Waugh Thistleton Architects or WTA has won an international design competition in collaboration with In Praise of Shadows and Land Arkitektur, to deliver the new head office of Gotlandshem, the national housing association of the Swedish island of Gotland in Visby, Sweden. The project, low carbon, and low impact building will be a multifunctional place, providing a healthy hub for businesses, accessible by the whole community.
Selected from a shortlist of eight teams, the WTA submission was chosen for the social responsibility aspect it portrays. The new headquarters, destined for both business and the community, put in place two independent buildings around an open courtyard, inspired by the typical farmstead layout. An innovative interpretation, the project, intimate in scale, “creates a new neighborhood which integrates into the emerging district on the outskirt of the city”.
Combining an unusual mix of uses, the “office space for the housing association sits alongside a multifunctional workshop for repairs, temporary accommodation for tenants, business premises which can be used by local start-ups or to house pop up markets or shops, and a gallery and restaurant area which is open to all”.
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Located on the edge of the city of Visby, the project interacts with the city to the north and the agricultural landscape to the south. Gotlandshem’s new headquarters is a prefabricated systemized framework of cross-laminated panels and glulam beams, enabling the creation of large spans and allowing future flexibility of spaces. Moreover, the façade comprises five pre-fabricated modules, which also contributes to an endless possibility of future usage and adaptation. Actually, the office space can be repurposed as temporary housing or increased gallery space with a simple change of façade panel and movement of internal partition walls.
Created around a courtyard, a botanical garden that “acts as a break out zone for the workers and visitors during the day, and at night provides shelter for community events such as pop-up cinema screenings, open-air markets, and lectures”, the semi-open neighborhood is protected from the strong prevailing winds. Moreover, the use of a timber structure and natural materials within the spaces, reflects the colors and textures of the courtyard beyond the building perimeter, allowing the internal and external spaces to extend from one to the other, and generating smooth transitions.