London. Fredrik Hellberg CFVH
Architectural Association School of Architecture. 2008
Carl Fredrik Valdemar Hellberg
The Althing Hotel is my third year project at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London under the tutorship of Peter W Ferretto and Stefano Rabolli Pansera of Intermediate 5 2008.
The Althing Hotel is a project about a new and dynamic
relationship between people and architecture. It is about an architecture that
responds to the behaviour and operation of human activity.
It is more a psychological machine than an hotel. Where all architectural elements are actors in a play, that its guests also take part in. This play has no script, instead it is improvised by both the architecture and the people.
Conventional architecture has very few moments of intervention where
the ever changing performance of people has a practical influence on the
building that they inhabit. I see this kind of architecture as enacting physical
boundaries for the human imagination on which our civilisation and culture is
built. - I promote an architecture that responds to the changes that it
produces rather than restricts it. If our architectural environments could take
action and change in congruence with human needs and desires without the need
of demolition and reconstruction, we would find ourselves in a more productive, stimulating,
inspiring and exiting situation. The most dynamic thing about architecture is
always the people occupying it. Architecture should be created to be more like
people and encourage their ever evolving condition and change with the human
activity on a time scale that corresponds with the perception of the
CARL FREDRIK VALDEMAR HELLBERG 2008-04-17
It all stated very simply with the creation of
one single A1 landscape composite image on glossy paper of an atmospheric hotel
situation. The image I produced and its narrative describes a silent moment in
a highly familiar space that at second glance shows a surreal conflict: The
private world of the hotel room coexisting in the same space as a public lobby.
By this simple and subtle operation the image manages to evoke questions and
conflicts in the viewer’s imagination. It is not the physical nature of the
space that does this but the cultural. Sleeping is for us an extremely private
activity that is done in solitude or with people we have great trust in, that
this why this combination of programs is provoking. What I wanted to describe
with this image was a theatrical space that have the possibility to create
these kind of spatial situations over and over. A vast labyrinth of spatial
events that’s only purpose is to create prolific spatial sensations.
This is the way I described the image in a
Without warning it came and captured you,
surrounded you unfolding a scenario that took you on a journey completely
incompatible with any kind of preparations, leaving you breathless in a
peaceful cloud of ecstasy.
There had been only four hours and still
everything seemed to have faded back to normal, or rather as normal as it would
The flipping of a newspaper occasionally broke the
silence that now filled the room.
Time appeared to have stopped, leaving the space
to dry, like a canvas heavy and wet of paint now observed by the artist.
I feel strangely off track, but still somehow
tremendously alive. Yet this creation belonged to everyone in the hotel. I am
as much a part of it as anyone else. The unification of strangers in dance and
To give birth trough your own skull, live to tell
about it, and to be grateful for it, yet this portrayal means nothing,
If you could hear the music I hear, you would not
bother with what I have written.
In order to illustrate the conceptual intention
of this hotel situation in more detail a short film was made in the format of a
movie trailer. Here I was able to further clarify my interests in controlled
spatial situations that stimulate imagination and thought by theatrical
The trailer tells the story
of a man’s thrilling experience when entering the Althing Hotel. The hotel is at first empty and worryingly quiet
as the man is greeted by a woman who seems to be working there. They have a
short conversation before she asks him to follow her. As they walk trough
generic hotel corridors and staircases the man gets increasingly nervous and
starts asking questions as she guides him trough yet another corridor.
- Has it started yet? Or... will
I know when it starts
- Shouldn’t I be carrying that
Eventually the situation gets very tense as she
guides him into a dark and ominous corridor where she seems to disappear into
darkness. He screams.
