New Karolinska Solna Project by White Tengbom Team

Stockholm's impressive new medical facility has been built thanks to a substantial investment made by both the private and public sectors

Project Info

Client: Swedish Hospital Partners (SHP)
Architect: White Tengbom Team
Interior Architect: Nyréns Arkitektkontor
Location: Solna, Sweden
Status: First phase opened November 2016
Area: 330,000 sq m
Rooms: 630 for inpatients and 100 for day patients
Cost: 14.5bn SEK (£1.1bn)
Environmental Certifications: LEED Gold, Miljöbyggnad Guld
Awards: Future Healthcare Design Prize, European Healthcare Design Awards 2017

Words by: Sophie Tolhurst
Images by Fredrik Sweger

The New Karolinska Solna project (NKS) is innovative and world-leading, meeting a number of records on several fronts. It is an advanced clinical research institute and teaching facility, and as a hospital provides highly-specialist care for the most severely ill and injured patients in Stockholm. Its environmental credentials are equally impressive – with 99.7% of energy from renewable sources with low CO2 emissions, its environmental impact is halved, earning it LEED Gold and Miljöbyggnad Guld standard environmental certification – the first hospital to meet both Swedish and international standards. For this project, the collaborative White Tengbom Team (WTT) was formed in 2010. In conjunction with Nyréns Arkitektkontor, responsible for the interior architecture of the project, this, as Sweden’s largest BIM project to date has seen a great number of specialists coordinating to complete the 333,000 sq m building, providing as many as 730 patient care rooms and 35 operating theatres.

Research into the impact of daylight, materials, scenery and space on patient wellbeing led a thorough and innovative design process. Credit: Fredrik Sweger

Following the architects’ slogan of ‘patient first’, the traditional structure of a hospital has been subverted; instead of patients moving to different departments the specialists come to them. Supplies are delivered to the bedside by pneumatic tubes and remote-controlled robot carts which have their own dedicated elevators. Beyond these efficiencies, to boost recovery and improve the patient experience, the generous 20 sq ft rooms are equipped with their own ensuite bathrooms, and an additional guest bed to accommodate friends and family’s overnight visits. To meet future challenges of health care – as they hope New Karolinska Solna will last for around 100 years – Stockholm County Council is making one of its biggest investments ever, and overall it is a coalition of public-private funding for the New Karolinska Solna that has enabled its state of the art facilities. A decade of research into the impact of daylight, materials, scenery and space on patient wellbeing has led a thorough and innovative design project that creates this hugely impressive care, learning, and working environment. (The delivery of this in comparison to recent UK projects, for example, the collapse of Carillion halting work on the Midland Metropolitan Hospital and the New Royal Liverpool Hospital to great public detriment, couldn’t be more stark.)

The site is also home to a teaching facility. Credit: Fredrik Sweger

The new 12 storey biomedical facility replaces the existing Karolinska University Hospital on the Solna site. Situated in the new town square, Hagaplan, the facility is a focal point for the new district of Hagastaden that unites Solna and Stockholm. Development surrounding the hospital will create 50,000 jobs (6,000 of these at NKS) and around 5,000 new homes. The hospital has been integrated into the city, with its own dedicated station on the metro network making it easily accessible for patients and visitors. From inside the hospital looking out, patients and staff can enjoy extensive views over Stockholm, helping to maintain a connection to the wider city life from which they are temporarily removed.

Light blonde ash wood was used for the furniture. Credit: Fredrik Sweger

Natural materials are used when possible, for their natural durability. Granite is used for flooring, and light blonde ash wood for wall panelling and furniture, while white concrete elements amplify the abundant natural daylight. The interior architects were Swedish practice Nyréns Arkitektkontor. While the design lead came from WTT’s brief, Nyréns’ task was to create a fitting and cohesive design language for this large and varied space – a challenge when faced with the wall and floor palette consisting of 68 colours, which was being used to differentiate the different zones that make up the hospital. Across hospital, learning, dining and office environments, Nyréns’ work required 20,500 different pieces of furniture – the scale of the project unusually large for the practice with a team ranging from 2 - 9 people.

Nurses, unions, education experts, ergonomics specialists, and cleaning representatives were all consulted on the interior layout. Credit: Fredrik Sweger

Nyréns consulted many different groups for the project, and team members Eva Nyberg and Ernesto Garcia led workshops with unions, nurses, educational and ergonomics experts, and hospital cleaning representatives. After listening to all these, Nyréns took a hands-on approach, customising almost all furniture or developing bespoke pieces. All fabrics had to meet strict standards: hygiene was the first priority, as furniture would need to withstand cleaning using 45-70% alcohol solutions); but secondly, the high environmental standards of the overall scheme.

The building comes with 730 patient care rooms. Credit: Fredrik Sweger

A measure of the project’s success is reflected by the feedback that Nyréns received, where some respondents said it felt like a hotel rather than a hospital. Hospitals accommodate a number of a population at any one time, and so should take on the values and standards of the wider society. On first encounter with New Karolinska Solna, the entrance is welcoming and open, with bespoke seating and prominent pieces of public art, including The Quarry, by Andreas Eriksson. As the largest investment in public art in Sweden, this, say the architects, shows the importance of NKS to Stockholm.


Key Suppliers:

Carpentry for entrance seating
AB Vikingstad Möbel och Snickerifabrik
The Quarry, 2017, by Andreas Eriksson (Stephen Friedberg Gallery)
Ehrenborg Flooring – Upofloor LifeLine / Zero

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