Screened counters and small offices seem lime ancient history, when talking about city halls and civic centres created by Danish architects. Henning Larsen, for instance, knows how to challenge the status quo and aims to make formal environments folksier and easily accessible to the local inhabitants.
As a citizen, you don’t always know what’s going on at your local city hall. In Toronto, Canada, the city council had a desire to bring citizens closer to the council’s work. And they did so with a helping hand from Henning Larsen.
“Our vision is to revive the Etobicoke neighborghood and community and our civic center, is key to this regeneration. Etobicoke is a worn-down area in the outskirts of Toronto, where the new civic center will be be pivotal in creating the area’s identity. The Etobicoke Civic Center will feature a number of differnet functions and facilities, making it a vibrant space and allow the citizens to get closer to the democratic process,” tells Louis Becker, partner and architect at Henning Larsen.
As Louis Becker mentioned, the Etobicoke Civic Centre doesn’t only consist of traditional city hall functions but is also a treasure trove for the local community. Several courtyards, a day-care centre, a swimming pool and a library can also be found under the same roof as the city council. By merging different communal services in the same place, a whole new community feeling arises.
“By gathering lots of facilities and functions under the same roof, you bring people together and create a sense of community. Those who spend time in the library can witness the political process taking place in the Council Chambers – because it’s right next to them! But the most important aspect is the creation of hot spots, where people can meet and bond over common interests. The purpose of the project is to support the local area’s social integration, like we’ve seen happen with Middelfart Rådhus in Denmark,” Louis Becker explains.
Henning Larsen has seen the light in designing innovative and forward-looking city halls and centres like the Etobicoke Civic Centre. Let’s look at a few other ongoing projects where the Danish architectural studio is helping make the local city council visible to the public and is challenging the status quo.
Uppsala Town Hall, Sweden
Combining the past, the present and the future. That’s the plan for the extension of Uppsala Town Hall in Sweden. The new transparent design is supposed to promote dialogue between the council and citizens, while at the same time serving as a functional workplace. Henning Larsen has solved the architectural riddle of an modern and more open building with an L-shaped addition, which completes the original intention of a closed town block that was outlined in a competition proposal from 1957.
“Back in 1957, the local city hall represented something different to what it does today. With our winning proposal, we take the original L-shaped building and transform it into a town block with a roofed meeting point in the middle. With this addition, we create the physical space for increased integration and development to take place in Uppsala,” Louis Becker says.
The town hall addition is still under construction and is expected to be completed in 2020.
Kiruna City Hall, Sweden
Another similar project is the Kiruna City Hall in the northern most part of Sweden. The new city hall will mark the beginning of the development of a new city centre in Kiruna, and it’s actually a 2-in-1 building. Centrally based, you’ll find it referred to as “The Crystal” due to the shape of the inner building, which was inspired by the deposits of iron ore in the nearby underground mines.
“The Crystal is the heart of the building and is intended to serve as the heart of the community as well. Everything inside the city hall is turned towards the middle, where we want to create a gathering place where people can meet,” Louis Becker tells.
Around the crystal-shaped inner is a circular building protecting it against the rough northern weather, but at the same time allowing as much natural daylight in as possible, which is important in this, at times, dark part of the world.
The Kiruna City Hall is expected to be inaugurated later this year.