Timeless certainly, but Park49 and its plethora of new occupants are also fine examples of Gothenburg’s historical reputation for openness and its sense of enterprise. The city was designed by Duch engineers, whose then state-of-the-art urban planning system centred around canals. In the 18th century, as the base of the Swedish East India Company, the city was buoyed by international trade, while from the 19th it became an industrial hub, home to Volvo cars and SKF, a leading bearing manufacturers. In 2013, Gothenburg was named as one of the world’s most inventive cities by the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), but this spirit has been evident throughout the city’s history.
Park49 fits into this cityscape well. Situated on the eastern flank of Parkgatan, next to the Old Ullevi football stadium, it sits opposite the Garden Society of Gothenburg, a verdant horticultural park. The park is a neighbour that exerts considerable symbolic pressure on any new building in the area to communicate its own green credentials.
“Park49 is one of the most significant buildings in the city. We wanted it to be a little more different, to speak out a little more. It carries a message, to remind us all to be energy saving.”
Jan Åkerblad, the owner of Arkitektbyrån Design.
It is a point on which Skoglund elaborates: “The lower part is supposed to remind us of the ocean, the higher of a North Pole glacier.”
Beyond symbolism, however, the environmental message is borne out by the building’s construction. White protrusions on the lower block, which resemble waves over the sea, shield the building from the sun, while the clear blue expanse of the glass is enhanced by the decision to forego energy-intensive electric blinds. Park49 was awarded platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the highest possible level, and upon moving in tenants are presented with an environmental contract covering their use of the building. Even in a city with an impressive environmental track record – Gothenburg was the first city in Northern Europe to issue tax-exempt green bonds for the development of green projects – Park49’s environmental credentials are strong, so much so that Arkitektbyrån Design has itself moved into the building. “We think it’s an interesting structure,” explains Åkerblad, “and it’s fantastic to have an office in a building you’ve designed. How often do you get the chance to work within your own building?”
Other tenants seem to agree. Västsvenska Handelskammaren, the West Sweden Chamber of Commerce, has taken up the ground floor of the building, for which it employed Stylt Trampoli to design the interior architecture. Founded in 1661, the Handelskammaren is one of the world’s oldest chambers of commerce and in the 19th century it built the Trollhätte Canal, opening up trade across the region. As Stylt’s Erik Nissen Johansen puts it, “The organisation is basically as old as the city.” The Handelskammaren now serves as a symbolic gateway for a building filled with other local companies, with further offices and conference spaces two levels up.
Västsvenska Handelskammaren’s old headquarters, elsewhere in the city centre, were claustrophobic and hidden away, hardly a welcoming place to do business in. Caroline Domeij, the Handelskammaren’s head of meetings and events, oversaw the move to the new premises. “Our office was no longer suitable for our business,” she says, emphasising that Park49 doubles the chamber’s conference space and open meeting areas – an important consideration for a chamber with 2,700 member companies and 80 full-time staff. “We wanted to create meeting places where our members feel included and the strengths of the region are displayed. The aim was to play homage to the members of the organisation. The company are the amplifiers of the voices of the members.”
Working in collaboration with Stylt’s Karin Gullbrandtz, Handelskammaren used Bolon flooring for its offices and open conference areas. “We primarily use local suppliers and manufacturers from West Sweden and our member companies,” says Domeij. “Being a member company with manufacturing in the area, Bolon was an obvious choice for us.” The chamber picked Bolon’s Silence flooring, in the grey-green Ocular hue. Given that Silence was inspired by the local landscape and influenced by historical Swedish textiles, it’s a good fit for the Handalskammaren mission. “It is a beautiful floor with an interesting pattern,” says Domeij. “The floor pattern itself shifts in green and grey colours, which complements the choice of furniture.” Johansen agrees: “It’s durable, but has a textile feel to it. You can create a living room in an office.” It’s a perfect match for an organisation that seeks to welcome visiting companies with open arms.
This sense of openness is mirrored elsewhere in the building, particularly in the offices of the solicitor’s firm Advokatbyrå Glimstedt, which were designed by Gothenburg-based practice Wingårdhs. In the words of senior architect Helena Toresson, who helmed the project with her colleague Anna Mitrolios, “We wanted to create an interior that will show that they’re a bit more fun and easier to work with an other lawyer firms. A workspace that expressed openness and professionalism.” To achieve this, Wingårdhs mixed four Bolon materials – Artisan in Slate and Ivory colourways with Botanic in Cilia and Picea – to create a pattern. “We wanted to choose a material that feels modern and youthful, two lead words in our project,” adds Toresson. “The result is just what we wanted.”
Fusing unique design, sustainable innovation and an inviting sense of openness, Park49 seems a fitting building to usher Gothenburg into the future. “When you complete a building, you learn what is bad and good,” says Åkerblad. “Here, thankfully, everything’s been good.”