When it is dark for more than half the year, a bit of indoor greenery can help brighten up the day. At least that was the idea behind the long ‘green’ walls inside Stockholm International Fairs which has recently been expanded and upgraded. Reflective surfaces and living walls help make the building feel larger, while specialized energy-efficient lighting brightens up the space. Designed by Stockholm-based Rosenbergs Architects, the large exhibition centre stands behind a rigorous sustainability policy aimed at reducing its impact.
The Stockholmsmässan International Fairs in Älvsjö is one of the world’s leading organisers of trade events, attracting 10,000 exhibitors and 1.5 million visitors annually. Rosenbergs architects has carried out a number of projects at the site since 1998. Their latest addition to the premises is a new multifunctional space intended for conferences and large exhibitions, the AE-Hall, which has now become one of the main venues of many fairs, such as the recent Stockholm Furniture Fair. The hall is connected to the existing complex by a gallery which has also been completely renovated, with new mirror-like ceilings and ‘green’ walls.
The new building makes innovative use of steel throughout the main structure and cladding system, which are closely integrated. Externally the AE-Hall is wrapped in a galvanized steel facade; a giant metallic shell which creates an embossing effect that is enhanced by the lighting fixtures integrated within the galvanized structure. The screen is made from 1,500 partly perforated galvanized steel panels.
From inside the AE-gallery, a pond with fountains is visible along most of its 100m length. The walls of the pool structure are clad in expanded metal screens with integrated sliding gates, revealing entrances to the subterranean car park below.
All of the visible roofs are covered in sedum plants and the centre features an energy-saving system with movement detectors that regulate lighting and temperature depending on how many people are in each venue. The exhibition centre also buys recycled office materials, uses eco-friendly cleaning agents, sources 60% of power from renewable energy sources and recycles 60% of its waste.
The large exhibition space is very versatile as it can be divided into smaller units, down to the size of a conference room if required. A more intimate ceiling height is achieved by height-adjustable lighting trusses, which are LED-illuminated. The sliding partitions are clad with aluminium panels, creating an intricate, lace-like pattern. The walls can be stacked in storage rooms along the hall, which helps to create a sound barrier to the train tracks to the north of the site.
The design for the facade screens was developed in close collaboration with Carl Hans Järnarbeten in Eskilstuna who built full-scale mock-ups where several crucial factors, such as light fixtures and the assembly system, were evaluated and tested. This resulted in a structure that could be optimized to serve multiple purposes in order to cut costs and avoid redundant structural systems. The perforated facade panels not only act as a cladding system, but also provide shade and support the lighting fixtures. The versatility of galvanized steel allowed the designers to use one single material for the whole facade, only varying the methods of processing: expanded, perforated or flat. The concept behind the project is described by Alessandro Ripellino: “We designed the facade of the building to be almost a woven fabric. It comprises of a network of galvanized steel sheets in varying forms. The idea was to create a very modern facade. This modernity is important for us in Northern Europe – where it is dark for six months of the year and the influence of light on the facade was a very important aspect of our design. We started this project ten years ago and galvanizing has been part of the process since the very beginning. With our latest phase however, we wanted to use it to create something that was a bit out of the ordinary and quite unique. The facade concept was inspired by the pattern within a wicker-type basket weave.”
Galvanized steel has enabled the designers to achieve the fascinating aesthetic that they wanted – a shimmering, reflective surface that offers light during the dark days of winter but also a variation when wet or dry and a totally different shimmer in the summer.
Architect: Rosenbergs Arkitekter
Image: Rosenbergs Arkitekter