UPGRADING THE UTOPIA

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Project description

During the 60’s -70’s the Swedish national government proposed and implemented a massive housing development called “Million Programme”, with the aim of building 100,000 dwellings each year for 10 years through the whole country, in order to solve the issue of rising housing shortage and improve general quality of urban environment in Sweden.

The origins of such development should be understood in the context of the Swedish welfare model combined with architectural influences from abroad, particularly by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier and his contemporaries who emphasized the benefits of large scale collective housing over individual and small projects. The suburbs were designed to accommodate working and middle class people, who at the construction time were mainly foreign born. City centre of Stockholm have become thoroughly gentrified enclave for the native middle/upper-class, while its poorest suburbs are increasingly non-white, holding a name of ‘concrete ethnic enclaves’, which resulted in Swedish cities now belonging to the most segregated in Europe (OECD, 2011). Such process could be called as ‘unconsciously programmed segregation’, initiated by design.

The main idea of the project is based on restructuring modernist suburbia by enhancing flexibility of urban fabric in order to ‘provoke’ socio-spatial mixture and transform mass-produced, static urban space. The physical environment of the city is the arena in which human activity takes place. The structure of urban space presents both constraints and opportunities which impact in different ways on the lives of the different inhabitants of a city. Women and men, the elderly, children, teenagers, disabled people, racial, ethnic or religious minorities, refugees and newcomers, migrant workers, the wealthy, people in poverty – all have contrasting needs and contributions to make and they experience and engage with the physical environment in different ways. The ways in which they participate in the social, economic and political life of the city will be diverse, and structures and patterns of urban governance need to accommodate this. To develop such environment, there must be provided conditions for local people themselves to be able to choose from variety of possibilities and incorporate their own ideas in order in create such space that could meet and react to the needs of them all.

I proposed an alternative planning method through main strategic tool – guideplan, involving local communities and giving them a power of decision. The concept of a guideplan is based on creating a plan for specific location, without forcing a finished design proposal. Instead – providing with a guidelines, and leaving final decisions for locals to make. The proposed guidelines are designed as a collaborative process, involving governmental bodies, private developers and urban professionals. Guideplan consists of two levels:

– set outlines [mixed transport network and policentric urban model], which requires state funding and knowledge of urban professionals.

– flexible infill [toolbox for housing, shared space programme and public spaces [squares, parks etc]], that should be up to the actual users – local communities – to decide about the type, form and programme that is needed.

By such open – ended planning approach it is expected to shift the decision making power to local communities by providing range of design tools, options and flexible guidelines which give a direction but not force any specific design solutions; encourage community involvement in each step of design process – planning, implementing, managing; encourage local initiatives; transform current urban fabric into responsive environment that is able to react and change according to the needs of locals.

To conclude, this project is used to transform outdated modernist utopian concepts, which are not efficient in today’s complex urban systems. The main idea behind this study is to show the importance of required urban diversity needed to accommodate diverse societies. However, the state by itself is not capable to deal with such great social complexity in terms of managing urban space, simply due to incompatibility of the scales – difference between personalized local community needs and standardized tools, which are used to fulfill them. With this project I tried to show one of ways how current planning practices could be shifted from market driven urban development towards more open, flexible and oriented to a local communities, in order to avoid social segregation and exclusion in contemporary cities.

 

 

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