Hybrids and Precedents: H2 and the Transformation of New Realities at Hyllie

Published 11 februari, 2021

Per-Johan Dahl

Architect, Researcher and Associate Professor at Lund University

Combing social, living and working activities within an architectural form is the basis for the hybrid concept, but how well suited is it to our 21st-century cities? Architect and researcher, Per-Johan Dahl, shares his experiences from the H2 project, which links together design, research and real estate development.

Freedom of invention is a particular potential of hybrid buildings. Unprecedented ideas may drive the design of new building types.

Steven Holl

Between living and working: the hybrid concept

At an on-line workshop with Boverket on 17 November 2020, the term hybrid was frequently raised. Organized in the midst of a second COVID wave, and around aspects of health in architecture, several participants at the workshop emphasized the hybrid concept as a composite condition feasible to support various entities in wellbeing and care, such as smooth transitions between different assisted living facilities and gradients of solitude in communal nursing space. As most participants attended the professional workshop from their provisionally converted homes, the Skype managed workshop demonstrated that the perspectives in hybrid, which, for example, enable seamless transition between live and work, support the transformation of new realities from COVID. Yet is also pointed to the challenges in utilizing the hybrid building type to conceive the new perspectives on urban life and culture that will flourish in the post-COVID city. While the hybrid concept facilitated the spatial blend of live and work, which was necessary to host the on-line workshop, the development of hybrid buildings in Sweden continued to be obstructed by planning praxis, which is enforced by municipal interpretations of the codes and regulations enacted by Boverket itself.

From concept to use: a critical approach

The hybrid building type evolved during the first half of the twentieth century, as a critique on the urban planning praxis formally known as zoning. When the concept of separated functions proved to be both socially and economically problematic, the idea to concentrate “many social activities within an architectural form [that] distend and warp a pure building type” sprouted in cities with high land values and cosmopolitan urban cultures, such as New York and Tokyo (Fenton 1984). Hence the hybrid, which is a building type that celebrates “complexity, diversity and variety of programmes […] the crucible for a mixture of different interdependent activities” (Mozas 2014). While the twenty-first century experienced rampant interest in the mixed-use city, the urban planning praxis of separated functions continued, however, to linger architectural and urban design practices in Sweden and elsewhere – a paradox that signifies also the 2020s. Building and planning codes tend to hamper new intersections between forms and programs, which continues to propel mono-functional developments for live and work. The outcome of this paradox is a functionally tailored city, where the buildings are difficult – often impossible – to convert and thus adapt to the shifting socio-economic, environmental, and political premises that always surface through societal change. To amend Swedish planning praxis, and enable hybrid development, a precedent is needed.

The H2 project as a precedent for hybrid buildings in Sweden

The H2 project aims at producing a precedent for development of hybrid buildings in Sweden. The project started 2017 as a research collaboration between the two Malmö based architecture firms FOJAB and smogstudio, and became an applied research by design project later the same year when the developer Fler bostäder i Sverige AB teamed up with the architects to realize a hybrid building in the Hyllie area of south Malmö, Sweden. Well aware of the challenges in squeezing such project through code, the decision to embark on the endeavor was both economical and ideological. On the one hand, the developer was attracted by the programmatic flexibility inherent in the hybrid building, which adds resilience to tenant turnovers and safeguards occupancy in fluctuating economies. On the other hand, the project team shared a concern for the lack of flexibility in the current building stock, which hampers adaptation of obsolete building and inhibits customization of individual living environments. Observing the current flux in development pressure, and how difficult it is to mitigate obsolete edifices, it seemed important to develop buildings where the form can support multiple programs, and where the spaces can adapt to the shifting needs of tenants. For H2, the objective was to design a hybrid building that facilitates seamless transition from office to residential programs, and to clad such configuration with a vertical and socially intricate public space.

Image by Per-Johan Dahl

The vertical space at H2 responds to the urban aspects in hybrid architecture. Linking the corner with the courtyard, it connects and augments the south and east facing volumes through a configuration of places and circulation that mimics the complexity from which the hybrid concept emerges. Contextualized in the relational aspects of corner design, which according to Peter Eisenman is a “unique architectural condition,” it negotiates the transition between urban and architecture, between community and solitude (Eisenman 2009). The vertical space has been designed through a three-dimensional configuration of circulation routs, sightlines, greenery, and place-making. Articulated as an oblique form in topology, the gaps and intricacy of the vertical space render a relational aesthetic that challenges several conventions in dichotomy, such as floor/roof, public/private, interior/exterior, building/landscape, and architecture/city.

Image by FOJAB

At the writing of this post for Urban Futures at SLU, the three actors of H2 – FOJAB, smogstudio, and Fler bostäder i Sverige AB – pursue discussions with the Malmö City Planning Office around aspects of hybrid possibilities in planning and building legislation. While the City shows great interest in the hybrid concept, its praxis needs to be revised to better support the development of interconnected architectures. Linking design, research, and real estate development, H2 demonstrates an inquiry into the fields of architecture and urbanism, where multiple criteria in discipline and practice coincide to usher innovation and change – a transformation of new realities that links the building with the city, the interior with the landscape. As an edifice of reimagining the premises of post-COVID space, H2 endures the critical perspective in urban life and construction that ultimately mobilized the concept of hybrid in urban architecture.

Per-Johan Dahl
February 2021

About the author and the feature

Per-Johan Dahl is an architect, researcher and Associate Professor at Lund University Department of Architecture and the Built Environment.
He is faculty and board member of the Research Institute for Experimental Architecture (RIEA), member of the China Room expert panel at Politecnico di Torino, and co-founder of smog studio: a research-oriented design practice committed to mediate the intersections and overlaps between architecture and urbanism. Dr Dahl’s research interests concern architecture in urbanization, with an emphasis on new modes of design thinking, the politics of urban form, and emergent building types. 


Eisenman, Peter, “There Are No Corners After Derrida.” Log no. 15 (Winter 2009): 111-119. 

Fenton, Joseph. Hybrid Buildings. Pamphlet Architecture 11. Edited by Lynnette Widder. New York: Pamphlet Architecture, 1985. 

Holl, Steven. “Hybrid Buildings.” In This is Hybrid, edited by Aurora Fernández Per et.al., 6-9. Vitoria-Gasteiza+t Architecture Publishers, 2014. 

Mozas, Javier. “This is Hybrid.” In This is Hybrid, edited by Aurora Fernández Per et.al., 12-45. Vitoria-Gasteiza+t Architecture Publishers, 2014. 


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