Johan Sundberg Arkitektur designs “accessible yet exceptional” housing blocks in Sweden

Swedish practice Johan Sundberg Arkitektur has completed a cluster of timber-clad housing blocks in Ystad, Sweden, with facades of folding glass screens that allow their balconies to be turned into sheltered winter gardens.

Called Hygrometern, the cluster of four blocks provides a mixture of 20 two and three-bedroom mid-budget apartments on a sloping site overlooking the Baltic Sea.

Exterior image of Hygrometern surrounded by wild plants
Hygrometern is a collection of housing blocks that were designed by Johan Sundberg Arkitektur

The project marks a change in scale for Lund-based Johan Sundberg Arkitektur, which is better known for designing luxurious villas and holiday homes, often in close collaboration with their owners.

“We are proud and happy about the acknowledgment we receive for our luxury villas. But as we believe that good spaces can change people’s lives for the better, we’re expanding our practice to multi-family housing projects,” said founder Johan Sundberg.

“[Our] take on mid-budget, multi-family housing resulted in accessible yet exceptional dwellings proving that outstanding architecture can be achieved with modest means,” he continued.

Exterior image of Hygrometern from an interior courtyard
The development is comprised of four blocks

Hygrometern is organised into two square blocks at the east of the site and two long, rectilinear blocks at its centre, with the space in between each used to create planting and shared outdoor spaces overlooked by the apartments.

Raised on a stepped concrete plinth, each two-storey block features a dedicated entrance into each apartment, with walled gardens for those on the ground floor and deeply recessed balconies for the first-floor dwellings.

Exterior image of Hygrometern and its metal staircases
The buildings are clad in wood

While the entrance to the ground-floor apartments is through their front gardens, the first-floor spaces are accessed via galvanised steel staircases at the rear, which lead to a small area of deck access with additional seating.

“The programme is spread across four distinct volumes, where the interstices form human-scaled outdoor spaces,” said the practice.

“A diverse range of sight lines, outdoor spaces and view contribute to the spatial qualities within the apartments,” it continued.

Simple floorplans organise the living, dining and kitchen area at the front of the apartments opening onto the front garden or balcony and bedrooms at the rear, minimising the need for corridors.

One elevation of each block is comprised of a folding glazed screen in front of the balconies or gardens, with the remaining elevations clad in thin, ribbed wooden panelling.

Interior image of a kitchen area at Hygrometern
Shared living spaces are organised around balconies

“The folding glazed partitions, so crucial to the appearance of the facades, came as one of the many enhancements typical to projects where the architect plays an active role during the construction phase,” said the practice.

“Initially considered as an optional element to be installed with the buyer’s wish, the partitions were unanimously accepted, allowing the recessed balconies to become sheltered winter gardens,” it continued.

Exterior image of a screened balcony at the residential housing block
Folding glazed screens line the balconies

In Hyrgometern’s minimalist interiors, residents were free to customise fittings in the kitchens and bathrooms according to a pre-selected colour palette of pale and pastel tones.

Other projects recently completed by Johan Sundberg Arkitektur include a minimalist timber barn on a historic farm in Skåne, and a timber-clad villa close to a Swedish pine forest surrounded by terraces for following the sun.

Photography is by Markus Linderoth.

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