When Volvo was founded in 1927, passenger safety was the fledgling Swedish automaker’s raison d’être. Compared to the industry’s mythos of brash, world-changing innovation — a lineage that runs from Henry Ford to Elon Musk — it makes for a refreshingly grounded origin story. Even as the car-maker evolved into a global giant, a Scandinavian sense of understatement remained part of the brand identity. In the company’s home city of Gothenburg, the newly completed World of Volvo experience centre distills the company’s tasteful yet trailblazing character into a characteristically tactful architectural showpiece.

In Gothenburg, Henning Larsen Unveils an Automotive “Forest”

Opened to the public on April 14, the museum and event venue replaces a former industrial building with a welcoming public hub. Designed by Copenhagen-based architects Henning Larsen, the 22,000-square-metre World of Volvo is immediately distinguished by its circular, wood-clad form. Made from glulam and cross-laminated timber, the expansive structure takes inspiration from Swedish forests to create a sort of urban canopy held up by the “tree trunks” of three massive timber columns.

In Gothenburg, Henning Larsen Unveils an Automotive “Forest”

The trio of columns is paired with a sleek, glazed building envelope, amplifying the sense of openness within. From outside, the space is bathed in warm light — and rendered cozier by the exposed timber structure and indoor greenery. The relatively open interior accommodates a marquee display of Volvo designs through the brand’s 97-year history, including the tractors, boats and trucks that have formed Volvo’s diverse portfolio.

In Gothenburg, Henning Larsen Unveils an Automotive “Forest”
In Gothenburg, Henning Larsen Unveils an Automotive “Forest”

Of course, the company’s slate of current — and upcoming — electric vehicles also takes pride of place, underlining the car-maker’s commitment to more sustainable future mobility. (In 2021, Volvo announced it would transition to an all-electric portfolio by 2030).

In Gothenburg, Henning Larsen Unveils an Automotive “Forest”

While the vehicle displays are an obvious highlight, World of Volvo is designed to host a wide range of events, talks, exhibitions, conferences and activations. Able to accomodate up to 1,100 people in all, the facility also features a pair of restaurants, as well as a variety of smaller meeting rooms and informal gathering spots.

In Gothenburg, Henning Larsen Unveils an Automotive “Forest”
In Gothenburg, Henning Larsen Unveils an Automotive “Forest”

Anchored by a central open space that can be configured to suit a variety of settings, the main floor is framed by a tiered terrace of seating and circulation, making for a flexible interior — albeit one compromised by inaccessible stadium-style “bleacher stairs” as a central feature. Atop the “canopy,” a roof garden also welcomes visitors.

In Gothenburg, Henning Larsen Unveils an Automotive “Forest”

According to Henning Larsen associate design director Martin Stenberg Ringnér, the space — which can be divided into free and ticketed settings — is designed as a reflection of Volvo’s democratic values. “As a brand Volvo is rooted in a Swedish pride for producing and manufacturing quality for everyone. This is highlighted and spotlighted at World of Volvo,” says Stenberg Ringnér. But it’s a point made tactfully. In contrast to aggressively branded automotive spaces, World of Volvo is as much a civic venue as an ode to the car.

In Gothenburg, Henning Larsen Unveils an Automotive “Forest”

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