PROSPECT: URBANISM

Published 2019-12-13

Semrén & Månsson's urbanism studio is suggesting that only through collaboration can we create the cities and places we want in the future. That is the vision and value we're working with.  

Mixed-use city
Most people believe the mixed-use city is the best solution for creating a society where people live and work close to each other with the ability to meet spontaneously. In the mixed-use city, we'll also be able to handle future challenges about climate and conserving our natural resources. 

To be able to hand over a good world to the next generation, we're facing ecological challenges that we'll need to tackle together with nature. Using public transport to travel together, and applying a sharing economy are ways of bringing people closer together that also benefit the environment. 

Resource efficiency
A mixed-use city is a city in which many functions exist in close proximity to one another. This applies to housing, workplaces, and commerce, but also public spaces, like schools, nurseries, retirement homes, sports facilities, and health care facilities. It is also increasingly important that these function not only are situated in buildings next to each other but in the very same place. We also need to construct buildings that are flexible over time; if we're able to use the building 24 hours a day, we create a higher resource efficiency. Perhaps shopping centres are the next area for gentrification? Premises that are empty today can be used by startups or artisans who are unable to afford the excessive rents in the city centre that the large retailers can manage. 

The buildings that we choose to construct in a sustainable, aesthetically pleasing and well-made manner, are those that will remain. Therefore, it's essential to build well-thought-out and beautiful buildings that are also flexible to change for the, hopefully, hundreds of years to come, says Sven Henriksson, Jutabo.  

Integration
Our biggest challenge is to create housing for everyone that needs a roof over their head, while also making sure to bring people who are segregated and alone closer together. One way of doing this is by creating some form of social housing. By making so that people from different parts of society and of different ages meet and live in the same areas, we increase levels of safety and security in society. 

Trust and collaboration
Today, there is no housing policy in Sweden. The municipalities do not have the financial ability to provide society with those social functions and premises that are needed. Therefore, private initiatives are crucial in order to preserve our welfare society. 

It is also important that the detailed zoning plans that are developed are flexible; that what has been constructed or will be constructed can change over time. This is where we need to generate greater trust in one another already in the planning process. In the private sector, we need to fully understand the municipality's intentions and that they need to prioritise what's best for the municipality as a whole. The municipalities need to trust that the private sector has a greater knowledge of the economic aspect of a project than they do, and view us in the role of societal developers and be open to incorporating our thoughts. 

While the proceedings might be lengthy, it is essential that we also manage our time efficiently. Some things might need more time to process and discuss, while other decisions can be made more swiftly. We should prioritise creating a joint vision of the project early on, to facilitate ongoing communication and ensuring that decisions that are made always move in the right direction. 

Unless the municipalities can convert their planning processes to incorporate the challenges of our climate and environment, the state will adopt new legislation and guidelines in the works of creating a more sustainable society, says Peter Wallentin, head of urban planning in the municipality of Härryda.   

Holistic approach
Architects with a feel for structure will become even more important in the future. Someone who can visualise where the project is heading. Someone who can unite a group around a project, establish the vision, and push the group in the right direction during the entirety of the project. But also someone with an idea of what could happen 50 years after the building is finished and the client has moved in. What type of flexibility should we make room for? A good municipal master plan provides guidelines for the coming 20-25 years. A good architect should be able to look even further into the future.