Mirror of Ages

Mirror of Ages

Åhlens department store renovation

In Uppsala in Sweden Tham & Videgård want to face a department store from the 1950s with an elegantly curved glass front.

Modern Temple of Consumerism

During the 1950s and 1960s all across Europe, large modern department stores were planted into grown downtown structures as urban meteorites. For decades, with their large range of goods, these gigantic temples of consumerism were considered symbols of modern times and progress and important visitor attractions for the downtown areas. However, meanwhile the sheen of those days has long since gone, most department stores are facing large turnover decreases, many are vacant already.

Jumping into the Presence

Similar problems are also known to the Åhléns department store department store in the small Swedish town of Uppsala, about 50 kilometers north of Stockholm. The ashlar-shaped four-story building was erected in 1961 against the will of most locals, replacing a pompous baroque building from the 17th century; the ornamental grid of the transparent concrete curtain displays the typical characteristics of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Despite those initial problems, the department store has become a part of Uppsala’s townscape during the past decades. But now, after 50 years in operation, it’s planned to be renovated and modernized. The job of planning and developing was given to Tham & Videgård from Stockholm in 2010. As a response to the central location at the Stora Torget square in Uppsala downtown, the architects have suggested to remove the building’s core and open it through additional entrances. In order to achieve a completely new appearance, the edgy concrete esthetics from Swedish post-war modernism is supposed to be replaced by a shell of mirror glass, with elegantly rounded edges.

Mirror Façade of Glass

People passing by as well as the customers are probably going to benefit from the large-scale face lifting. Since the reflecting shell does not only let the old-school department store shine in new glory, it also upgrades its surroundings. The round shape of the glass curtain creates totally new perspectives and allows for a completely new interpretation of the square. Just as if Tham & Videgård placed an over-sized mirror at the heart of town, a mirror reflecting the town’s history as a sometimes distorted image. Depending on the perspective and the weather conditions, the reflections will overlap the outlines of the buildings behind it.

The new façade will also allow totally new views of the interior. While standing on the escalator, customers will be able to look through the glass shell onto the central square and the opposite buildings. However, the locals have to be patient, since constructions works are scheduled to start in spring 2012. So, plenty of time to say good-bye to the old concrete curtain.

Project details


Tham & Videgård, Stockholm, Sweden


Completion: scheduled for 2012


Åhlens AB, Stockholm, Sweden


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admin's picture
admin 17. September 2011 - 17:59

This kind of approach always makes me sceptic. I don´t know if this effect, the false cloning, the false contrast between new and old, duplicating the pre existing, it´s a way to go.

admin's picture
admin 17. September 2011 - 20:00

super great Ideea!!! Gongrats!

admin's picture
admin 18. September 2011 - 15:27

Transparent Camouflage.

admin's picture
admin 19. September 2011 - 15:49

Would love to see an urban complex of phantom buildings reflecting one another. In concept only.

pepdealc's picture
pepdealc 27. January 2014 - 9:46

Im obliged for the blog article.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

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