Kalmar City Library

Kids get the best room in the new library
Year: 2018-2020
Area: 3 100m2
Type: Preliminary study and interior design
Builder and partners: Klövern, Ulestedts snickeri & inredningar
Photography: Felix Gerlach

When Kalmar City Library moved into the city’s new cultural quarter, the focus was on children’s love of reading and joy of discovery. This three-story former post office is now a modern, accessible library.

Kalmar City Library
The city library in the old post office from 1947, designed by architect Lars-Erik Lallerstedt.
Kalmar City Library
To the right of the main entrance, the large window lets light into the children’s studio.

At Tengbom, we are passionate about preserving old buildings – and carefully upgrading them to meet the needs and conditions of today. We had the opportunity to create the interior design for the new city library and to transform the old post office and subsequent market hall into a vibrant space for readers of all ages.

From the balcony you can look out over the family section where the story tent enthrones itself in the middle of the room.

Kalmar City Library won Kalmar Municipality’s architecture and urban design award in 2021. From the jury’s statement:

“With a careful, sustainable renovation that qualitatively adds value, this project contributes to developing a good living environment for all residents of Kalmar and serves as a meeting space. The project visually communicates care for the overall whole and in the exterior and interior details, with a balance between form, function and sustainability in order to achieve excellent architecture.”

It started with a horseshoe

The head architect of Posten, L.E. Lallerstedt, designed the post office building in Kalmar in 1947. In the original space, the counter was built into a horseshoe-shaped depression in the floor. Today, this depression, as well as the floor and shapes, serve as a starting point rather than a challenge.

“We wanted to preserve the details, and at the same time we needed to give the space a new sense of flow,” says Hanna Philipsson, architect at Tengbom. “We had the horseshoe to work with, so we went from there and we also used an octagonal pattern from the original floor and the façade.”

Custom interior decor preserves and renews

The library has three stories, and the atmosphere becomes calmer the higher you go in the building. The beautiful entryway has been preserved in its entirety.

Kalmar City Library
Rooms for older children create space for individual reading but also function as a meeting place for smaller groups.
Kalmar City Library
Place-built forms for smaller children offer play and reading.

“We’ve created a lot of custom furniture,” says Hanna. “Interior architects don’t get to design furniture very often. Here, we’ve really gotten to think about it and head to the drafting table. We’ve worked to preserve older aspects while creating new functions.”

Unlike a classic library that nearly hushes visitors through the atmosphere, the Kalmar City Library now invites play and socializing for all ages. There are swings and slides, as well as smaller seating areas for families and kids to read, get cozy and create their own little worlds. A light and transparent fairytale tent, inspired by the copper tent in Stockholm’s Haga Park, occupies the middle of the room.

Kalmar City Library
The story tent is the heart of the family section. The form interacts with Lars-Erik Lallerstedt’s design.

Open spaces and rooms within rooms

Kalmar City Library
New openings in walls create space and tie the interior together. The balcony offers a view down towards the fiction department.

Interior design ought to be felt and experienced. Naturally, there is also space for the things adults need at a library, like secluded areas with good lighting for reading and concentration – little rooms within rooms.

The horseshoe shape plays a role throughout the children’s area of the large hall. The room is lined with bookshelves in rounded shapes, with books on the outside and private seating arrangements on the inside.

The palette features blue and brown. The shade of blue on the upholstery, bookshelves and the soft carpeting marries nicely with the rich, dark-glazed ceiling in varnished wood and the light brown checked floor in the middle.

In addition to the interior design, Tengbom also carried out the feasibility study for the project. The library opened in 2021.

Kalmar city library is a q-marked building that will become part of the cultural quarter of the future.

The team behind this project

  • Agnieszka Gruszka Adamaszek Project interior architect
  • Anders Löwander Interior architect
  • Hanna Philipsson Lead architect
  • Nadia Tolstoy Lead designer
  • Ulf Löfgren Interior architect


Fredrik Genberg Office Manager Kalmar