STOCKHOLM (SE) - Arklab transforms a burned-down gymnasium into a hamam.
Stockholm's Södermalm district is well on its way of becoming the Swedish capital's centre of Islamic culture. In addition to the mosque that opened a couple of years ago (the only mosque in central Stockholm), a Turkish-style hamam is now planned for the area. If realized, these institutions will be less than 100 metres apart. The hamam, combined with apartments, is an initiative of the developers Deli bygg och montage and local architects Arklab. The designers have taken the hamam's roots in the Islamic world as a starting point for their design.
The project is an addition to an existing building, a gymnasium built in 1889 for a nearby school. It burned down in 2003 leaving only an empty shell, which will be preserved: this was one of the first gymnasiums of its kind in the country and, as such, it has a cultural heritage. The architects have placed the hamam in the base of the building, the windowless ground floor. This type of bath is by nature a closed, dark, intimate space with no need for direct daylight or for more than the available 500 m2 of floor space. For tenants in the apartments above the base, this organization is also beneficial, as it shields them from the gaze of passers-by.
The apartments are needed in order to finance the rebuilding of the property. There are some twenty apartments of different sizes. The asymmetrically positioned windows, some covered by a screen with a Moorish pattern and made of Cor-Ten steel that will rust over time, are the most striking feature of the building. For anyone even slightly familiar with the architectural scene in Stockholm this is most unusual, because it means the architects have managed to convince the local politicians that the cultural origins of the hamam should be visible in the architecture. The cultural expressions that normally dominate the Swedish capital's contemporary architecture are either bland corporate steel and glass (offices and public buildings) or the classicism of the 1920s (housing). 'Camouflage architecture', as Arklab's Tomas Lauri calls it, as its main purpose seems to be blending in.
However, a big question mark hovers above Arklab's five-storey building. The building permit has been appealed and the objection is currently making its way through court. If built, the project will be something entirely new in the architectural landscape of Stockholm. To be allowed to create this kind of expressive architecture restores the joy of working as an architect.