Elding Oscarson creates CLT dome theatre inside Swedish museum extension

Architecture studio Elding Oscarson has extended the National Swedish Museum of Technology with Wisdome Stockholm, a timber building topped by a curving roof that bulges over a dome inside.

Made from 277 pieces of triangular cross-laminated timber (CLT), the spherical structure, which the designers refer to as a “visualisation dome”, contains tiered seating surrounded by 3D screens.

Timber interior of Wisdome Stockholm by Elding Oscarson
The visualisation dome at Wisdome Stockholm was made from triangular CLT panels

It sits inside an open-plan rectangular hall with a cafe, which can be used for temporary exhibitions and events.

Elding Oscarson founders Jonas Elding and Johan Oscarson told Dezeen that they developed their design for Wisdome Stockholm to showcase the possibilities of timber construction.

Timber sphere at Wisdome Stockholm by Elding Oscarson
The museum extension has a gridshell roof

“We wanted the project to show the possibilities with timber, so we aimed for making everything in timber – of course the flooring and interior, but also the exterior,” they said.

Situated on an unused courtyard outside the existing museum, the one-storey extension has low facades built to a similar height as the stable buildings across the site.

Topping the rectangular building is an asymmetrical roof that bulges and curves over the visualisation dome inside.

Gridshell timber structure
The open-plan hall around the sphere contains a cafe

“We wanted to expose the tall dome and place it completely indoors, in order to emphasise the function of the building and to make the dome the focal point of the space,” said Elding and Oscarson.

“As a result, the shape of the building became very specific, somewhat peculiar maybe, but with an exterior design communicating this building holds a very special function.”

Exterior of Wisdome Stockholm by Elding Oscarson
The asymmetric roof bulges over the dome inside

The roof was made from a timber gridshell of layers of thin laminated veneer lumber (LVL) board bonded by LVL dowels and bolts. It sits atop an LVL column structure spanning 48 by 24 metres.

“One major challenge was to find a structural concept that would be feasible for production and installation on site,” Elding and Oscarson explained.

“The solution, proposed by the engineers, was to use many thin layers of LVL and bond them together with timber dowels.”

According to Oscarson and Elding, this construction method has historically been used for long-span timber bridges but has never been used for an LVL gridshell to the size of the one at Wisdome Stockholm.

The first timber layer of the gridshell was pre-shaped and acted as a mould for the other four layers, which were fabricated as flat panels and bent into shape on site.

“This hybrid method is a novel way of constructing a timber gridshell,” said Elding and Oscarson. “It’s a beautiful piece of timber engineering which was exactly what we opted for.”

Wisdome Stockholm by Elding Oscarson
Wisdome Stockholm was clad with Nordic spruce

“We wanted the engineering to play a significant role in the design and the building to become even a pedagogic object on its own, as part of the Museum of Science and Technology,” Elding and Oscarson continued.

“Ultimately, the project is really about exploring what is possible to do in timber and to inspire everyone that has the chance to experience the space, material and structure.”

Museum extension by Elding Oscarson
Heart pine shakes cover the curving roof

Nordic spruce lines the building’s facades, and a low skirting made from heart pine helps protect against rain and snow.

The roof was covered with untreated shakes of heart pine, informed by traditional roof cladding found on historic buildings in the surrounding area.

Visualisation dome with 3D screens
3D screens cover the inside of the visualisation dome

“We really like this merge between the very elaborated structure, planned and fabricated in a completely digital process, and the very traditional roof made of 80,000 hand-nailed shakes,” Elding and Oscarson explained.

Other projects by Elding Oscarson in Sweden include a weathering steel extension to the Skissernas Museum in Lund and a home in Mölle clad in roughly sawn Douglas fir.

The photography is by Mikael Olsson.

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