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Home Swede Home: Bo01: The City of Tomorrow Apartment Block by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners and FFNS Arkitekter

Malmö, Sweden: Technology and environmental sustainability, along with natural light, playful colors and textures, and a garden, offer a civilized setting for urban dwellers.

by Kristen Richards
June 4, 2002

In May 2001, Sweden presented its first international housing exhibition (and one of the largest ever mounted) in Malmö called Bo01: The City of Tomorrow. It combined not only temporary exhibitions that envisioned urban life in the future based on environmental sustainability and information technology, but also included an actual mixed-use development called Boplatsen. Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners (MRY) from Santa Monica, California, collaboration with Bertil Öhrström of FFNS Arkitekter AB of Sweden, was the only American firm among many European and Scandinavian architectural practices commissioned to design a residential city block in the city’s new housing and office district.


The site was an industrial brownfield – formerly a SAAB automobile assembly factory. To remove the underground pollutants, the landscape planning combines biology and sustainability, using different species of flora that can extract the pollutants from the ground.


Ranging from two-and-half to four-and-a-half floors in height, the building has a total gross area of 33,000 square feet on a site area of 18,228 square feet. The project houses 27 rental apartments, from 600-square-foot studios to 1,950-square-foot, three-bedroom units, with no floor plan repeated.


One of the challenges was to make each unit unique and still relate the entire block to the surrounding urban fabric. This was met by developing a flexible system for articulating the perimeter’s exterior elevations and the correlation between interior space and exterior expression. Since the different individual units are stacked, the potential for exterior chaos is mediated by a super-order grid that is composed of ribbed pre-cast panels on the perimeter of the city block site. A datum of alternating horizontal and vertical panels modulates the random placement of windows, creating a syncopated pattern that reflects the flexible configurations of the dwelling units from floor to floor. A contemporary reinterpretation of the traditional board and batten construction and the louvered texture of the panels capture and reflect the precious northern light while providing a discreet street presence.


The exterior treatment contrasts with the vibrant, almost playful architectural expression – and vibrant colors – of the interior courtyard facades. In this shared social space, undulating and twisting glazed towers that vary from two to four floors “dance” around a west-facing garden. With distant views of the Öresund Sound at higher levels, the living room of each unit occupies part of a tower, projecting inward to “borrow” space from the garden while making the interior units feel more spacious. Likewise, entire walls of glass open onto the garden, allowing the units to literally flow into the landscape. In the evening, when their screens of fretted glass are lit from within, the glass towers glow like a series of Chinese lanterns in the garden.


The courtyard, better known as “The Yard,” interprets the metaphor of an island wetland through its formal design and plantings. Oriented toward the west, a central mound or “island” is irregularly divided into distinct parts: the eastern part is an “uncultivated” landscape of reeds, grasses, and a spiraling pool, while the western part is a timber deck. Residents can gather, formally or informally, in this central outdoor space, especially in the summertime. Individual footbridges above an expanse of marshy land reminiscent of the geography and flora of the nearby Öresund Sound, lush with grasses, reeds, bamboo, and perennials, link the residential cores to the island. The marsh vegetation is fed by recycled rainwater through manmade streams and a pond made of regular-cut stones and concrete, and provides an ever-changing palette of color and texture through Malmö’s diverse seasons and light conditions.


Photovoltaic panels on the roof provide heating and cooling for the building. Roof surfaces are also covered with grass to restore oxygen to the atmosphere. Rainwater is recycled and used to irrigate water gardens. Run-off water from other surfaces such as metal panels, paving, and concrete, is directed into a perimeter channel and then brought into a central cistern, cleaned, and returned to the ocean.


All exterior windows are triple-glazed to provide insulation; the outside layer contains transparent Aragon gas that warms air as it passes through the layer on its way to warm the interior. An “intelligent wall" that runs through each unit supports power and data cabling, and orients all mechanical and technical equipment toward the interior of the block.


The project represented Sweden at the 2001 Venice Biennale, and recently received Sweden’s 2002 Building of the Year Award.


