Volvo's experience centre by Henning Larsen takes shape amid Scandinavian landscapes

With ‘World of Volvo’ as its moniker, the global motor brand’s experience centre in Gothenburg explores Sweden’s natural terrain and building tradition in timber.

by STIRworldPublished on : May 04, 2022

Traversing a rather profound connecting path between Scandinavia and its rich tradition of architecture and building, Henning Larsen has unveiled the design for Volvo's 22,000 sq.m. experience centre set in the event district of Gothenburg. The proposal by the Danish architectural firm manifests as an attempt to emulate the Nordic style of timber construction to narrate Volvo’s story and project a conscious brand image for it. An embodiment of the Swedish automobile brand's values and aspirations, World of Volvo will unite Volvo Group and Volvo Cars in a single structure to reflect their combined stature, history, tradition, and future.

The curved glass facade and timber canopy meld with the landscape to create a gradual transition | World of Volvo | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
The curved glass facade and timber canopy meld with the landscape to create a gradual transition Image: © KVANT, Courtesy of Henning Larsen

Revolving around the Swedish concept of Allemansrätten - the fundamental freedom for every man to roam or access Sweden’s natural environs without disturbing or destroying it - the design is centred around reminiscing an impression of 'The Mountain' and 'The Tree'. Translated to tangible architectural elements, the landscape and the base of the building become the mountain, while the building itself is the tree. In addition to this literal representation, the open spaces around the building are covered in delicate flowers and native plants that bloom between rocky outcroppings and meandering paths so as to complete the experience of a natural setting.

The arcing branches on the roof canopy along with the sculptural stairs emphasise the materiality of the interiors | World of Volvo | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
The arcing branches on the roof canopy along with the sculptural stairs emphasise the materiality of the interiors Image: © KVANT, Courtesy of Henning Larsen

On the site and master planning level, the design of the experience centre takes the form of three huge tree trunks laid amidst the natural terrain of the landscape. The cylindrical form carved in timber hosts the exhibition space, workspaces, conference halls, and restaurant. While each ‘trunk’ seems to hold functional spaces, the expanse between them is activated by the massive, near sculptural stairs, emanating from the fertile Swedish forest floor. The stairs link multiple levels of the centre along with exhibiting an array of items. Furthermore, the floor-to-ceiling glass façade visually blends the outdoors with the interior spaces, thereby playing along the soft shift between nature and the built. This integrated approach of bringing the user and nature into an experience-centric design resonates with Henning Larsen's intention to produce something that is very essential to the Swedish spirit.

  • World of Volvo: Site Plan | World of Volvo | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    World of Volvo: Site Plan Image: Courtesy of Henning Larsen
  • World of Volvo: Floor Plan, exhibition spaces and circulation core | World of Volvo | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    World of Volvo: Floor Plan, exhibition spaces and circulation core Image: Courtesy of Henning Larsen
  • World of Volvo: Floor Plan, workspaces and restaurant | World of Volvo | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    World of Volvo: Floor Plan, workspaces and restaurant Image: Courtesy of Henning Larsen

At the core of crafting this icon is the project's material identity and composition in timber. While the Swedish tradition of timber construction is embraced wholly, World of Volvo employs a modern approach to achieve it. The use of glulam timber for the construction of beams and columns along with computer-controlled fabrication provides a high degree of precision in shaping the curved elements. Wooden members wrap around the metal connectors to ensure the continuity and rigidity of the form. Along with the use of load-bearing glulam, the floor slabs are laid in locally sourced cross-laminated timber. The materiality, along with the circular planning creates an openness that encourages the user to curate an experience of their own while traversing the building, irrespective of the activity exhibited. The centre thus explores the aesthetic expression of timber along with its structural merits to further a new paradigm in architecture that is witness to a kind of timber renaissance today.

The tilted roof and transparent facade of World of Volvo appears to be animated to passersby from the E6 highway | World of Volvo | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
The tilted roof and transparent facade of World of Volvo appears to be animated to passersby from the E6 highway Image: ©KVANT, Courtesy of Henning Larsen

In an attempt to create a landmark for the city of Gothenburg, Henning Larsen, with this project, intends to bring people together in an inspiring gathering space that reflects Volvo’s human-centric approach and perspectives. Set along Mölndalsån, the project links to the stream's Eastern promenade which provides accessibility to the site, along with restoring ecological and visual connectivity. The building is anticipated to be a premium experience in a city famous for its events - a multifunctional and multicultural space combining exhibitions, talks, conferences, music, food, drinks, and shopping.

(Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)

Project Details

Name: World of Volvo
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
Client: World of Volvo
Typology: Experience Centre and meeting place
Architect: Henning Larsen
Construction Start: 2022
Expected Completion: 2023
Area: 22,000 m2 / 237,000 ft2
Certifications: LEED Gold and WELL Gold
Main contractor: BRA Bygg
Landscape: Henning Larsen
Interior design: Nordström Kelly Arkitekter AB and Henning Larsen
Wood Structure: Engineering and production by Wiehag GmbH; Interior claddings, and facade by Lindner Scandinavia AB
Structural engineering: Optima Engineering AB and BRA Teknik
Contractor Landscape: BRA Mark

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