NORRKÖPING – Anyone used to the image culture in contemporary architecture is experienced enough to accurately pinpoint what this project is about: a former industrial area with closed factories that is now undergoing gentrification. It is the familiar narrative about the transition from the industrial age into an era with the prefix ‘post’. At a quick glance (which is what we usually spare a building), this could be Hamburg, Liverpool or Helsinki. But this is Norrköping, Sweden.
So, is there anything here that cannot be identified at a glance? If ever there was a rhetorical question that was it, because Katscha (the Swedish word for an old fishing tool) is an apartment building. The most common feature of the contemporary Swedish apartment block, the balconies, is absent here. Apart from the form of the building, which follows the Motala Ström River, and its shimmering zinc aluminium façades, the absence of balconies is where the architects of Arkitektur + Development have really parted ways with their Swedish contemporaries.
That choice was made in order to open up the 30 apartments in the building to the water as much as possible. As a consequence, the ceiling heights have been increased on this side and windows were enlarged. Originally the idea was that they could be opened completely, giving residents the enviable feeling of sitting on a low balustrade overlooking the water and the unique 19th-century architecture of the area. Quite a daring move, considering that the Swedish climate doesn’t allow for such Mediterranean fantasies to be lived out that often.
But, as rash as that might seem, the architecture follows the logic of the housing market. The apartments range from 70 to 170 m2 and although they all have individual plans, their organization is similar to anything else built today. The public areas of the apartments are oriented towards the water and dominated by the open kitchen and living room. The private spaces (bedrooms, bathrooms and closets) face the street and have a much lower (standard) ceiling height than the rooms facing the river, resulting in split-level floors that make the spatial experience of the apartments all the more interesting.
Photos courtesy of Arkitektur + Development/Laila Reppen/Ingrid Reppen
Article originally published in Mark magazine issue #63