Master´s Thesis 2021 Matter Space Structure

Johanna Asplund

The proposal

A P(a)lace for Birth

Image showing the speculative facade. The background is pink, the lines of the drawing are white. 

© Johanna Asplund, 2021

The facade is showcasing the essence of the building. A celebration of life and birth. The facade is flirting with its classicist neighbours but is being loud, exaggerated and provocative in its expression. 

Speculative perspective of A P(a)lace for Birth. 

© Johanna Asplund, 2021


A P(a)lace for Birth is a speculative project, celebrating birth and creating empowerment through the desires of women. By appropriating the language of the »important«, grand and spectacular, applying it on the birthplace and mixing it with secrets, intimacy and fleshiness, the monumental intimacy was created. Through monumental intimacy an alternative way for birth is suggested. 

In its presence, by being an oasis, or palace, the project highlights what a hospital birth today is not. The project raises questions about what a place for birth can be. It is not providing a solution, but should be seen as a conversation piece. 

Site plan, showcasing the location of A P(a)lace for Birth.


The site is located in one of the most central parts of Gothenburg »Inom Vallgraven«. The area is dense, reflecting Gothenburg’s development from the cities birth until present day. In-between Vallgatan/Kungsgatan there is a big plot where McDonalds and H&M earlier were located. The three houses that stood there are now being removed, or have already been, creating a gap. The surrounding buildings are from the nineteenth century. Across the street is Avalon Hotel built in 2007. Right next to the site is Kungstorget, a large square. 

On the whole, one can question the demolition of houses in such a setting. The planes are to build a new flagship store for H&M. I want to propose something quite different, an oasis for life; A P(a)lace for Birth.

The P(a)lace for Birth is located in between the real and the ideal, between home and hospital and in between buildings. The project is speculating, questioning and making resistance by existing. It is not providing answers, rather initiating a dialogue. 

Axonometry of the birth center.

A green oasis is located in the centre of the building. 

The secrets in the context of the birthplace does not mean that the birth center is concealed, or that its location is hidden. No, in the birth center secrets are used as a design method for creating empowered spaces. Aiming at shifting power structures, adding intimacy, warmth and sensuality.  

Perspective of the birth room.

The perspective is showing the open space in relation to the secret nest.

The birth rooms are large, and they all have an open and a secret space, »the nest«. In every room there is a birth pool as well as a balcony. In the survey it was important to have your family close by. So, the open part of the room is large and spacious, whilst the secret space is private, small and intimate. The rooms have open main entrances. These are combined with secret passages and escape routes.  

In this project my ambition was to challenge power structures with the help of architecture through secret spaces. The aim was to create a conversation piece trough speculative- and provocative design. A design that questions existing power structures, who gets authority and access to certain spaces. I think this project does just that. The research of secret spaces was tested on a speculative building for childbirth, in central Gothenburg, placing it in a socio-political context. I developed the tool of the secret room as a force of resistance, rather than a space. By creating »a room of one’s own« I aim to dismantle norms and hierarchies. Later I identified the birth room as an environment surrounded by strong hierarchies and power imbalances. I then applied the secret room in the context of childbirth. This is an unorthodox way of approaching an architectural project; to not originate the study from the site, as we architects usually do.

The secret room and the new context enabled a shift in power and an empowerment of both the birth and birth space. I thereby changed the scene of action, establishing a new typology and creating a new narrative with A P(a)lace for Birth.

By the use of unconventional methods and bold design expressions my work aims at challenging what architecture is, not obeying by architectural norms, or societal. The project is speculative and provocative evoking themes of sensuality, secrecy and intimacy in connection to the act of births. Opposed to architecture as »provider of truth«, and permanent matter, the project aspires to open up for discussion and questions, rather than providing answers.

There is an obvious need for this kind of space and for the voices of women to be taken seriously in this debate. The developed tool of secret spaces can now be applied in many more areas in need of transformation.

One of the key aspects of this process was the survey collecting the desires of women for a new kind of birthplace, in what later became A P(a)lace for Birth. Their stories made the secret space, real, rooted and, to some extent, co-created. By translating and interpreting their stories, they filled my project with desires. These women are activating and populating this thesis.

During my studies I have come to look upon architecture as a tool to create change, rather than just create spaces. I think my thesis reflects this point of view.

Feel free to contact me and please download the booklet for more information and details.

Johanna Asplund

Johanna Asplund