The Cultural House in Vennesla on Norway’s south coast combines a library, a café and public meeting spaces with an existing cinema and adult educational facility. Our main goal was to create a sustainable public building, both environmentally and socially, for building visitors and employees alike. We worked closely with user-groups throughout the design process to create a building that would meet their needs now and into the future.
The role of the contemporary library is changing – while it is essential that one can find quiet for study and reading, more and more people use the library as a place for meeting. Located adjacent to the town square, we strove to create an inviting, universally accessible public space - a continuation of the life outside. The glassy street façade opens into the existing cinema foyer, incorporating seating for passers-by.
The building’s primary construction integrates technical infrastructure and programmatic elements into 27 prefabricated glulam ribs. Each rib combines structure with ventilation, lighting and furniture. Together, these ribs form the identity of the building, both inside and out, through their articulation the geometry of the roof and the shifting form of the interior, which is visible from the city square.
In terms of environmental sustainability, it was important to reduce the energy consumption both for the new building as well as the two existing buildings. The new construction conforms to low energy standards (energy class A), and the three buildings share a central geothermal heat pump. Ventilation (combining natural and mechanical systems) uses a displacement system - supply air is released through a rib “add-on” at ground level, returning through the ribs at the ceiling. Daylight is maximised, illuminating workspaces through glazing integrated into the ribs and along the perimeter walls.
Timber from renewable sources has been used extensively. Slabs, walls, the elevator shaft and parts of the roof are constructed from prefabricated massive timber elements. Acoustic ceilings have been achieved using timber, while all floors (in both public and service spaces) are oak parquetry, and all fixed interior fittings are plywood veneered birch. The outer façade is made of untreated heartwood pine, while the vertical sun screening is glulam timber.
The rigorous synergy between construction, infrastructure and furniture in one repeated element has created a unique public building for the people of Vennesla.