years of living in Boston, heavy with its Irish ancestry, had also given me a ‘taste of the Irish’.) I visualized the city’s fashionable Grafton Street; age-old Trinity College; traditional pubs and fish ‘n chips; and, I won’t even mention U2.                                                     That was the Dublin I expected to see.

Then there was the Dublin I was surprised to find: a modern waterfront developing along both sides of the River Liffey – the result of a regeneration of the quays and Docklands with projects like the O2 amphitheatre; deluxe apartments; public art; Grand Canal Square; and, Calatrava’s landmark Samuel Beckett Bridge, a symbol at the city’s maritime gateway. I wonder what more we’d see if it weren’t for the difficult economic climate… In the city centre, a guided walking tour revealed its medieval haunts, literary traditions (sights of Ulysses), and the narrow, cobbled streets of Temple Bar, Dublin’s Cultural Quarter. As expected, pubs are aplenty and spilling out to the street were clusters of ‘happy hour’ goers. The history of Guinness, of course, goes way back.

A special outing was a day trip to Howth, or Beann Éadair in Gaelic, a picturesque coastal village north of Dublin. A cliffwalk along the scenic peninsula affords a great view of the island of Ireland’s Eye, the harbour and the village.