Playfulness, variation and innovation in a pointy yellow frame

Östra Sala Backe is one of Uppsala's new neighbourhood districts. On behalf of ByggVesta, Utopia have designed two apartment buildings with a total of 139 rental units for phase 2 of this urban development project. The Yellow House or The Harlequin House, as it has come to be called during the design phase, is like an exclamation mark in one corner of the development. The design is a consequence of rhythm, a repetition of proportions, taken from our neighbouring white building. Together the two apartment buildings form a playful and urban long side to the street. Front gardens facing the street create a smooth transition from the public road to the private apartments. Here, people can pause and socialise. The gardens are designed in collaboration with landscape architects Urbio and are south-facing. They are lush oases that open up for encounters and socialising.

Municipality Uppsala
Location Östra sala backe
Client Bygg Vesta
Type Bostäder
Year 2016

Uppsala's vision - playfulness, innovation and rationality

Our proposal will be a part of many new residential projects to be built in the area between Sala Backe and Årsta.

Östra Sala Backe is a crucial piece in the puzzle of developing Uppsala's eastern parts. It will contribute something new to Uppsala with regards to content, function and form. According to local design requirements, the architecture must be characterised by rich variation, high quality, playfulness and innovation in terms of buildings, gardens and public spaces, all of which we have applied in our design of the buildings Östra Sala Backe (ÖSB) 2A and 2B.

Behind the playful facades is a rational, cost efficient construction system – a requirement to stay within budget.

The White House

The white house as seen from the yard.

This house is broken up into smaller individual, yet connected buildings that vary in plan and elevation. These varied volumes make a shifting roofscape with different angles and inclines, creating a rhythm and shadowplay along the building's facades. Lift shafts and installations are built into the roofs that are clad in light grey sheet metal. The concept can be described as a vertical division of the buildings, like several smaller urban townhouses. The different characters of the sub-facades are enhanced by different window installations, facade treatments, colours and materials. The result is an organic structure that resembles a medieval town.

The facades
The facades are mainly of white, rendering in different structures. Metal window frames are marked by a warm colour. To clarify the entrances that face the street, they are framed in white with a warm colour inside. The frames also surround some of the windows along the street facade. To give the project both matte and reflective surfaces, some facades are clad in white ceramic tiles. The corner of Fyrislundsgatan (the south-facing crossroad) will have a green wall of plants on a metal wire structure.

The balconies
With their different dimensions and placements, the balconies have a playful and varied expression. The balcony sides are clad in a reflective material. The inside facade opens up to the gardens and the communal footpath that runs through. The facades along Fyrislundsgatan have bays that, like the balconies on the garden side, create a varied front.

The entrances
The stairways and entrances are marked by different colours and materials. An entrance must be easy to find, safe to use, and it must provide opportunity to pause and mingle with neighbours. All entrances have open-ended stairways to the gardens and are bright and spacious. The ground floor apartments facing the garden have clearly marked patio areas. These provide a transition from the public footpath and garden to the private homes.

Residual surfaces
Residual surfaces that form on the land along the facade indentations are designed according to a special landscaping programme. These plots create opportunities for outdoor cafes, patios, gardens and furniture.

The Yellow House

The harlequin pattern is evident in gable ends, protruding entrances and diagonal downspouts.

The yellow building is like an exclamation mark in one corner of phase 2 at Östra Sala Backe. The design is a consequence of rhythm, a repetition of proportions, taken from our White Building ÖSB2A. As clear as the rhythm of the jumping volumes is in ÖSB2A, so too is the rhythm of the gable ends that shoot up and fold over the corner of the Yellow building. The harlequin pattern is evident in gable ends, protruding entrances and diagonal downspouts. The rhythm is our scale, the human scale, with the corner and entire public street level along Grönagatan having benches and planters, flowers and climbers, spaces for cafes, a cycle pool, restaurant and garage. The rhythm and gable ends repeat on the courtyard side where long balconies span the length of the building towards the open garden and the sun. Windows and entrances are cavities in the wall and all windows on a level are like notes on a stave.

The entire building has a rendered facade. Rough render on the large facade surface and fine grained in places seen up close like entrances, porticos, and the garden side with patios and balconies. The render on the garden side is light blue, while on the side facing the street and park is lion. The seamed metal roof, gutters and downspouts have the silver colour of the metal, as do forgings and handrails. The balcony fronts are clad with mesh. Windows and doors are yellow where the render is yellow and silvery grey where it is light blue. Scandent plants climb up the yellow render and balcony mesh.


Östra Sala Backe is an area for people from all walks of life. Our broken-up structure with varied building modules allows us to combine different types of housing and business spaces directly adjacent to one another, which guarantees a more socially interesting environment. Our buildings have apartments ranging from studios to 3-bedrooms, with the majority being 1 to 2-bedrooms. The yellow building has a total of 59 rental units and the white building has approximately the same.

The apartments have social zones with open kitchens and living rooms that face the vibrant street, and a more private part with bedrooms and baths towards the quiet lush gardens. Most units span the width of the building and have a balcony or private patio. All units have access to private loft storage. All stairways connect through from the street to the garden, from garage to lofts, and are bright and spacious.

Lush gardens

The yard will have a barbeque area, cultivation plots, a playground and a cycle sharing pool surrounded by greenery.

The gardens feature generous balconies and patios in a sunny southerly aspect. The yard will have a barbeque area, cultivation plots, a playground and a cycle sharing pool surrounded by greenery.

Car parking and bicycle garage

Underneath ÖSB 2A and 2B is a partially public parking garage for 102 cars.

ByggVesta will have a number of bicycles (cargo bikes) on loan to residents. We are also building excellent and easily accessible cycle rooms with capacity for DIY repair. To further encourage and facilitate cycling in the area, we want to explore the possibility of hiring an on-site cycle repairman/shop. These efforts, along with well-planned cycle paths, will make it easier for residents to choose the bicycle over the car for both short and long distances.

Green contracts

Living a sustainable life is first and foremost about awareness and encouragement, but also about technical and practical solutions. ByggVesta have high environmental goals and ask that their tenants share these. They therefore sign green contracts with their tenants that they follow up on a regular basis. The purpose of the contracts is for us as landlord to offer the best possible solutions for the tenant to make the right environmental choices through the way we design and equip the apartments and buildings.