Väven Umeå, Sweden: Façade constructor seele realised a seemingly organic, unitised façade of opaque glass elements.


external façade


double-leaf glass doors

shiny façade in the “city of birches” – the väven arts centre in umeå, sweden

Umeå in northern Sweden is facing major urban challenges. Over the last 50 years its population has more than doubled and in 2014 Umeå was a European Capital of Culture. As a response to these changes, existing districts are being upgraded and new areas developed. The design competition for the area next to the river known as “between the bridges” was won by the Norwegian architectural practice Snøhetta, which was also responsible for designing the new arts centre. The new building is intended to link the river with the district beyond and act as a catalyst for boosting revitalisation.

  • There is the five-storey arts centre itself with its almost S-shaped plan form and a hotel tower with a further eight storeys rising above that. An unusual façade encloses both parts, the visual idea of which is closely linked with Umeå’s nickname, the “city of birches”. Like the white bark of the trees, bands of white glass shingles wrap themselves around the building in an offset arrangement. Depending on the viewing angle and lighting conditions, these bands take on different shades of white. Achieving the effect of the façade exactly according to the architects’ vision required seele to laminate a special opaque white foil into the panes of laminated safety glass – the first time this had been done.

    Project images: © Lindman Photography

The shiny white façade of the new arts centre is a riverside feature visible from afar which provides the “city of birches” with a new landmark.
Natural features and existing buildings are reflected in the shiny glass façade, allowing the arts centre to blend into its surroundings.
The extremely narrow horizontal and vertical joints between the elements form a rigorous grid that contrasts with the graceful horizontal lines of the architecture.
With rounded corners made from cold-bent glass and undulating dividing lines between the opaque and transparent areas of glass, the eight-storey hotel tower seems buoyant and organic.
The façade concept continues inside the building. Circulation zones beneath glass roofs create a bright, inviting atmosphere.

seele realises a great diversity of elements – precisely and economically

The façade design called for more than 1,500 differently shaped glass elements to create a consistent appearance over the 7,000sqm façade. seele solved this task exactly as required and within budget. Fast, economic installation was achieved by using hangers that are attached with silicone to the precisely fabricated custom panes.

The architects benefited from seele’s expertise, not only in terms of design issues, but also in the development of solutions that would reproduce the aesthetics of their vision exactly. On 28 October 2014 the newly completed arts centre in Umeå was awarded the prestigious Kasper Salin Prize by the Swedish Association of Architects. In their statement, the jury praised the meticulously executed façade especially. 

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Hanger rails were permanently and reliably attached to the back of each façade element with silicone adhesive.
Immaculate, homogeneous, shiny white surfaces and narrow, precise joints are the features of this façade. All fixings are hidden behind the delicate-looking glass surfaces. The transparent panes integrate perfectly into the overall concept.
The glass elements overlap horizontally like overlying layers, transferring the idea of the birch tree bark aesthetics to the building.
Vibrant, gently curving horizontal lines contrast with the strict vertical lines of the glass façade.


Client Väven | Umea AB
Main contractor Balticgruppen AB, Byggservice AB
Architect Snøhetta with White Arkitekter AB
Engineer ACC Per-Olof Carlson
Date of completion 2014
Scope of work by seele

10,000sqm external façade, including:

  • 3,000sqm unitised aluminium curtain wall to hotel building made from double-glazed units on a 3.25m grid
  • 7,000sqm steel glass façade with different pane formats made from triple-glazed units on a 2.80m grid 
  • 4,448sqm glass shingles made from laminated safety glass with a pure white, opaque film as interlayer
  • 18 double-leaf glass doors 
  • Kasper Salin Prize 2014