Sara Cultural Centre wins bronze for competition that awards sustainable construction with architectural excellence

Photo: Patrick Degerman

Robert Schmitz and Oskar Norelius, the lead architects behind Sara Cultural Centre has won bronze for the 6th cycle of Holcim Awards. This makes them first Swedish architects to receive the award, which is a significant international competition for sustainable design.

Sara Cultural Centre is touted by White Arkitekter, the architecture studio behind the building, as one of the world’s tallest timber buildings. The carbon-negative building comprises a cultural centre built using glue-laminated timber (glulam) and cross-laminated timber (CLT), and a hotel is built up of prefabricated 3D-modules in CLT. The building opened its doors in September 2021.

The Holcim Awards for sustainable construction seeks leading projects of professionals that combine sustainable construction solutions with architectural excellence. The decisive factor in the competition is the holistic approach to sustainability, which in the context of the Holcim Awards is based on the five pillars of Progress, People, Planet, Prosperity, and Place. The projects that address these five concerns most consistently and coherently are awarded prizes at the regional level.

For Sara Cultural Centre, the Holcim Awards jury Europe was fascinated by the timber construction techniques deployed to achieve the beautiful and sustainable architectural project, which showcases the potential when working exclusively with timber. Making the material choice a question of both engineering and spatial quality was considered a powerful claim.

The fact that all the building structural elements are entirely made of wood, including the structural core and elevator shaft, makes this tower quite unique in its genre. The jury applauded the refined expression of the building, the elegance of the massing and the showcasing of the timber structure through a delicate curtain wall.

“We are very happy to receive this award addressing all aspects of sustainability. Any architect who values sustainability mustn’t neglect the social aspects – the people,” said Schmitz and Norelius.

“In the context of the construction industry’s net zero transition, the Sara Cultural Centre is a showcase project that comes at the right time. To build such a large building, incorporating all the different solutions we have developed, shows that you can do a lot by using prefabrication and standardisation – and at the same time meet individual needs.”