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Designing an Apartment Building for Bike Commuters

Cykelhuset in Malmö, Sweden, is engineered to support a car-free lifestyle.

An exterior rendering of Cykelhuset. (Hauschild + Siegel)

As the car-free lifestyle grows increasingly popular, a team of architects is developing an apartment building to match it.

When Cykelhuset, or “bike house,” opens in Malmö, Sweden, this December, it will be the country’s first residential complex with no parking spaces attached to it, says Anders Gustafsson, part of the team from architecture firm Hauschild + Siegel, which designed the building. Malmö, Gustafsson adds, “is becoming more and more bike-friendly while building codes are stuck in a car-centered ideology.” The city generally mandates that around one parking spot be attached to each apartment unit; with Cykelhuset, the Hauschild + Siegel team decided “to challenge the status quo by presenting an alternative,” Gustafsson says.

Cykelhuset “started with a political intervention to challenge the city’s parking rules,” Gustafsson says. He and his colleague Cord Siegel pitched Malmö’s planning department with a proposal to funnel the money saved by forgoing parking-space construction into creating a comprehensively bike-friendly environment for residents. Swayed by the architect’s push toward building with urban sustainability in mind, the planning department gave them the green light.

The seven-story building, situated just a few minutes away from the central train station, will include a large indoor bike-parking area; the elevators, balconies, and doors will be built wider to accommodate unwieldy handlebars and wheels. A fleet of “cargo bikes” will be available for transporting small kids or groceries in large pull-along sidecars. Cykelhuset will equip each apartment with an extra-large mailbox where residents can receive oversize shipments too large to manage on a bike.

A look inside a Cykelhuset apartment. (Hauschild + Siegel)

On the first floor of the building, 34 rooms will be set aside for nightly rentals, like a motel. Each “cycle motel” apartment comes with a bike, which visitors can pick up at the nearby train station, ride to Cykelhuset, and use throughout their stay.

While the idea of the building is to do away with cars entirely—the pitch document to the Malmö planning department said “all trips in Malmö can be done by bike”—the architects have capitulated to their occasional necessity. A built-in “mobility subscription” entitles residents to rides via a local carpool service, and a few free train and bus trips per month in the case of truly dismal weather. Free yearly bike tune-ups and repairs will also be offered on site.

In addition to promoting a sustainable lifestyle, the architects designed the building to operate with a very shallow environmental footprint. Solar energy generates the building’s heat and hot water, and greenery watered by automatic irrigation systems dominates the façade, Gustafsson says. Large private planters line each balcony; a shared greenhouse collects rainwater and provides communal space for residents.

Sustainable construction in Sweden, Gustafsson says, “has largely revolved around minimizing energy usage in the construction process, and the energy spent by inhabitants while inside the building.” Cykelhuset reimagines the role an apartment building can play in shifting the lifestyle of its residents and the city around it, and it all comes down to cycling. Even the building’s windows, Gustafsson says, take their inspiration from a bike: they’re round, in homage to the wheels that the architects hope will soon be carting everyone around Malmö.

H/t Fast Company

CORRECTION: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Cykelhuset’s name.

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