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Swisspearl: ​Granite Anchor

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[SPONSORED FEATURE] A new centre embraces Swisspearl panels as both a resilient facade material and a means of aesthetic expression

For many years, Swisspearl has been developing innovative, sustainable and natural products for use in the building envelope, interior design and the garden. Swisspearl products, manufactured in Niederurnen and Payerne in Switzerland, have become an essential part of Swiss building culture, quickly winning over the rest of the world with more than 60 contractual partners in over 50 countries.

Swisspearl panels are installed in accordance with the ultimate technology of uninterrupted rear ventilation, protecting the building structure from the elements for decades.

In addition, Swisspearl is the only manufacturer to have mastered the highly demanding production processes for integrally coloured fibre cement panels offered in a wide colour range.

The panels are 100 per cent environmentally friendly, rot-resistant, incombustible and virtually maintenance-free, and achieve aesthetically convincing designs through an ongoing partnership with architects, designers, crafts people and suppliers.

Narud Stokke Wiig architects’ Kystens Hus – the ‘Coastal Seafood Centre in Northern Norway’ – in Tromsø, Norway, is a striking example of the effective integration of Swisspearl panels into a built concept to both practical and conceptual ends.

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Swisspearl 2 jpg

 ‘The varying expression of the angled facade allows the project to relate to two distinct urban conditions’

Located in Norway’s major cultural hub above the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is known not only for its popularity among Northern Lights-spotters, but for its compact historic centre of centuries-old wooden houses – the highest concentration north of Trondheim – and strong fishing heritage.

It is this heritage that the centre, completed in 2015, aims to both celebrate and study, as a flagship project that exhibits the country’s impressive fishing industry while looking forward to and preparing for its future with an information hub, educational, conference, office and research spaces.

To this end, the project is situated in a prominent position relating both to Tromsø’s harbour promenade and the town centre, and the geometric expression of the facade, floating above a glazed ground-floor space, allows the centre to relate differently to both of these urban conditions.

This glazed lower floor caters to the centre’s public functions, providing an informal meeting space as well as a food hall and shop units for local producers. Two main entrances at either end form a diagonal pathway that links the town centre to the harbour promenade, fostering a connection between the work of private companies, researchers and the public.

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Swisspearl 3 jpg

‘These faceted angles create a form that changes its character with the weather conditions and seasons’

A large, bright atrium with a sweeping staircase extends this public space to the floors above, clad in 4,478 square metres of insulated charcoal Swisspearl panels. Here are layers of office and conference spaces, connected via glass walkways that visually reinforce the connection with the harbour, town and open space below. Far more than a purely aesthetic choice, this faceted, tiled facade serves several purposes. Not only does it distinguish the private spaces of the upper floors from the public spaces below, the angles also allow for different responses to its varying surroundings: towards the water the centre opens outward, while towards the town centre it presents a flatter, plainer elevation.

Another concept driving this form of faceted angles was to create an exterior that would change its character with the weather conditions and seasons. Sunlight falls differently on each of the angles throughout the day, creating patterns of light and dark, and in winter snow falls differently on each facet, heavily on some areas and lightly on others. And of course, the resilience of Swisspearl panels sees them through Tromsø’s cold winters with ease.

Most importantly, the recognisable design creates a new, lasting landmark for the city, with a distinctive look that reflects the aims of Norway’s innovative and future-facing fisheries.