Kärrtorp is a suburb of Stockholm from the 40s and 50s, located to the south of the centre along the subway line. It was planned by Hjalmar Klemming in a modest scale and became a sort of test run for the famous and much larger suburb of Vällingby, developed some years later. In the centre, the main square is framed by low rise apartment blocks with characteristic grid geometries in different plaster shades.
Our site is located a few blocks from the main square with the subway station. It is a rocky hillside that slopes several storeys up from the main road, so access to the site presented a major problem. We developed a scheme of 400 student apartments that could accommodate the access problem while providing a fitting use for this well-placed plot.
In developing the project we have grappled with the grammar of mid-century modernism. The rather large programme was divided into three buildings, and these were in turn subdivided into three volumes each, staggered in both plan and section. This basic scheme connects the new development to the semi-urban modernism of the surroundings but acquires a more organic quality as the staggered volumes climb up the hillside.
The facades echo some of the formal themes employed in Kärrtorp centrum, with a geometric pattern of coloured plaster ordering the elevations. In our treatment of the facades we added a more expressionistic use of colour and geometry.
While the facades are a playful riff on the architecture of Kärrtorp, the interior organization by necessity echoes a modernist ethos in a more straightforward way. Compact student apartments are arrayed along a central corridor, with communal spaces with exterior views in the intersections of the volumes.
And so we find ourselves facing that quintessential modernist dilemma: how do we end the linear block? The typical modernist block ends quite abruptly, with perhaps one row of perfunctory windows on the end facade. In our case we decided to explore the expressive potential of this mute cut-off. Since our end facades were the main facades to the street, we employed the geometric pattern in a composition framing the central windows and adding a shallow arcade on the street level. This gives the facade of each block a monumental totem-like quality towards the street, providing a well-needed injection of urban life along the sleepy suburban street of Söderarmsvägen.