Being Scandinavia‘s leading architectural practice, White Arkitekter works with sustainable architecture, urban design, landscape architecture and interior design. They aim to enable sustainable living through architecture by creating inspiring and engaging spaces for people to thrive. 

History

In 1951, Sid White and Per-Axel Ekholm opened the first office of White Arkitekter in Gothenburg, Sweden. They aimed to bring forward a new approach to housing design which improved the quality of life for families. Their first project was called Baronbackarna, made for a competition for a housing experiment in Orebro, Sweden. Winning the competition with their family-oriented design, it helped with the prevalent issue of overcrowding in housing. This project also prepared them for the Miljonprogrannet, the Swedish Government’s incentive to help improve the poor housing conditions in Sweden in 1965. 

White Arkitekter opened a second office in Orebro while designing the Baronbackarna project. The firm then expanded from residential design and started focusing on master planning and hospital commissions as they opened a third office in Stockholm. Over the next 30 years, many offices were opened in Sweden, allowing the company to grow even more. In 1990, the firm merged with Coordinator, another Swedish architecture practice, soon making them the largest firm in Sweden. This merger allowed them to do more work all over the world.

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Baronbackarna_©White Arkitekter

Design process

White Arkitekter commits to an ethical view with a strong commitment to society. Since they aim to enable sustainable life for all through architecture, it must show in their design process. In a time when the world is reviving from the sudden downfall caused by the pandemic, this becomes critical to fulfil. 

Sustainability

Many strategic ventures are driven by sustainability as it drives innovation. At White Arkitekter, they look to move forward with the sustainability issues with their clients’ and partners’ involvement. While they wish to bring forward structures and communities that contribute to improving people’s well-being and health, they realise this cannot be at the planet’s expense. The sustainable architecture model is based on global goals, legislations, commitments and priorities of stakeholders, as a few factors. 

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Social Housing Project in Allerod Municipality_©White Arkitekter

For White Arkitekter, it’s not only important to develop sustainable architecture. It is equally important to show the economic benefits of sustainability and offer the market environment and energy expertise. White Arkitekter prioritises energy-efficient buildings, residents’ health and well-being, efficient usage of space, and investing in sustainable long-term solutions. 

Gender Equality

Sweden is one of the top-ranking countries for gender equality in the world. The current environment is rooted in a 1972 government initiative that made equal opportunities between the two sexes a political issue. The country’s gender equality policies ensure everyone has the same options in every aspect of life. These secured full-time childcare for children up to 12, with nursery schools and after-school becoming affordable for all. White Arkitekter pushes for equitable architecture— designing environments that everyone can enjoy. They believe that it is tough to serve diverse communities if the same diversity is not reflected in their practice. 

Healthy Living Environments

Architecture and urban planning tremendously affect human health: noise, air pollution, loneliness, lack of daylight, the spread of diseases, etc. It is essential that we have nature and greenery in our environments for our well-being and to ensure the ecosystem is functioning. Providing these healthy living environments for people, despite their age, gender or community, is of utmost importance. While there is enough knowledge about the connection between our health and the built environment, there are still many issues to tackle.

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Healthy Living Environments built by White Arkitekter_©Snohetta

With all that is done and all that is left, there are problems that are still emerging. As COVID-19 spread like wildfire, it showed society’s vulnerability and the need for architects to create environments with a different pattern of social interaction. White Arkitekter promotes for Research & Developmental projects, like 

  • Environments encouraging exercise 
  • Public spaces promoting trust and connectivity
  • Stress-reducing architecture, inside and outside
  • Access to daylight and night-time darkness
  • Healthy indoor climates

Case Studies

Katsan (2003)

Katsan is White Arkitekter’s office in Stockholm, housing over 300 employees. The building’s plan is reminiscent of warehouse structures with an uncomplicated external form, providing a connection to the area’s industrial past. However, the design mainly responded to the need to reduce energy consumption. The building uses glass, timber, steel and concrete for this design. Since its inaugural, Katsan’s design functions have evolved with the changing business needs and technologies. 

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Katsan_\©White Arkitekter

Untreated timber panelling adds warmth and intimacy to the space, contrasting the cold brought on by steel and glass. With the help of glass façades, the firm intended to create outdoor views and open spaces in the interiors— workspaces face the water while meeting rooms face the steep bank leading up to the bridges. Innovative technologies, such as computer-controlled sun-awnings and solar panels, are implemented to achieve energy efficiency.

