MAX IV is a national research laboratory operated jointly by the Swedish Research Council and Lund University. The high-performance synchrotron radiation laboratory is designed by FOJAB architects. Snøhetta designed the surrounding 19 hectares landscape park, roads, front Plaza and courtyard. MAX IV opened on June 21st, 2016, and the facility has a 25-year maintenance contract with the contractor. MAX IV is the first project in Sweden to receive the BREEAM-SE Outstanding certificate.


The landscape design is based on unique parameters supporting the performance of the MAX IV laboratory’s operations. This includes measures ensuring mitigation of ground vibrations from nearby highways, storm water management, and meeting the city of Lund’s ambitious sustainability goals.

Situated in the outskirt northeast of the city center, The MAX IV is the first of many projects in Lund’s masterplan for a new mixed use “Science city” that are all located on agricultural land.


By creating a new, generous, and green public park with meadowland rather than a fenced, introverted research center, the Max IV landscape supports the city’s ambitions for a new public realm.

Snøhetta’s design is based on four important criteria:

1 – Mitigating ground vibrations: Testing revealed that traffic on the nearby highway causes ground vibrations interfering with research at the laboratories. By creating slopes and a more “chaotic” ground surface, ground vibrations were reduced by up to 30%.

2 – Mass balance: To optimize the reuse of excavated masses from the site, a “cut and fill” strategy was adopted. This ensures the landscape can easily be reversed back into agricultural and productive land. By uploading the digital landscape 3D model directly into the GPS-controlled bulldozers, masses were relocated in one single “digital to analogue” operation. No masses were transported off site.

3 – Storm water management: The city planning department of Lund has set restrictions to the amount of water that can run into the city’s pipelines. Water management solutions within the hilly landscape distributes water to dry and wet ponds that can cope with a 1, 20 and even 100-year flood. The ponds’ wetland and vegetation attract wildlife and enhance biological diversity.

4 – Plant selection and maintenance. The Swedish agricultural landscape has changed dramatically. Of the 2 million hectares meadowland present in 1890, only about 270.000 remain. Our ambition is therefore twofold: to maintain the Max IV landscape as traditional meadowland to reduce the monoculture landscape and to increase biological diversity. The discovery of the nearby natural reserve of Kungsmarken made it possible to harvest indigenous meadow species and spreading the cut grass onto the new landscape. The maintenance strategy includes a combination of grazing sheep and conventional machines suitable for meadowland. 

Moreover, the secluded courtyard inside the circular laboratory features a 16.000m2 courtyard of “left over” space solely meant for maintenance. By turning this space into a “secret” garden, characterized by a graphic pattern constituting a landscape labyrinth, the space was turned into a beautiful and secluded landscape. As Carl von Linné was a former student at Lund university, a large variety of plants inhabit the space.

3D-modelling of the landscape proved crucial. The design layout was established by extracting the nature of the ground vibrations into rational values that were inserted in the parametric design model. Intersecting tangents radiating from the circular laboratory formed the basis of a wave-like pattern translating into the landscape. The starting point of each landscape wave correspond to the 10 to 40m vibration wavelengths detected on the site. To achieve mass balance, the amplitude of the hilly wave-like landscape pattern reaches up to 4.5m.

A second set of waves were also established. Starting at the center of the ring, these waves spiral outwards, merging with the boundary of the site.

The step from advanced geometry to physical execution is one of the biggest challenges in design. The process of landscaping was conducted as if a giant 3D printer reproduced the project on a 1:1 scale. The digital model was given a final “analog touch” through the physical handicraft of the machine operator excavating the site and the grazing sheep maintaining the meadow grasses.

The duality of the high-tech research facility, combined with the low-tech meadowland, create a project where aesthetics and functionality work together in supporting scientific research and progress, but also biodiversity and cultural heritage. Through its playful and functional characteristics, the project tells the story of a different kind of research laboratory, in a different kind of landscape park, with the reintroduction of native plants to attract biodiversity and people to work and live.

Name of the project: MAX IV Laboratory Landscape Park
Project location: Fotongatan 2, Lund, Sweden
Design year: 2011-2014
Year Built: 2011 – 2016


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