The winner of the 2020 International Highrise Award (IHP) for the world’s most innovative high-rise is the ‘Norra Tornen’ twin towers project in Stockholm, Sweden, designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam. The prize comes with €50,000 and a statuette created by internationally renowned artist Thomas Demand.
IHA is presented by the City of Frankfurt, Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM), and DekaBank, and was awarded for the first time in 2004.
IHP is aimed at architects and developers whose buildings are at least 100-m (328-ft) high and have been completed in the past two years. To select the winner, the jury’s wide-ranging discussion considered how a high-rise contributes to the urban fabric and how it encourages street life. The following aspects were analyzed, among others: the overall narrative, the sculptural qualities, the structural concept, the mix of uses, and the balance between commerce and culture.
The Norra Tornen twin towers (which translates to “northern towers”), convinced the jury with their timeless, yet pioneering architecture. The combination of high-quality prefabricated concrete elements, their skillful arrangement into individual loggias, and the contrast with the fine details of the interiors are definitive features of this high-rise. Further, the appearance of the Norra Tornen makes an important contribution to a coherent urban fabric. The twin towers, the jury said, are also an expression of an equal society. Hence, they convey not only a characteristic of Swedish culture, but also a universal message.
Norra Tornen are located in Stockholm at the transition from Vasastaden, a district with residential developments mainly from the 1930s, to the newly emerging district of Hagastaden to the left and right of the Torsgatan arterial road, and can be considered a new symbol of the city of Stockholm for this expanding district.
DAM director Peter Cachola Schmal pointed out that the Norra Tornen creates a newly emerging gate situation that is shaping urban development with its sculptural effect. They represent a contemporary and future-oriented vision for the city and pick up on a familiar motif of urban design in Stockholm. Twin towers have been incorporated as a symbolic gateway in the Swedish capital previously in the past, and the towers are simultaneously able to incorporate Stockholm’s older architectural structure in their color scheme and rising shape.
This mediation between the old and the new is one of the design strengths of Norra Tornen. With the soft brown of the implemented solution, the façade blends in with Stockholm’s earthy color range, which includes all shades from beige to red. The sheltered balconies and the cube-like modules alternate in a regular pattern and create a sculptural game of deception.
The use of prefabricated façade elements made it possible to continue construction work even at temperatures below 5 C (41 F). Additionally, prefabrication saved considerable time—one story was completed each week—and costs, which made the differentiated façade treatment and dynamic surface with its numerous recesses and projections economically feasible in the first place.