In Uppsala, a city north of Stockholm, architecture duo (and brothers) Erik and Tore Ahlsén proposed a four-building municipal complex in the early 1960s. The scheme consisted of a series of five-story, bar-like buildings that formed a rectangular perimeter, with an interior courtyard left open. It was largely realized, but construction halted in 1964 when funding dried up, and the complex was left incomplete, leaving it as an open, L-shaped edifice. The unenclosed space was left to turn into a parking lot. Numerous unsuccessful redesigns were attempted, but it wasn’t until 2016—when a design team comprising Danish architecture firm Henning Larsen, Swedish engineers from Tyréns, and Danish landscape architecture practice SLA landed the commission—that adapting the town hall and enclosing the long-abandoned interior became a reality. With work wrapping up in 2021, the original vision for this government center has finally been realized after 57 years.
Henning Larsen had previously worked with Uppsala Municipality as a client on the Uppsala Concert and Congress Hall, now a major cultural center in the city. However, as the town hall would be a literal face of the municipal government, the task of communicating this through the facade held a high degree of importance. The city’s offices had been spread across a number of buildings across the city, and the town hall never lived up to its vision as a civic center.