Sara Cultural Centre (2021)

Skellefteå, north Sweden, has seen a long tradition of the usage of timber in buildings. This was the primary inspiration for the competition-winning design by White Arkitekter for the new cultural centre. The proposal was named Sida vid sida, a timber-framed complex that situated art, performance and literary organisations. It also contains a hotel to accommodate tourists, providing a source of income for the local authority. The regional forest industry and construction knowledge are essential to the project, complemented by engineered timber technology. 

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Sara Cultural Centre_©Ake Eson Lindman

Housing the hotel, the high-rise tower is constructed of cross-laminated timber modules which are piled between two elevator cores. Due to the placement of these cores, the entire structure could be built using this timber variant. The 20-storey hotel offers views that stretch for miles over the city. Meanwhile, the low-rise structure consists of a timber frame with glue-laminated timber pillars and beams and cross-laminated timber. The wood design ensured structural endurance against harsh weather conditions and energy efficiency. The green roof thermally insulates the buildings, absorbs noise pollution, and delays rainwater run-off. With open layouts and generous glazing, the architecture of Sara Cultural Centre celebrates the installations’ creative process.

Nobelberget (Ongoing)

Nobelbergert consists of 500 residence units, nature, culture and creative co-working spaces. White Arkitekter and Atrium Ljungberg, a residential property management company, worked with a detailed plan for the first neighbourhood and a preschool. Posing a challenge to the architects was an underground road tunnel, and the subway was developing towards Nacka— affecting the location of the structure and the plans. Moreover, due to the traffic noise and the fact that it was tough to build on a height due to cultural preservation, innovative solutions had to be taken to tackle the issues. 

Nobelbergert_©White Arkitekter

Nobelbergert’s surroundings are developing from an office and industrial area to a pleasant familial neighbourhood with restaurants, schools, and venues for various events. Being closely connected to other neighbourhoods allows for conversation and community to be sparked. 

References: 

Citations for websites:

  1. White Arkitekter. (n.d.). About White. [online] Available at: https://whitearkitekter.com/about-white/ [Accessed: 02 August 2022].
  2. Alexandra Hagen. (2017). ‘Gender equality is a cornerstone of Swedish society’. [online] Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/12/18/we-cannot-truly-serve-our-diverse-communities-if-we-ourselves-do-not-reflect-this-diversity/ [Accessed 02 Aug. 2022].
  3. White Arkitekter. (n.d.). R&D Programme 2020-2023 – Informed Design. [online] Available at: https://whitearkitekter.com/rd-programme-2020-2023-informed-design/ [Accessed 02 Aug. 2022].
  4. White Arkitekter. (n.d.). Skellefteå Cultural Centre. [online] Available at: https://whitearkitekter.com/project/sara-cultural-centre/ [Accessed 05 Aug 2022].
  5. ‌White Arkitekter. (n.d.). Nobelberget in Sickla, Sweden. [online] Available at: https://whitearkitekter.com/project/nobelberget/ [Accessed 05 Aug. 2022].
  6. White Arkitekter. (n.d.). Katsan, experimental and energy-efficient office design. [online] Available at: https://whitearkitekter.com/project/katsan-white-arkitekter-office/ [Accessed 05 Aug. 2022].
  7. ‌teamwhite260 (2013). White: a brief history. [online]. Available at: https://teamwhitearkitekter.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/white-a-brief-history/ [Accessed 05 Aug. 2022].

Citations for images/photographs – Print or Online:

  1. Ellgaard, H. (1960). Baronbackarna. [Photograph].
  2. White Arkitekter. (2016). By The Woods: Social Housing Project for Allerød Municipality. [Photograph].
  3. Snøhetta. (2022). The Lakehouse Exterior View. [Photograph].
  4. White Arkitekter. (2017). Katsan Elevation. [Photograph].
  5. Lindman, A.E. (2021). Sara Cultural Centre. [Photograph].
  6. White Arkitekter. (2021). Nobelbergert. [Photograph].

Citations for reports:

  1. White Arkitekter. (2020). Architecture for a Sustainable Way of Life. Sweden: N/A
  2. White Arkitekter. (2017). Architecture That Empowers People. Sweden: N/A
Author

Kaavya Azad is an architecture student passionate about creating sensory harmony and connecting with nature in her designs. Her keen interest in reading, writing and researching led her to venture into Architectural Journalism. You can find her reading books surrounded by her favourite snacks when she isn't working.

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