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Skyscraper Puts Twist in Sweden's Skyline

'Turning Torso' will be 54 stories, or 624 feet. Plans have been approved for a second structure that would top 1,000 feet.

August 03, 2003|Karl Ritter | Associated Press Writer

MALMOE, Sweden — With its spectacular 90-degree twist, the 54-story skyscraper taking shape in Sweden's third-largest city would turn heads in New York or Hong Kong.

In this southern city where no building tops 27 floors -- and in a part of the world where modesty bordering on self-deprecation is considered a virtue -- the high-rise dubbed the Turning Torso is even more startling.

"We're placing Malmoe on the world map," said Ingvar Nohlin, spokesman for the HSB housing cooperative that's putting up the building.

A creation of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the 624-foot high-rise will tower over every structure built by human hand in the Nordic region, except the pylon legs supporting the Oresund bridge that links Malmoe to the Danish capital, Copenhagen, across the narrow Oresund strait.

But the building's towering record, once it's completed, may not last long.

Near the foot of the Oresund bridge, city officials have approved plans for a 1,066-foot-tall hotel that would surpass the Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt, Germany, as Europe's tallest skyscraper.

Although the Norwegian developer still hasn't committed to financing the project, officials in this city of 260,000 people are optimistic that the proposed Scandinavian Tower will also come to be.

They're hoping that Malmoe's new skyline will attract international attention -- and investment money to a region that hasn't seen the growth it expected after the opening of the 9-mile-long Oresund bridge and tunnel in 2000.

"Say what you want about it, but tall buildings have strong symbolic value and potency," said Klas Tham, an architect and consultant to the city government.

At the Turning Torso site, Tham had suggested a more modest student housing complex to symbolize Malmoe's transformation from a grimy industrial port to a center of knowledge and high technology.

But city officials settled on the twisting skyscraper as the centerpiece of a new residential neighborhood that has sprung up in an abandoned section along the docks.

Nine floors have been built, and the tower is set for completion at the end of 2005.

Johnny Oerbaeck, HSB managing director, chose the name Turning Torso for the high-rise, which is modeled after a sculpture by the building's architect called "Twisting Torso." Calatrava's previous works include a winged addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum and an eye-shaped planetarium in Valencia, Spain.

Once completed, Turning Torso will consist of nine stacked cubes, each turned slightly, giving the building its eye-grabbing twist. The bottom three cubes will be used for offices and the top six will contain 150 luxury apartments. Residents will have a dazzling view over the flat farmland of Skaane, Sweden's southernmost province, or across the strait to Denmark.

Many people in Malmoe have welcomed the addition to their skyline, but skeptics question whether $580,000 apartments can find buyers.

Mikael Bergstrand, a reporter for the Malmoe newspaper Sydsvenska Dagbladet, argues that city officials should focus on the city's housing shortage.

"I would rather see that they, at least parallel to this, built something for average people and for the homeless," he said.

Tenant associations say at least 25,000 new apartments will be needed over the next 10 years to accommodate new residents.

Across the strait, Copenhagen's 1.8 million residents are concentrating on their own projects, including the opening this year of another stage of the new subway and creation of the Orestad business district, which eventually will have dozens of office buildings, a huge shopping mall and a university campus.

Malmoe and Copenhagen haven't bonded the way designers of the Oresund bridge had hoped. Integration across the strait has stumbled on national differences in laws, taxes and customs. Danes still dismiss Skaane, which they ceded to Sweden in 1658, as "the beginning of eastern Europe."

"Skaane needs Copenhagen more than Copenhagen needs Skaane," said Keld Broksoe, a Danish journalist who covers developments across the strait. "But these new buildings will make it more obvious to Copenhagen that we're getting competition in the Oresund region."

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