When Norra Tornet was selected as the winning project for the important High-rise Award (2020-2021), Reinier de Graaf publicly proclaimed, “I never thought of Norra Tornen towers as skyscrapers. They are different from the conventional idea of a skyscraper. They are not monumental but homely”. However, OMA’s design for the Swedish capital, from the conception stage, was intended to be the tallest building in the city, a kind of shining beacon pointing the way for urban development.
“A timeless yet pioneering architecture,” Norra Tornet (North Towers), built by the major Dutch firm, consists of twin towers (2014-2020) opened two years apart that house not only residences but also numerous amenities. In addition to stores on the ground floor, the towers have numerous collective spaces for residents: cinema hall, gymnasium and wellness space, a party and meeting space.
The project is of great interest not only at the architectural scale, but also at the urban and technological scales. The two tall towers – Helix 106 m and Innovative 121 m – of 33 and 38 stories, respectively, were designed at the intersection of two nodal neighborhoods in the capital: Vasastaden, a historic, residential district, and Hagastaden, which is currently Stockholm’s largest development area, a neighborhood destined for great growth.
So a gateway, a passage between two urban areas, as we find in the historic layout of the Scandinavian capital. At the same time, OMA’s design is also avant-garde in its technological choices that respond to the idea of questioning “the uniformity and homogeneous treatment of the façade that is often assigned to tower structures. Working on the skin means exposing the individuality of the housing units of the two blocks – a true vertical urban agglomeration,” the OMA studio said. So, the choice of prefabrication, which made possible the use of concrete despite Stockholm’s harsh temperatures.
Each residential unit was designed to have maximum lighting and visual contact with the city. An homage to brutalism – a term coined according to Banham in Sweden by the son of the great architect Gunnar Asplund – and Moshe Safdie’s radical Habitat 67 project.