Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stockholm ready for "heart surgery"

STOCKHOLM. For years, Slussen has been a pulsating heart transporting people to and from the center of Stockholm. But this narrow connection between the Old Town and Södermalm, and between the waters leading to the Baltic Sea and the Lake Mälaren, is literally falling apart and in dire need of reconstruction.
Authorities in the Swedish capital now finally seem to be ready to begin what is perhaps the most important urban development in the city center for a long time.
Yesterday City Hall presented a revamped proposition by Foster+Partners and Sweden’s Berg Arkitektkontor, joint winners of last year’s competition for the new Slussen.
Residents immediately started gathering at a new exhibition showing what this important transportation hub will look like in the future.
Reconstruction of Slussen (in English: the Sluice or the Locks) is long overdue. Discussions have been going on since the beginning of the 90’s, and several architect competitions have been held without local politicians being able to decide what to do.
Delaying reconstruction further is now described as a safety hazard, since parts of the complex is beginning to fall apart. Slussen, inaugurated in its present shape (right) in 1935, connects underground and bus-lines from suburbs south of Stockholm. For residents on Södermalm, a popular and trendy neighbourhood, Slussen is the only direct way to reach the Old Town, and further on the city center, by foot or bicycle.
The new proposition points out three main functions for the new Slussen – traffic, water and urban life.
Connection to the water will be an important part of the future Slussen, with new public spaces along the quays. New bridges for walking and bicycling will improve safety. New facilities for public transportation will be added, as will new buildings on the south side of Slussen.
A delicate problem has been the water situation, with increased risks of floods in the future. But that hasn’t been to the only challenge.
“It is hard to find the right balance between people and traffic. You cannot ignore traffic in a dynamic big city. That’s why we need the broad bridge. But we will make sure that people and water will connect. Wherever you look in the future you will se people walking, biking or just sitting down”, said Spencer de Grey of Foster+Partners to Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter at Monday’s presentation.
Construction is planned to begin in 2012 and be finished in 2018.
That is, of course, depending on local politicians being able to make the final decision this time. Stockholm decision-makers have a sad habit of the opposite. The latest example was a recent spectacle concerning a proposed addition to Stockholm’s famous Public Library.
Today representatives of two of the parties in the ruling liberal-conservative coalition voiced conflicting opinions on the latest proposal for Slussen.
“We need more spectacular buildings”, said one liberal councilman. “The buildings must not be big. The city itself is a landmark”, retorted a coalition partner.
In a comment on dn.se, the on-line edition of the Dagens Nyheter, one reader wrote ironically:
“It’s nice to hear that they are disagreeing. Then we can keep the cosy, slummy old Slussen for another twenty years.”


Copyright: Foster+Partners/Berg Arkitektkontor
The plan for the new Slussen, leading to the Old Town.


Copyright: Foster+Partners/Berg Arkitektkontor
People and water will meet in the heart of Stockholm.


Copyright: Foster+Partners/Berg Arkitektkontor
Cafés, restaurants and new urban space line new Slussen.


Residents discussing a model of the new Slussen.

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