Swaying birch trees inspire people to connect
When designing the Väven cultural centre in Umeå, Sweden, the architects of Snöhetta and White Arkitekter were inspired by the birch tree, the city's symbol. With its white bark and characteristic black stripes, the birch tree provided the inspiration for Väven's abstract appearance. Väven is Swedish for ‘weave’. In the evenings and darker seasons, the building's white exterior radiates the warm interior light to the outside world. During the day, you can see how the white façade and irregular black windows form the tree's bark with its intriguing graphic pattern.
The idea of the birch bark was ingeniously interwoven by the architects from the exterior to the interior design. The undulating setting of the glass emphasizes the natural, buoyant shape of the design. Furthermore, the windows provide the transparency that brings into view the building's activities – from hotel and conference center, to theater, museum, and library. In addition to the birch tree, the surrounding nature, the changing seasons, and the region's multi-colored houses also formed a source of inspiration for the contemporary materials and colors that were used.
What is striking about Väven is that it lacks a specific front or back. There are six access points that are accessible from three different levels. As a result, different entrances can be opened or closed at various times depending on the activities. The interior has been fitted with wooden floors and ceilings. For the staircases, which convey information to visitors and function as possible exhibition areas, we opted to use Mosa's black and vibrant Terra Tones 216V tiles in different sizes. Our criteria for sustainability, functionality, design, and coherence with the type of glass used played an important role in this choice. It is clear that no concessions have been made to detail in this building. Its quality and uplifting appearance will stand the test of time. And rightly so. After all, Väven is not just simply a building.