Tag archives for city planning

Letting no space go to waste


John Higson from Wasted Space in front of an empty and “forgotten” tower in the centre of Stockholm. Photo: Wasted Space.

We have gotten used to leaving aluminium cans, glass bottles and plastic packs in the recycling bins. But most people haven’t thought about recycling spaces.

In a city there’s always a tough competition over space. Therefore it’s a bit strange that in most cities there are also quite a lot of houses that nobody uses.

The people behind Wasted Space want to take care of these forgotten spaces.

“ Empty or undeveloped premises, property or public spaces are not just a waste of money, they also decay faster and are more often exposed to damage. By developing these places, accesability and the felling of security will increase both for locals and visitors”, writes Wasted Space on their web page.

Apart from the benefits of taking care of existing resources of a city instead of just focusing on constructing new buildings, it’s also an interesting way to engage people in their city’s development.

Wasted Space invite people to send in their observations of forgotten buildings and spaces in Stockholm. On their web page there are lots of ideas on what to do of empty house roofs, the possibilities to set up more allotment gardens or why not a “sunshelf” at what’s now a good-for-nothing steep slope, where people could sit to get a nice tan?

When Wasted Space has got the possibility and means to take on a new space, they invite people from the area. local businesses and associations to take part in the planning. Then entrepreneurs interested in using the premises are contacted and get the opportunity to rent some space.

One space that has been taken care of like this is a house roof in the Hornstull area. Next week it will be inaugurated and filled with an experimental city garden, conference rooms, a restaurant and a greentech exhibition. I’ll get back to that!

Another forgotten space, the Flaten beach just outside Stockholm. Photo: Wasted Space.

The Battle of the Elms: Sweden’s most symbolic trees

This week it’s 40 years since Sweden’s most historic battle over trees took place. On the night between May 11 and 12 1971, thousands of people gathered in the central park of Kungsträdgården in Stockholm. Their aim was to defend a group of elm trees against being cut down in order to make space for a new metro station.


Battling for the elms back in 1971. Photo: Lennart af Petersens/Stockholms stadsmuseum.

“The Battle of the Elms” took place during several days. Youngsters chained themselves to the trees, artists performed and young and old from all political colours gathered to defend the trees. Clashes between police and protesterswere sometimes violent, but in the end the tree defenders won. 14 of the elms were left standing and the metro station was moved a few hundred meters. The news made it to frontpages all over the world.

Most people seem to agree that even if the trees themselves were important, as green lungs in a big city, they were also symbols of democracy and actually managed to mark the end of a period when a lot of Stockholm’s old buildings were demolished. Standing in the shadow of the elms was also a café, popular among young people and threatened by the bulldozers.

The 40:th anniversary of the elm protests was celebrated in Kungsträdgården this week. A little bit like coming back to the 1970s!


Elm celebrations in Kungsträdgården Wednesday. Song and music and a new generation learns how to climb the trees. The café is still a popular meeting spot. Photo: Sara Jeswani.


Vertical farming for future cities


Could vertical greenhouses help cities meet future food challenges? Image: Plantagon International.

“Far from lagom” (lagom meaning something like “just enough”, or moderate) is the slogan of the municipality of Botkyrka in the outskirts of Stockholm. So when they started thinking about urban food safety the idea that came up was also far from lagom: A sphere-shaped vertical greenhouse, about the size of the Stockholm landmark Globen.

But why a giant glass ball filled with vegetables? United Nations expects that the world’s cultivable area won’t be enough to feed a growing global population. At the same time an increasing part of this population lives in cities and transports will be more expensive because of a peaking oil production, so why not produce the food directly where it’s needed?

According to Hans Hassle, CEO of the company Plantagon that makes the sphere greenhouse, this type of greenhouse can get up to four times as productive as an ordinary one, providing as much as ten times the cultivable area compared to the surface needed for the building itself.

Now the Swedish Delegation for Sustainable Cities have granted the Plantagon project 150 000 SEK (about 21 500 USD) to investigate if a greenhouse like this might be something for Botkyrka. The municipality sees it as a way of renewing the million programmes in this area. So who knows, maybe we’ll have a new – food producing – landmark in Stockholm in a few years?

Education or “lifestyle fascism”?


Stockholm Royal Seaport. Not existing yet, but already a big discussion topic.

Stockholm’s new green flagship city district Stockholm Royal Seaport is taking shape. The first houses won’t be built until next year, but lately the area became a hot topic when a big morning paper wrote about the district’s program for environment and sustainable city development, that Stockholm’s politicians have agreed on.

The Royal Seaport has its ambitions. In year 2030 it’s planned to be free from fossil fuels (the same goal for the city of Stockholm is set for 2050). In year 2020 the carbon dioxide emissions should be lower than 1,5 tons per person, and the district will also be adapted to the inevitable effects of climate change, such as increased precipitation.
But in order to achieve those goals, the politicians argue, it won’t be enough with just the latest technology or an advanced recycling system. There will have to be lifestyle changes too.
And this is where the debate started.

To get to the lifestyle changes, the debated program proposes an introduction course for new inhabitants on sustainable living and lifestyle. They will also be offered help on how to get to work in the most environmental friendly way. Everyone living there shall also be able to participate in different forums and neighbourhood networks about sustainable living and lifestyles. And in order to keep the number of cars down there will be no more than 0,5 parking spaces per flat.

“Lifestyle fascism”, “a place where those who don’t recycle their drink cans will be bullied by their neighbours” or “social engineering” have been the reactions from some of the newspapers’ cultural pages. This is evidently a sensitive issue.
But the question is: How do you make people change their way of living? And isn’t the way that most neighbourhoods are constructed today also a way of forming people’s lifestyles?

A resilient university campus


One of the ideas of what a sustainable campus could look like. Image: KIT-arkitektur and Hanna Erixon

Sweden might be the first country in the world with a university campus built according to resilience principles. When Stockholm university realised that it will need more space for their activities, they asked researchers from Stockholm Environment Institute and the Royal Institute of Technology to lay their heads together with a group of architects to create a vision of a campus that can serve as a model for sustainable urban development.

In a world where about five billion people are believed to be city dwellers by 2030, city planners face enormous challenges. Somehow they must try to balance the urban development and people’s wellbeing with the stress that a city puts on ecosystem services such as water, storm protection, flood mitigation and biodiversity.
– We need new models and perspectives in order to face these challenges, where the cities interact better with crucial ecosystems, says Stephan Barth, who is researcher at Stockholm Environment Institute.
He also says that this area, which is called Albano, can become an important piece in a social-ecological system, where animals and ecosystems have the space and accessibility equal to that of humans.

I’d be most eager to visit this campus right away. But a quick phone call to one of the architects involved in the work reveals that actual building plans are still about five or ten years away. The visionary images give a nice idea, though, of mixing different activities (I love the idea of community gardens in the middle of everything) and types of nature. More images can be seen at KIT-architecture’s web page.