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Waugh Thistleton win design competition to deliver Gotlandshem’s new HQ in Visby, Sweden

An international collaboration between Waugh Thistleton Architects, In Praise of Shadows and Land Arkitektur has won a competition to design the new head office for GotlandsHem, the national
housing association of the Swedish island of Gotland. This new, low carbon and low impact building will be a multifunctional place with a strong social responsibility. Providing a peaceful and healthy hub for businesses it will be a democratic place, accessible by the whole community. The buildings are an innovative interpretation of a farmstead, typical of the local area. Intimate in scale, and clustered around an open courtyard they create a new neighbourhood which integrates into the emerging district on the outskirt of the city.

The design comprises two independent buildings around an expansive garden and combines an unusual mix of uses. Office space for the housing
association sits alongside a multifunctional workshop for repairs, temporary accommodation for tenants, business premises which can be used by local start-ups or to house pop up markets or shops, and a gallery and restaurant area which is open to all.

Gotlandshem’s new building lies on the edge of the city of Visby where the town dissolves into the surrounding countryside. The volumes interact with the city to the north and the agricultural landscape to the south. A new public route which traverses the site provides a pedestrian link between green spaces and community allotments to the east and west. This semi-open neighbourhood is oriented around a generous courtyard which is protected from the strong prevailing winds, creating an oasis akin to a botanical garden at the heart of the building. This secret garden acts as a break out zone for the workers and visitors during the day, and at night provides shelter for community events such as pop-up cinema screenings, open air markets and

The internal and external spaces extend from one to the other, creating a smooth transition between the outside and inside. This is facilitated by the use of a timber structure and natural materials within the spaces which reflect the colours and textures of the luscious courtyard beyond the building perimeter. The building is designed as a prefabricated systemised framework of cross laminated panels and glulam beams. This enables the creation of large span widths and allows for flexibility and future adaptation of the spaces. Five pre-fabricated façade modules, which relate to the span and height of the structure but are independently applied, ensure that building has endless possibilities and can be adapted as the needs of the association and local community evolve: office space can be repurposed as temporary housing, or increased gallery space with a simple change of façade panel and movement of internal partition walls. Exterior materials are durable, ensuring a minimum of maintenance, providing a beautiful yet low cost design which will age gracefully over time. A truly flexible space fit for today and tomorrow.

The project was selected from a shortlist of eight teams. Other submissions can be viewed here: