The Paper House

The Paper House is one of the largest spaces for exhibiting art in Sweden, with its 1,600 m² exhibition space. The upper floor, with its arched ceiling, consists of a single hall that is sixty metres long and fifteen metres wide. The arched ceiling is transparent and lets in a shadowless, diffused light. This stands in great contrast to the exhibition halls on the ground floor, which see no daylight whatsoever. The building was constructed in 2004, in just 10 weeks, as part of the first wood exhibition at the art gallery.


The name is a reference to the fact that the roof was originally covered with paper; more specifically, white liquid packaging board – the same material found in milk cartons. A full-scale outdoor test was arranged in order to evaluate different types of paper. The best liquid packaging board was found to be from Skoghalls Bruk, Stora Enso. The paper has since been replaced by corrugated plastic.


The large hall on the upper floor is facilitated by a glulam structure with glulam (glued laminated timber) from Moelven Töreboda. All of the glulam used here comes from Moelven Töreboda, the only producer of glulam arches in Sweden. The roof of Stockholm Central Station is also held up by glulam arches from Töreboda. Glulam is the strongest available structural material in relation to its weight. It is also significantly more fire resistant than steel.


The art museum has no wealthy owner, so everything is solved in the simplest way possible. The majority of wood has been obtained from sawmills in Småland. Companies primarily from the region have also donated construction materials, beams, joist hangers, glass, doors, windows etc. And the hard work involved in nailing, carrying and lifting was borne by many a Virserum resident, without whom this could never have become a reality.


Behind the building is former art museum manager Henrik Teleman and the current manager Annika Eriksson, who was also did the first drawings. The structure was designed by Tore Falkenhaug, who has worked his entire life with wooden buildings and glulam. For Tore, the challenge was to find a construction process that allowed for quick building. The results of the vote were to work with a prefabricated glulam structure, a prefabricated intermediate floor and prefabricated concrete foundation. The close proximity to the Virserum River and relatively high level of groundwater were both factors which influenced the structure. It was also necessary to avoid a high degree of moment on the concrete foundation. This led to a framework construction in which the beams function as a tension band which limit the moment from the overlying structure to the plinths. It is a simple building. Everything is visible. It is the exhibitions themselves, which fill the entire building, that do the talking.