Located in a commercial development on the edge of Stockholm, the new SEB complex holds as many people as a small city. The floor area is divided into three buildings and brings together over 4500 employees in a varied yet cohesive world that encourages spontaneous meetings and new working formats.
“The best discussions can arise when you run into each other on the stairs or at the coffee machine,” says Helena Toresson, who co-led the project together with fellow interior designer Sara Helder. “Therefore we allowed the architecture’s inner organization to play a key role in promoting natural and informal meetings.”
Wingårdh’s design is based on maximum openness. Most of the large complex is contained within a single security zone, which means that anyone who works in or visits the complex can feel free to roam among the three buildings that together form a consolidated center for the banking and insurance giant SEB. The great flow of people inside gives SEB a vibrant pulse. No one who works there could avoid the feeling of working in one of Sweden’s largest modern office buildings. At the same time, each part has its own particular character due to the varied use of stone, wood, textiles, colors, and wallpaper. That variation is necessary to facilitate wayfinding and create identity amidst such large areas. That dynamic distinguishes one building from another, but it also permeates the interior of each building, articulating different layers within each one. The lively meeting areas in the core constitute an inner layer, which is surrounded by an intermediate one of meeting rooms, and then by an outer layer with workstations around the building’s peaceful periphery.
The courtyards are enlivened by staircases linking different levels—sculptural features that also provide an overview of the building’s circulation. One of the stairs is designed for seating, which gives the courtyard a clear function as a meeting place. Adjacent to it is the auditorium, and above it the building’s internal meeting strategy is distilled into a glass structure that crowns the rooftop.
“By designing all the internal meeting spaces as modules, the building has been given a high degree of generality,” says Helder. “The rooms can be varied to hold four, six, or eight people without substantial intervention, which is an example of the building’s sustainability. We don’t know how people are going to want to work in the future, but we’re pretty sure that they’ll be able to do what they need to in this building.”
The Wingårdh team concludes their explanation of why the building should be named Sweden’s Best-Looking Office by calling it “Big, complex, and effective—without sacrificing dynamic variation and high standards of execution. A workplace you can be proud of. The idea was to concentrate our effort in the right places and allow certain others to be good enough. We think Sweden’s best-looking office is Sweden’s biggest.” That sentiment was shared by the many people who logged in to vote.
The Sweden’s Best-Looking Office competition (Sveriges snyggaste kontor) is held every year by Lokalnytt, a commercial real estate site.
Wingårdh Architects was commissioned by SEB to be responsible for the interior design and space planning. Three other architecture firms—Rippelino, Krook and Tjäder, and HMXW—were hired by the property owner, Fabege, for detail planning and the production of design development drawings and construction documents.
The 72,200-m2 complex is divided into three buildings. It includes two restaurants, an auditorium that seats about 200, more than 600 meeting rooms, a parking garage, bicycle parking, gym, roof terrace, and a glass pavilion on the roof. SEB has invested in a program of art for the complex, with commissions for new work to artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Cajsa von Zeipel, and Karsten Höller.