Mass timber has emerged as one of the most sustainable solutions for building structures and research on engineered timber has unleashed a world of previously unimagined design possibilities. The newly opened Sara Cultural Centre designed by White Arkitekter broadens the application of full timber construction and proves that timber is a viable solution for virtually any building type. This project has become a model, guiding others in the collective transition toward carbon neutrality.
Located in Skellefteå, just below the Arctic Circle in the northern part of Sweden, the Sara Culture Center is home to a regional theatre, a museum, an art gallery, a hotel, and a city library. Together the institutions benefit from their proximity to each other and empower the local community.
Hana Kaseem, AIA, Principal, KPF
Nat Oppenheimer, PE, LEED AP, Senior Vice President, Silman
Robert Schmitz, Partner, White Arkitekter
Nicole Spina, Assistant Vice President, NYC Economic Development Corporation
Monica von Schmalensee, Former CEO and Senior Advisor, White Arkitekter
About the Speakers
Hana Kassem has applied a human-centric approach to design across various project typologies over her 25-year career as an architect. Through her design work, she examines how we affect our environment and how in turn our built environment impacts us. She has employed this approach on work in countries ranging from the United States to China, and from Brazil to France and Abu Dhabi.
Hana’s design approach embraces sustainability, wellness and resiliency. For the New York City Housing Authority, she and her team engaged with residents to develop an infrastructural resiliency and renewal plan for the Red Hook Houses, a development of twenty-nine apartment buildings that was significantly impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The project has received an AIA Urban Design Award and has been widely published. She is also leading the design of key buildings at a new campus in Guangzhou for the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, as well as the University of Michigan’s Detroit Center for Innovation, both projects aiming to be carbon neutral in part and highly sustainable. Hana has played a leading role in the design of science and research facilities as exemplified by the AIA award-winning Advance Science Research Center (ASRC). Comprising a pair of buildings forming a gateway to the campus, the project employs a fluid geometry that integrates architecture and landscape, with biophilia as a theme evident in much of her work.
Nat Oppenheimer joined Silman in 1988 and has extensive experience in the areas of new construction, renovation, and historic preservation. He is principal in charge for much of the firm’s institutional, private residential, and educational work. Since 2013, Nat has been an active participant of the Industry Advisory Group for the US Department of State Bureau of Overseas Building Operations. Nat’s mass timber experience includes 670 Union Street and the Grace Farms River Building.
Robert Schmitz is an award-winning architect and one of White Architect’s leading partners. He has steered several of the company’s flagship projects from competition to completion with a special focus on designing public, civic and cultural buildings that encourage a sense of belonging. He is an award winning, modern-day pioneer of timber design and construction and the lead architect of the international awarded Sara Cultural Centre, the world’s largest, carbon negative timber building. Robert is director of the competitions team, while providing strategic input into the management of the Stockholm studio. Furthermore, he takes part in international Architectural juries and is a highly appreciated keynote speaker worldwide.
Nicole Spina is an environmentalist and economic development professional passionate about facilitating a sustainable and equitable New York City with a focus on climate resiliency, circular economy, and sustainable food systems.
Monica von Schmalensee is a senior architect at White Arkitekter. In her role as CEO of the company 2010-2017 she established the practice internationally and doubled its size. Monica continues to develop the practice in her current role as strategic advisor. She was appointed as one of the Mayor's Design Advocates between 2017-2022, a collection of individuals who support the Mayor of London and his staff in the delivery of the Good Growth by Design agenda. She is also Co-Chair international Council at Van Alen Institute . Monica has been a juror at WAF for many years and on the International jury for New London Architecture.
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Center for Architecture