Stora Torget

Karlstad, Värmland

In Karlstad, Sweden, a large block overlooking the main square was gutted by a fire. Redevelopment in this historic town center required cultural sensitivity and innovative thinking. Architects Brunnberg & Forshed were tasked with designing a commercial/residential complex that could bring new intrigue to the city center while still respecting its place within it. Over the past decade, the Mitt-i-City (roughly, “middle of city”) mall has flourished as a staple of Karlstad’s downtown district and, despite its proximity to many historical landmarks, feels in keeping with the overall character of its environment.

Stora Torget Karlstad dome and sidewalk
The development conforms to the historic scale of its surroundings.

Karlstad’s streets have run along an historic gridiron plan dating back to the 19th century. Contemporary developments in the area have ignored the historic form and challenged the unity of scale. Perhaps due to their bland exteriors, many of these new businesses had fallen flat and the streets are less lively than before.

By blending modern elements in the firststory retail spaces with the charming and classical styles reflected in the residential floors, Brunnberg & Forshed brought forth a design concept that holds appeal for a wide variety of people, whether they’re potential residents or afternoon shoppers. The block’s rich visual interest and pedestrian-friendly layout make it clear that concern for livability was put into every form and function of the space. With a healthy number of people interacting in the public spaces and an underground parking structure, now everyone can feel more at ease walking throughout the square.

Stora Torget Karlstad entrance
The shopping center has apartments above it. Source: Brunnberg & Forshed Arkitektkontor AB.

Brunnberg & Forshed’s plan for Karlstad’s stora torget (main square) excited the jury with its “extroverted small scale shops and restaurants framing and enlivening the streets,” remembered juror Brent Toderian. “The most attractive thing about this very clever and well-resolved block design,” Toderian observes, “is how easily it can be copied!” This unique plan should serve as inspiration for city planners everywhere looking to create compact mixed-use blocks that invite visitors to explore and residents to stay.

Top photo: The development is near the banks of the Klarälven River. Source: Brunnberg & Forshed Arkitektkontor AB.

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