In the same moment a door falls of the wall on to
the floor of the corridor, he throws himself backwards of the shock. As he gets
back on his feet we hear loud music coming from the newly reviled room in the
end of the corridor. He breaths heavily because of the shock but eventually
manages to make it tough the mysterious door only to get a yet greater shock
from the world inside. He is faced by a huge crowd applauding his entry and he
is somehow turned into a fictional character in this surreal and unpredictable
This short film was for me a
way to describe my interest of using space and architecture as both a
psychoanalytical and “psycho productive” tools. The man in the film is exposed
to extreme experiences but he also came by his own free will and with the
awareness of the possible consequences of the experience. But he can never
predict what is to come next or how he will react to it. This notion of secrecy
and surprise is one of the main elements in the experience of The Althing Hotel
as the perceivers mind will be open and unprepared for the experience. This
means that normal ways of predicting your immediate future by means of cultural
and spatial memory cannot be implicated as the rules derived from that memory
does not match the performing environment you are in, again using architecture
as a medium for creating a stimulating altered state of consciousness.
The following images are a few scenarios in which the bed and lamp in the middle of the space is the only thing that does not move. The photographs illustrates the vast possibilities with this model, but most of all with The Althing Hotel itself.
Site model in 1:1000 showing the surrounding area of the former Post Office with the British Museum to the north and Centre Point Tower to the west. In this model all the blocks that make up this part of the city are movable in order to test the concept of the project on an urban scale.
The floor elements on which the furniture stands are moved in the Hotel by these wagons. There are 45 of them in the Althing Hotel and they are a one time investment as the floors and furniture is constantly changed while the wagon itself and its universal system stay the same.
I have designed the wagon primarily by
using existing technology. This exploded
drawing shows all the parts and their
In order for the system to work the wagon had to be able to perform a large number of different tasks. The main operations are shown here..
21-31 New Oxford Street is a stand- alone part 8, part 9 storey post war building formerly used for Post office sorting (sui generis use). It currently provides 29,000m2 of floorspace within a 4000m2 site bounded by New Oxford Street, Museum Street, High Holborn and Dunns Passage. The existing plot ratio is approx 7.2:1
The Althing Hotel was proposed for floor three, four and five. And touching only one exterior façade.
Split Section in Perspective showing the main entrance trough the Long staircase running from ground floor all the way to the middle of the building on the second floor where the lobby is situated. Above the lobby is the area where the elements are and also the main hotel area. Here we can also see the new fly tower where the walls, ceilings and columns gets scuffled.
The primary structure for the Post Sorting Office is a steel frame made up of I-beam and box beams in varying sizes. The Steel beams and columns are covered with a layer of concrete for fire protection. On the unit site visit we were able to see the steel under the concrete because the structure had recently gone through a structure test so the concrete had been removed at certain places in the building.
The building also has four main cores with staircases and elevators, these are situated in the four corners of the building. There are also two cylindrical elevator shafts towards the centre of the building.
Because of all the new extra load and the fact that all that load will be moving I had to but design a new supporting structure. The new truss structure operates sort of like a table with a top structure from which all the wall elements and rigging machines hang and a bottom structure that consists of the existing steel grid and the new rail matrix for the shuffling wagons that all the wagons rest on. All the load is then carried down trough new truss columns to the foundations.
1:20 model showing the steel structure and the four main steel box beams used on the second and third floor. The model is done in 1mm thick cardboard that was laser cut and fixed together with a glue gun. It also shows one of the cylindrical shafts. This model was also constructed in order to be used for creation of interior spaces later in the project.
The primary reason for building the 1:20 model was to be able to use it as a miniature version of what the Althing Hotel actually is. To represent a believable three dimensional version of what the real thing would have been like. The model can be experienced live as it is covered by black cloth with LED lighting inside, but it can also function as a stage set in which scenarios can be prepared and then photographed or filmed.
Architectural Elements asCharacters in a Play
The Althing Hotel consists of individual elements that locks on to a universal movement system. The Elements are all manufactured of site an then transported to the Hotel and put in to the system
At this stage in the project the conceptual “rubrics cube” model was interpreted quite literally as the spaces of the Althing Hotel would be pre-manufactured pods, or cubes which interiors that would all be different and also replaced over time. The walls of the cubes are seen as abstract partitions to create silhouettes in endless combinations as the cubes constantly move.
The Cube Theatre
In order to study the different spaces created by the cubes I constructed this box from which you can observe the composition of the different cubes