Waugh Thistleton Architects

GotlandsHem 1


Visby, Sweden





RIBA workstages

Concept to Completion

This new, low carbon and low impact head office for GotlandsHem, the national housing association of the Swedish island of Gotland, will be a multifunctional place with a strong social responsibility. Providing a peaceful and healthy hub for businesses the ambition is to create a democratic place, accessible by the whole community.

The buildings are an innovative interpretation of a farmstead, typical of the local area. Intimate in scale, and clustered around an open courtyard they create a new neighbourhood which integrates into the emerging district on the outskirt of the city. The design comprises two independent buildings around an expansive garden and combines an unusual mix of uses. Office space for the housing association sits alongside a multifunctional workshop for repairs, temporary accommodation for tenants, business premises which can be used by local start-ups or to house pop up markets or shops, and a gallery and restaurant area which is open to all.

Gotlandshem’s new building lies on the edge of the city of Visby where the town dissolves into the surrounding countryside. The volumes interact with the city to the north and the agricultural landscape to the south. A new public route which traverses the site provides a pedestrian link between green spaces and community allotments to the east and west.

This semi-open neighbourhood is oriented around a generous courtyard which is protected from the strong prevailing winds, creating an oasis akin to a botanical garden at the heart of the building. This secret garden acts as a break out zone for the workers and visitors during the day, and at night provides shelter for community events such as pop-up cinema screenings, open air markets and lectures.

The building is designed as a prefabricated systemised framework of cross laminated panels and glulam beams. This enables the creation of large span widths and allows for flexibility and future adaptation of the spaces. Five pre-fabricated façade modules, which relate to the span and height of the structure but are independently applied, ensure that building has endless possibilities and can be adapted as the needs of the association and local community evolve: office space can be repurposed as temporary housing, or increased gallery space with a simple change of façade panel and movement of internal partition walls. Exterior materials are durable, ensuring a minimum of maintenance, providing a beautiful yet low cost design which will age gracefully over time. A truly flexible space fit for today and tomorrow.