Aug 05 2013

Turning Torso Tragicomedy

Malmö’s most famous landmark is a spectacular Santiago Calatrava-designed residential tower called the Turning Torso. Situated in the city’s Western Harbor district, it’s the tallest building in Scandinavia (54 stories) and offers spectacular views of the Swedish and Danish coasts, as well as the Öresund Bridge that connects Malmö to Copenhagen.

Turning Torso from the west.

Turning Torso from the west. (Photo credit: ShazzerSnaps)

Construction started the summer before I moved here, but it took four years to build and I passed the site on my bike ride to and from school and/or Malmö’s Central train station every weekday, so I watched it go up. But for reasons that mystify me to this day, when it opened in 2005 it did not include a publicly accessible observation deck. WTF? The only way to see the view is to live there or attend a meeting in the conference center on the top floor.

I understand that it’s a private residential building, but virtually every person who’s ever visited us from out-of-town (or out-of-the-country) has asked if  it’s possible to go inside, so there’s certainly a demand … or even an expectation … that John and Jane Q. Public have a chance to enjoy the view. HSB (the company that owns the building) could clearly do a really good business, as well as create a whole lot of community goodwill, by opening the conference rooms up to the public on weekends for a reasonable entry fee.

But they don’t, which is why we were so excited when my friend Matilda (AKA Mrs. Coach Hard-@$$) told us that there would be opportunities to tour the Torso during the week Malmö hosted the Eurovision Song Contest last May. Her and Sophie’s apartment is literally in the shadow of the building and they had never been inside it either. But much to our disappointment, the tours were shut down after just one day because … in an oversight that I hope got the event planner fired … HSB failed to inform the residents they were happening. Sheesh.

So naturally I was really jazzed when I walked past a sign outside it ia month later that listed a half-dozen dates it would be open for tours during the summer, which had to be pre-booked and cost 195 SEK per person. I snapped a picture of the sign and sent it to Matilda, who was equally glad for a 2nd chance to get up to the top of the tower. We quickly started plotting to scale (by high-speed elevator) the famous Turning Torso together. But unfortunately, none of the limited number dates worked for all four of us, so the Sonic Youth* (we decided they needed a “couple name” because “Sophie & Matilda” just takes too long to say/write) toured it the last weekend of June while I booked Dr. Darling and myself for the 1 p.m. tour on August 3, the last day they were being offered.

Looking toward Limhamn

Looking toward Limhamn (Photo credit: ShazzerSnaps)

I was required to provide a mobile phone number when I made the reservation, which I took to mean that I would receive some kind of confirmation by SMS in advance of the tour date. But I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought until a few weeks later when we got word that our niece’s July 28th birthday would be celebrated with a party on August 3. I already had a commitment that evening (in addition to the afternoon Torso tour) so I couldn’t go regardless, but it meant Dr. Darling would need to jump on a train for Halmstad immediately after we finished.

With this added wrinkle in our schedule, and as yet no SMS  from HSB, I decided I’d better call to confirm the day before, and that’s when I learned they had us booked at 3 p.m. instead of 1 p.m. When I pointed out that this was an error on their part, and that the 3 p.m. tour was a problem for us because of the Swede’s need to be in Halmstad, they said both tours are over-booked so it was not possible to move us to 1 p.m. CRAP.

Consequently, we’re both somewhat pissed off before we even got there … especially since the sun was shining at 1 p.m. and the sky was completely overcast by the time our tour started at 3. The view still delivered, however. It was amazing to be able to look out over the city and the sea from that height. But we only got to gawk and gaze for about 15 minutes before they hustled the group into seats and AND CLOSED THE CURTAINS for a Powerpoint/video presentation that, although it had a few interesting moments, seemed to focus primarily on fire safety regulations and window-washing procedures.

It was also very clear from the numerous empty seats that the tour was NOT, in fact, over-booked, leading us to wonder if perhaps we could have attended the 1 p.m. session if I’d forced the issue. But even more maddening was the three-year-old sitting a couple of seats away from me who, despite having a tablet computer to play with, did not stop chattering loudly throughout the entire presentation. I needed every ounce of concentration I could muster in order to comprehend the Swedish, and this kid was clearly old enough to understand the meaning of “use your inside voice’, but none of the adults with him felt the need to remind him of that. 

From the top of the Turning Torso!

From the top of the Turning Torso! (Photo credit: ShazzerSnaps)

Once the presentation was over, we were permitted to wander though all of the conference rooms on the top floor and take photos at our leisure, though we felt a bit squeezed for time since we had to get Dr. Darling to Malmö C to catch the train to Halmstad. We walked away from the building glad to have seen the view but also lamenting how much better the experience would have been at 1 p.m. under sunny skies and minus the chattering child.

But the real salt got rubbed in the wound a few days later when, while cycling past the building on the way to a friend’s place on the Sundspromenad, we saw a sign advertising another tour on being offered on the 8th. Which begs the question: Why did the HSB employee I talked to on Friday, knowing that they had screwed up our original 1 p.m. reservation AND that the 3 p.m. tour was a hardship for us, not mention that we could re-book on the 8th? I can only surmise that the event planner who neglected to inform the residents of the plan to offer tours during Eurovision was also responsible for training the reservation staff.

*Sonic Youth was an America alternative rock band that dissolved in 2011 and I have no idea if Sophie or Matilda has ever heard of it. But the name is the perfect couple moniker for the two of them: “Sonic” for Sophie’s speed as a long-distance runner and “Youth” for Matilda’s constant need to remind herself that I’m a year older than her mother. 


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  1. Pat Tibbs

    Makes me wonder what sort of building management the residents get. Are they rental units? Or condos?

  2. Shazzer

    Yes, there are rental units, Pat … even some small student apartments (the idea was to have a mix of different types of residents). The building was actually supposed to be several stories higher but they dialed it back because they did not sell as many units as they anticipated.

Feed my ego!

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