Owner: MKB Fastighets AB, Malmö, Sweden, Lars Birve, Ingvar Carlsson

Project management: SWECO Projektledning AB, Pär Hammarberg (Project Manager), Conny Nilsson (Assistant Project Manager /IT Coordinator)


Design Architects/Landscape Architects: Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners; FFNS Arkitekter AB

Executive Architect: FFNS Arkitekter AB

MRY Team: John Ruble, FAIA (Principal Architect, Principal-in-Charge), Buzz Yudell, FAIA (Principal architect), James Mary O’Connor (Associate-in-Charge, Project Architect), Lisa Belian, Tony Tran (Project Team), Tina Beebe, Kaoru Orime (Colors and Materials, Landscape Design, Interior Design/Exhibition Apartment), Ross Morishige (Digital Renderings), Mark Grand, Chad T. Takenaka, Vely Zajec, Don Hornbeck, Joshua Lunn, Matthew Vincent, Lance Collins (Models)

SWECO FFNS Arkitekter AB Team: Bertil Öhrström (Principal Architect), Karin Bellander, Lars Lindahl (Project Architects), Siv Degerman (Landscape architect), Karin Bellander, Johanna Wittenmark (Interior designers)

Photographer: Werner Huthmacher


Since the founding of Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners with Charles Moore in 1977, principals John Ruble and Buzz Yudell have built a varied body of work ranging from private residences to multi-million-dollar institutional, civic, and mixed-use developments. The initial goal of Moore Ruble Yudell was to have an intensive collaboration among the principals, with the collaborative spirit extending to include project staff and clients. The principals pioneered the use of client and community workshops in the design process. Their work on a wide range of building types has given them extensive experience working with complex client groups as well as regulatory and governmental agencies. The firm has received numerous major awards for design excellence.


SWECO FFNS is one of the Nordic region's largest architectural firms with services in architecture, interior architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, and indoor environment. FFNS Arkitekter AB was established in 1958 by the architects Bertil Falck, Carl-Erik Fogelvik, Gunnar Nordström, and the building engineer Erik Smas. In 1997, FFNS merged with VBB, the largest technical consultant firm in Sweden at the time. Thus SWECO was created, a powerful combination of technical consultants and expertise. In 2001, the name SWECO FFNS was established. Today, the firm has a staff of 350 and offices in 15 locations throughout Sweden, and is part owner of the Danish architectural company Skaarup & Jespersen A/S Arkitekter og Byplanläggare, a company with a long experience in international ventures within architecture and urban planning. Recent international projects include Luodian Town, a new town for 25,000 people in Shanghai, and a 120,000-square-meter mixed-use development in Beijing.


Also featured on (updated 04/13/04):


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(click on pictures to enlarge)

(Moore Ruble Yudell (MRY))
The conceptual sketch for a 27-unit block in Bo01, Sweden's "City of Tomorrow" in Malmö.

Site plan with block highlighted

Site model with project location indicated.

Aerial view

(Werner Huthmacher)
A view into the complex shows the roofscape of grass and photovoltaic panels.

(Werner Huthmacher)
The same view at night

(Werner Huthmacher)
The main (east) façade; ribbed pre-cast concrete panels on perimeter façades tie the building to the surrounding urban fabric.

(Werner Huthmacher)
A detail of the exterior façade; the concrete panels and triple-glazed windows create a syncopated pattern.

(Werner Huthmacher)
Dynamic living room towers and vibrant colors frame the interior courtyard. Bridges connect units to the oval island in garden.

(Werner Huthmacher)
Living room towers animate edge of garden.

(Werner Huthmacher)
In the evening the glass towers glow like lanterns.

(Werner Huthmacher)
Corner units feature bay windows.

(Ole Jais)
A living room opens up to the garden.

(Ole Jais)
A light-filled living room in one of the towers

Garden landscape plan

West elevation

South elevation

A typical unit plan; no floor plan is repeated.

Ground floor plan

Second floor plan shows "intelligent wall" for power and data cabling that runs through all units.

Third floor plan

Fourth floor plan

© 2004