The Incredible Hyllie Plaza is Lit by a Digital Sky
Hyllie Plaza, by Thorbjörn Andersson with Sweco architects, Malmo, Sweden
Hyllie is situated on the outskirts of Sweden’s third-largest city, Malmö. Because of the new bridge linking it with Copenhagen, some say Malmo is also the second-largest town in Denmark. In recent years, Malmö has taken advantage of the new connection with Denmark’s capital and has started to develop the infrastructure even further.
Hyllie Plaza, a city square developed along the new expanded infrastructure, is designed as a minimalist urban beech forest. But how can this emblematic tree thrive in a concrete plaza? No fewer than 28 trees have been planted in 12 slits cut into granite and concrete.
First of all, what the designer aimed to create through this project was identity. In Skåne — Sweden’s southernmost province, of which Malmö is the capital — the beech (scientific name, Fagus) is an emblematic tree. But the real challenges come from the aesthetic and ecological requirements that can’t be met in an artificial context.
A Planting Bed of Stones, Soil and Mulch to Support the Trees
To provide the best conditions for the sensitive beech trees to thrive in an artificial environment, a gigantic planting bed has been designed under the square. The planting bed contains different layers of mulch, stones, and a mix of pumice and mycorrhiza soil. The mix of soil is characterized by a great capacity to retain water, because the pumice is a petrified lava ash and mycorrhiza is a mushroom that helps the trees absorb nutrients.
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The planting bed is covered by what every visitor can see — a pedestrian granite floor measuring 12,000 square meters. To achieve the best results, the trees for this project were imported from Germany, the lava stone was brought in from Iceland, and elements from the water decoration were designed and created in Norway.
A Sky Full of Stars to Illuminate in Seven Scenarios
The design of the plaza has a couple of remarkable elements, including the granite field in which the designers created 12 parallel slits for planting the beech trees. Above all, a lighting installation creates the impression of a sky full of stars above the forest.
The installation hangs 16 meters above the pedestrian plaza. No fewer than 2,800 LED diodes are scattered over 1,800 meters of steel wires. The LED installation is programmed to create seven different lightning scenarios in order to adapt to a specific season and weather.
Blue Dot Technology
It’s not only the planting bed that is an engineering masterpiece. The beech forest itself was carefully selected from a nursery in Berlin and transported to Malmö with their root balls frozen. Before being removed from the nursery, each tree was marked with a blue dot to record the orientation of the tree. This information is essential in their process of adaptation in the new urban site.
Furthermore, to check the transport of liquids in its cells, each beech tree was equipped with a sensor mounted under the bark. The success of this project can be counted in the way the trees have adapted to the new site. The beech trees have developed better than anyone could have expected. This is the reason why the best experts in Sweden now refer to Hyllie Plaza as “the bumblebee that can fly”.
Hyllie Plaza is a lesson to be learned in the field of ecology, engineering, and landscape, a project that reaches the highest standards in urban design and regeneration.
Full Project Credits:
Project: Hyllie Plaza
Designer: Thorbjörn Andersson with Sweco architects
Design Team: Johan Krikström, Marianne Randers, PeGe Hillinge
Soil design: Örjan Ståhl
Plant expert: Rune Bengtsson
Consultant lighting design: Niklas Ödmann, Black light design.
Location: Malmo, Sweden
Area: 14,000 square meters
Cost: 10 million Euros (10. 82 million American dollars)
Client: City of Malmö
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