Near completion, the new Åhléns building in Uppsala is a department store with both shops and offices. Half of the building incorporates an existing concrete slab-column frame, while the other half is an entirely new structure on a vacant adjacent lot. The objective has been to produce a building with great functional longevity, a building concept flexible enough for its design to survive intact while accommodating a variety of different programmatic and zoning demands as well as adapting to the varied urban spaces on different sides of the building.
The organic plan form unites the building’s different businesses under the single shared identity of its distinctive and coherent shell. The facade’s curving contours lead the eye around its corners, thus establishing spatial continuity from one side of the building to the next. The glass and perforated aluminium skin vary in reflectivity and transparency, making the building appear to fluctuate as you move around it. The softly undulating elements of the facade also create overhangs that correspond to the position of entrances and shops.
The typology of a department store – typically a large, windowless box – is here addressed by varying the form and attributes of the transparent enclosure to create a dynamic visual impression. The facade panels are conceived as extra clear (low-iron) glass combined with an outer skin made of reflective polished stainless steel that is perforated to filter direct sun light, a solution that allows a gradual transition between transparent and mirrored portions. This way the facade also contributes to the building’s high level of energy efficiency.