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High Coast Nature Center

contributed by 323 World Architecture Festival , 8 June 2009


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Description High Coast Nature Center:

In the shadow of the mighty Skuleberget mountain there is a building, inspired by the extraordinary nature. A building which has come about with the aid of ‘geological surgery’, a precise incision made into the bedrock.
The landscape forced down by the inland ice is now springing back and rising out of the sea. Nowhere is this land uplift phenomenon more extreme than along the High Coast, which is the reason for the area being included in UNESCO’s natural world heritage list and the High Coast is the only hilly area around the Baltic Sea.
The task was clear: Create a nature centre that acts as a gateway to the countryside without trying to compete with the 295 metre-tall Skuleberget mountain.
It would obviously be impossible to try to draw attention away from it and a building at the foot of Skuleberget has to work like David against the mountain’s Goliath. We concentrated instead on identifying links to the mountain, allowing ourselves to be inspired by this globally unique environment.”

When a boulder is cracked or a tree trunk split, fracture surfaces are created. Interesting geometric patterns and angular displacements that provide a rich and varied expression.
It is precisely this coarse and anything but regular feel that characterises the High Coast nature centre.
The simple, straight base of the building, dominated by icy glass surfaces, is crowned with large, irregular bodies that rise up through the roof and are reminiscent of large erratic boulders.
The exterior colouring also uses a range of greys, with concrete and fibre cement the dominant materials.
In environmental terms, the location has provided obvious benefits – not least when it comes to energy savings – and the surgery has also been applied to the vegetation. Surface layers that have been peeled off during construction have been lifted back into place, with tree stumps and everything. The wild grass is spreading out, and by the time of the inauguration in summer 2007, much of the past and future wilderness feel was in full bloom.

Our task was not to make the building the final destination, but rather to generate interest in continuing along the mountainside, visiting the famous cave halfway up to the peak or exploring Skuleskogen forest. That’s why we were also careful to work in harmony with the existing surroundings. The visual impression should be on nature’s terms, not on the terms of the people erecting the building.

The interior of the High Coast nature centre is characterised by unusual angles and variations in terms of rhythm, scale and colour. The glazed long side represents the ice. The inner concrete wall symbolises the mountain.

The approach that we refer to as ‘geological surgery’ is primarily a description of the basic concept. We wanted to expose the mountain’s secret, to combine education and architecture in harmony with nature. By making an incision in the land, a patch of the terrain has been lifted up and a building inserted halfway. The result is what the competition jury characterised as “an unobtrusive but nevertheless sculpturally expressive building interacting closely with the location, the mountain and the sea”.

We wanted to make a pleasing contrast, to give the feeling of a sweet shop. A large palette of different shades was developed, and we felt that we had considerable freedom as this is not a museum. It is not a case of looking at an exhibition and then going home again. Our task is to inspire an ongoing experience, actually to get the visitors to carry on into the countryside.


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Docksta, Sweden

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