THE MÖLNDAL PROJECT
BRF Täckdiket is a large multi-family house built in 1968 in Mölndal, 10 km south of Gothenburg. The property is a cooperative housing association, and houses 142 apartments. It is built as a 4 storey lamellar house with concrete frames and curtain walls; it is about 290 meters long and U-formed, and is orientated in a 45 degree angle towards north. There is in the same area almost 9 other identical blocks. There are many similar residential areas in Sweden, built as a part of the Swedish “million programme” from 1965 to 1974.
The property itself looks anonymous from the outside, due to the uniformity of the building and its surrounding areas. A tangible effect is what residents call a “lack of home feeling and belonging”, or the “No man’s land”. There is, beneath the middle of the building, an underground level with all common facilities: a common room, a laundry room, and rooms for small businesses. Except these, there are no other social spaces for the “close community”, resulting in little social interaction residents in-between. The green spaces are not used either, much because of their uniformity – they simply do not invite to activity. The building itself has not been built with the best of materials. Facades are damaged, and important heat losses through facades and windows occur. The residents refer to the colors of the facades as “plain ugly”. There are balconies, but these are small and misplaced for any good use, extending from the bedrooms. The apartments are not the worst in terms of functions and sizes, but the indoor climate could be better, and technical installations, such as ventilation systems, are old and worn-down.
On this background, the question asked at the start of the process was: is it possible to change the lives of the residents regarding living quality and well-being, through “rebuilding”?
The process regarding the development of a new “BRF Täckdiket” started with a strong focus on the residents, as the need for important modernization of the property has long been matured by many different resident wishes. The “assignment” was therefore to develop a comprehensive project proposal focusing broadly on ecology, economy, aesthetics, and adding quality of life for the residents.
Therefore, the research and development process has also been resident driven - from the first brainstorms on key challenges and needs, through brainstorms on “dreams for a future BRF Täckdiket”, to drawings showing concrete solutions. The focus has throughout the process been to help the residents define and articulate all these expressions of views and wishes: what needs and wishes are in reality expressed? And what are the common key words?
Through the process, key elements to envision a new “BRF Täckdiket” came to be: ‘Quality of life’; ‘Extending the property’s life span (and less characterized as being born under the Swedish “million programme”)’; ‘Increasing the property’s value (make the property more “sexy”!)’
Concretely speaking, resident wishes could be distilled into following elements:
The next assignment was how to distill key elements representing resident wishes, into a comprehensive architectural concept. The conceptualisation phase therefore emphasised the incorporation of all central added values, that could shape the new “BRF Täckdiket” according to the residents.
A new identity was worked on, that at the same time supported the need for promoting social interaction, by introducing “near values and functions”. In part, by breaking up the existing scale into a townhouse look: dividing the roof area into different sections, retaining the same visual identity vertically through matching façade sections. Also, by introducing small scale, but efficient instruments in the outdoor areas close to the building, such as garden spaces, new and safe entrance areas, bicycle storage and other things – breaking the uniform surroundings into small, cozy and secure enclaves, thus promoting more activity and life close to the building.
The wish for exploiting much more of the scarce northern daylight is reached by introducing a new, special balcony grid, together with a multitude of French balconies to the courtyard. New, social spaces are also “drawn out” from the underground into the light – into the outdoor areas, and on the rooftop. All in all, as one resident puts it: “packing the building with nature, air and light!”
A multitude of semi-private and social spaces are placed at the rooftop of the property: green houses promoting common gardening activities, common rooms and areas, open terraces, laundry rooms etc. Integrating “must do functions” such as laundry rooms together with social functions enables more social interaction - an example could be optimising one’s time by gardening with a neighbour while the clothes are being washed!
Green architecture and ecology are in this way also important parts of a new identity for “BRF Täckdiket”, with green spaces close to, on the top, and on the façades of the building, through garden spaces, green houses and large balconies. Furthermore, are sun panels integrated in some parts of the new roof spaces, together with energy efficient façade materials, indoor climate management and energy efficient building installations. Other functions support key wishes from the residents as well: 9 new apartments at the rooftop contribute to finance the comprehensive modernisation of the property; the integration of elevators increases the attractiveness of the property for more resident groups, such as older people and families, making it easier to sustain different age groups among the residents.
The balcony grid, roofscapes and outdoor spaces are core tools achieving the added values so wished for by the residents, requiring a “rebuilding” scheme for the property, designing these added values into a new and cohesive architectural, visual as well as sensed identity for the property and its surroundings.
Roof scapes include functions such as a common room, terraces, a café, a sauna, gardens, a gardener workshop, a gym, a laundry room, and elevators. All the different functions also have distinct places in the “townhouse look” at the rooftop, so different functions also shape the different visual identities of the rooftop spaces, through different shapes, sizes, dimensions and colors.
The relationship between inside/outside worlds is amongst others shaped by the balcony grid. The balcony grid ensures equal possibilities for new living qualities for all apartments - but at the same time promotes a multitude of different solutions, giving different outdoor usage possibilities: as balcony gardens, as semi-closed extensions of the living rooms, or other outdoor activities. Different materials shape the different uses of the balconies, for example transparent glass shelters for gardening, perforated colored shelters for more private uses, semi-closed glass walls extending living room space, and more. Most of all, the balcony grid is designed to ensure private outdoor spaces, and at the same time ensure more daylight into the apartments, regardless of the specific design of the balconies. Active House analyses during the design phase have helped designing the balcony grid, so as to ensure important daylight contributions into the homes the whole year through. French balconies, also give an access of daylight for living spaces at the courtyard façade to the north.
The existing massive and uniform scale of the property is “split” into different sections, the design of the different roof sections transcending vertically through the façade into different dimensions, sizes and colors, giving smaller, recognizable “townhouses”, thus creating different identities on a closer scale. The street level includes functions such as bicycle garages, new and enlightened entrances, small semi-open front gardens for the ground floor apartments, and street furniture such as benches, etc. These small scale functions also contribute to break up the massive scale of the outdoor areas, creating small semi-social spaces close to the building itself.
Last but not least, new textures are put into play: natural looks, with wood, earthen colors and textures, as well as vegetation, underlining a new image of ecological awareness.
Important added values as to living qualities have new been added. Most important of all, creating a feeling of “belonging”, of “safety”, “coziness”, etc. The massive, and a the same time anonymous scale of the building and its surroundings has been broken into different scales, representing semi-private as well as social “near community” spaces.
The roof spaces come not only as community-space, but as multi-functional space, ensuring private and social life at the same time. At the same time, there is air, light and nature in abundance, at the top.
The apartments are in the new “BRF Täckdiket” still totally private zones, the balcony included. But these have been added more space, more daylight, more air, and better indoor climate. The important daylight access ensures, that the balcony is seen as a real extension of the living room. The same with the French balcony, which as such is not a functional space in itself, but ensures access to air and daylight into the part of the homes turning north. As a resident puts it, rather enthusiastically: “Brighter, happier everyday life, with the sky above your head!”