• Object: Turning Torso, Malmö, Sweden
  • Build: 2005
  • Architect: Santiago Calatrava

A request came regarding 147 interiors for Turning Torso in Malmö’s West Harbour, Sweden’s most spectacular building project of the decade. Immediately, Kvänum started working on the numbers.

But let’s take it from the top, or bottom if you wish. On its way up, through the sky, Turning Torso twists a quarter of a turn, 90 degrees. The tower was completed in 2005, and is today a landmark as renown as the old crane of the Kockum Shipyard in Malmö, and perhaps the only real skyscraper in the country.

The Spaniard Santiago Calatrava designed Turning Torso. Supposedly the inspiration came from a sculpture by the architect himself, Twisted Torso. A torso is often associated with the old Greek and Roman truncated sculptures, missing heads, arms and legs. Calatrava’s sculpture is reminiscent of the famous Discus Thrower, by Myron, the bronze caster in ancient Athens; it is the same twist, the same movement.

The Torso consists of 9 cubes, each with five floors. Along with the levels between the cubes, there are 54 floors altogether. The height of the tower is 190 metres, which makes it one of the tallest buildings in Europe. Cube 3 to 9 houses 147 apartments, each with a kitchen, bathroom and storage from Kvänum.

The process was delayed, and getting the contract was far from easy. A lot of people were bidding for it, Swedish as well as foreign kitchen companies. Kvänum sent a delegation of four to Malmö, armed with cupboard doors in all shapes and sizes. “We promoted our product and connected,” says Stefan. “Swedish manufacturing, premium quality and a wide assortment were our strongest points.”

The train platform in Lund on a warm September’s day; Stefan remembers exactly where he was when he learnt that Kvänum had won the contract. He was waiting for a train when they phoned from the Swedish architectural firm in charge of the décor. A couple of weeks later the deal was done.

A dialogue followed, a stage where compromise was key. “We built our kitchens in 3-D, CAD-blueprints were emailed back and forth,” says Stefan. Eventually three test kitchens were installed in the office in Malmö.

The cupboard door, which was created by the architect, was named Torso. Stefan describes the kitchen as being elegant and austere masculine 90’s retro, a plain cupboard door with wide aluminium bands, worktops and flooring in dark stone, and 40-millimetre stone gables.

Soon Kvänum could start building IRL. In Malmö the complicated construction was started, albeit with a delay. “We had to stack our kitchens for six months in the factory,” says Stefan. Stone for worktops and gables were stored in a muddy field in Malmö.

“We learnt a lot about planning and flexibility during those years,” notes Stefan. “Presence is one of the most important things, both with big and small projects; to be on site and know where cables, drains, and sockets are situated.”

Gustav the Joiner used a yardstick; today’s measuring instrument is the GPS. The stove has its own coordinates, as does the sink, fridge and freezer; exact location indications for longitude, latitude and altitude check-marked in red. It was simpler in Gustav’s day.

Turning Torso is an intricate construction. Each floor map consists of a quadratic part, close to the core, and a triangular one, which is partly captured by an external steel grid. The tower turns around its own axis. The walls stand like a twisted sail, says Stefan.

His role was more than being a project manager. Stefan Jonsson was there, on site, and fitted kitchens. “I love carpentry,” he says. “If it was up to me I would do it all the time. I won’t forget Turning Torso. It is also about the companionship. When you are away working during the weeks, you bond.

“Once we sat on the 54th floor, on top of a window lift, Bernth and me. It was a warm summer’s day with blue skies and a clear view. We looked out upon Söderslätt, the winding coastline and the sea, Skanör and Falsterbo, Copenhagen and the Isle of Ven in the strait between Sweden and Denmark. We sat there and enjoyed it, and thought ‘we will never experience this again’.”

Just like those photographs from the 1920s of the construction workers in New York, all sat in a row on a steel beam with lunch boxes, their legs dangling in the air above the streets far below.

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