Mikael Olsson

In Brunstorp outside Jönköping, Sweden, Arrhov Frick Arkitektkontor has designed 90 cost-effective housing units with a high standard of living.

Af Catherine Langer

The project is located on the site of a former hotel, between the main road European route E4 and the lake Vättern. Being a city with a sparse population, Jönköping is strongly affected by the challenges facing the Swedish building industry. This created a demand for the new housing to be cost-effective, with many different apartment types in one building complex.

The architects Johan Arrhov and Henrik Frick are known to develop architectural proposals based on a deep understanding of the specific social and economic contexts they operate in. They answered the site’s challenges by thoroughly investigating and analyzing the local market to get inside of the place and the inhabitant’s needs. Also, they corresponded with prefabricated manufacturers on how to produce effective, flexible systems and construction details. Thus, the project reduces the architecture to its fundamentals, with an emphasis on function, basic materials, and structural economy.

The 90 housing units are arranged into three narrow north-south oriented volumes, all with a panoramic view of the lake Vättern. The division into three buildings lets the housing units follow the local topography, from the large road in the east to the lakeside in the west.

The houses have a modern and simple design language, where lightly pigmented concrete plays a central role. The concrete creates a robust frame to the lighter elements, such as wood, steel, and glass. The rational and simple design with no unnecessary elements is part of the mission to emphasize values and qualities for the residents, who would otherwise be left out in a cost-optimizing housing design.

From their initial analysis, the architects defined a few important principles of quality. These included larger areas per apartment than usual, generous balconies and large sliding doors that open to the balconies and the lake view. All other parameters were flexible and could be changed in the design process. Thus, the principles create coherence in the three different buildings and ensure that the same parameters are included in every apartment type.

The three buildings have similar heights but diverge in the number of floors, balconies, windows, and staircases. The northern and the southern buildings have long, shielded balconies toward the east as well, with round, external steel staircases. The east balconies both connect the building’s apartments on the outside and shield the inhabitants from the sounds of the main road behind. One building stands out by having its lower apartments on two floors, like modern row houses, while long west-facing balconies connect the three buildings with a common view to the lake.

Even with the buildings’ internal differences, they clearly have similar traits and grow from the same quality-based principles. The overall concept is to give every inhabitant the opportunity for an equal view of the lake, and this becomes visible in the room composition, which is the same for all apartments. While quieter rooms such as bedrooms and bathrooms are oriented away from the view, rooms with social functions such as living rooms, kitchens, and dining rooms are located towards the west and the lake. As an extension of the living room, the west balcony reaches out to the evening sun.

As a special feature, a small sauna is added to the top of the center building, strongly contrasting with the buildings’ concrete facades with its warm timber. The location of the sauna makes it more special and private, only for the inhabitants’ use, as a commonplace to gather and enjoy an unobstructed view of the lake.

Together, the housing units are a mix of several typologies — traditional apartments, row houses and large units with outdoor areas. Thus, the apartments are suitable for different living situations at different stages of life. And due to the architects’ initial principles of quality and commonality, all apartments enjoy the main qualities of the site on equal terms.

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Arrhov Frick Arkitektkontor