I do go on about my Euroloaf buildings, the long low loaf-shaped apartment buildings that are a Scandinavian delight, but there are other typologies that North Americans should learn from. But it is not the only approach. There are many other good demonstrations of medium density buildings that are suitable for raising a family as well. Tham & Videgård Arkitekter have completed the Västra Kajen Housing scheme in Jönköping, Sweden, that has some interesting lessons.
One of the nicest features is the big central stair. The architects tell Archdaily:
The apartments are organized around a large vertical atrium, a top lit stairwell dignifies a grand entrance hall and provides an important interior space for visitors and tenants in which to socialize. The atrium hall also functions as a natural preheating of fresh air, thus contributing to over all energy efficiency.
Their building codes are very different; in North America one could not design a building with units opening directly into a single stairwell like this. It’s a shame, because it really does create a wonderful space, much nicer than walking out into a narrow corridor. There is also only one elevator, so in a building this size people are going to be using the stairs a lot; might as well make them beautiful.
Because the building is squarish instead of the usual long centre hall, most of the apartments (ranging from one to three bedrooms) are on corners, which provides terrific cross-ventilation. According to Designboom this also “minimizes the building envelope in line with the scheme’s low energy concept.”
The continuous balconies surrounding the building provide shade so there is probably no need for mechanical air conditioning. I am not crazy about the balcony enclosures; stand in the wrong place and you might feel like you are behind bars. But love the plan, and the stairs.