Friday, March 12, 2010

From one core to several nodes

STOCKHOLM/PLANNING A CITY. Like many major cities, Stockholm is pretty much focused on one core.
Like many cities, the Swedish capital would like to see that change.
“I don’t know of many cities that succeeded in doing that. It would be a very exciting development if that would happen”, says Niklas Svensson of the City of Stockholm Planning Department where he headed work on the new comprehensive plan for the city.
In the Stockholm City Plan, set to be adopted on Monday, planners have pointed out nine “strategic nodes”. These are suburban centres they would like to see develop into more robust “cities within the city”.
Future suburban development will be focused on these nodes, which already have good public transportation and commercial centres. The transportation infrastructure is set to be improved further, according to the new comprehensive plan, with suggested focus on transverse transit.
Development of the suburban nodes will not only be about housing and workplaces. They have to offer more of entertainment, culture, sports etc to pull people away from the city center.
“Of course, it’s very difficult to plan for this kind of development. But we have analyzed all parts of Stockholm and come to the conclusion that these nine nodes have a good base for further development”, says Niklas Svensson.
On a snowy winter day, I take the subway for a half-hour ride westwards from the city center to Vällingby (left, and below right). This is one of the suggested nodes in the new City Plan, and a node with a history and an important part of Sweden’s modernist heritage.
In the late 40’s, Vällingby was planned as Sweden’s first ABC-town, short for Arbete-Bostad-Centrum in Swedish (Work-Housing-Center). This “New Town” suburb wasn’t meant to be a sleeper community, but a city center serving all the needs of its residents.
After it was opened in 1954, visitors flew in from all over the world to study this Swedish showcase in modern urban planning. Vällingby was the Hammarby Sjöstad, today’s model for sustainable urban development, of its age.
Vällingby and its logotype “V” also became an idyllic symbol for the Swedish welfare state built by the Social Democrats. Former Social Democratic Prime Minister Olof Palme, assassinated in 1986, chose to live with his family in Vällingby for many years.
As the years went by, the idea lost its lustre. But now Vällingby might be set for a come back.
In 2008 a new shopping center was opened right next to the classic 1950’s Vällingby center. Well known Swedish architect GertWingårdh was awarded a first prize at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona for his design of the Kfem shopping mall, built on top of the subway tracks.
But Stockholm planners are not seeking a revival of the dreams of the 50’s in their new suburban nodes.
“The old idea that people would live and work in the same place is not something we think will happen. The important thing is to have a mix of homes and workplaces. Then there will be an exchange of people. But it would of course be good if more people choose to live closer to where they work”, says Niklas Svensson.
Another node is Kista in the north western corner of Stockholm. This center for information technology is set to expand further into a “Science City”. It is seen as an interesting example of the suburban mix of offices and homes. But few, if any, of the employees of Kista’s IT-companies live in the area.
“We now have to think a lot about what type of processes will be needed to develop these nodes. I don’t think we can just rely on the market forces. One important thing will be to improve public transit, even though it is already good”, says Svensson.
Four of the suggested nodes are located north of central Stockholm, five on the south.
Niklas Svensson and his fellow planners see the development of the nodes as a long term process.
“If, by 2030, Kista and one more node on the north and two of the nodes on the south have developed like we wish, then Stockholm has come a long way.”

This is the third and final report on the new Stockholm City Plan, set to be adopted on Monday.

In the 1950's, Stockholm suburb Vällingby was a modernist dream.

The award-winning Kfem shopping center in Vällingby.

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