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August 22, 2014

Stockholm | Sweden

Sweden is a wide country with lots of space, that’s at least what most Europeans think. According to the participants of the inaugural SEISMIC meeting in Stockholm cities in Sweden can always do better. The cities are packed, there is no public life in the periphery, there are traffic issues and the subject that popped up most during the SEISMIC meeting was the over controlled public space: Sweden get messy and let spontaneous things happen in public space!

In the early morning of August the 21th I arrived in a seemingly suburb of Stockholm to find the venue of the Swedish inaugural meeting. After a little search I ended up at the beautiful and old industrial terrain of the Färgfabriken, an exhibition space and experimental platform for art and architecture as well as social and urban development.

As I expected from proper Sweeds everything was very well arranged and the sketch artists were already making their first interviews and sketches at 09:00 in the morning. In this country, which I always see as an example of a social and modern society, there are some things the Swedish are not content with. Finding better solutions for innovation in social, cultural and economical progress is still possible.

After a day of interviews and sketching 4 topics, with solutions in many different directions, came up frequently:


Bea created an “All of the place”, A space for new experiences that connects the whole city, not just parts of it, a space that takes away borders and gets rid of a center, she envisions Stockholm as a city with no periphery. All shopping, cultural, social and economic activity can be found in the city center. A little bit outside of the center Stockholm becomes an accumulation of residential areas that miss a thriving public space.  Nils designed a community-building concept to do something about this. A space where neighborhoods work together to build a local and vibrant community. If it was up to Patrick Sodertalje he would even get an express train to connect Stockholm to Sodertalje to become the next lively periphery. Lisa thought of another solution, with her connected areas idea; she whishes to build new squares and roads in Stockholm that connect separate areas. This way not all of Stockholm has to be vibrant but several areas can be developed that are reached easily from all over town.

(Public) Traffic

Almost 60% of the sketches had something to do with traffic. As an Amsterdam inhabitant I would not have imagined Sweden was coping with issues of public transport. Helena created interacting bicycle lanes, spaces up in the air through the city for cyclists that connect places and where cyclist can bike safely. Johan’s cable car also gets people into the air instead of under the ground. The cable cars will connect different subway stations so people will not have to live underground so much. The public space surrounding public transport is not so enjoyable in Karin’s vision. That is why she wants to create more mobile oases in infrastructural meeting points so time spent there is time well and pleasantly spent. Eva’s experience commuting takes it a step further. She would like to get to know the city trough travel by maximizing the travel experience. Traveling should be quality time where there is space for children. Meeting places in between transfer with fluffy and cozy areas. This way parents are never far from their children.  There are also ideas in the other direction like Anna’s car free streets to avoid pollution in the suburbs. The ideas about how to design (public) transport are widespread; the only thing people agreed about was the fact that it could be better.

Over organized

During the day more and more people came up with ideas to deregulate the city. The common opinion was that Stockholm is over-organized, which leaves no space for creativity. To enhance spontaneity some great solutions where sketched. Eva’s stairs to imprint allows inhabitants of Stockholm o occupy public space. With more power to take action in public space these stairs grow as a living Wikipedia/sketchbook. Also the green of Stockholm could be non-regulated as in Peters Park that is always open and people can develop every idea that they want. Emma’s blank space is a similar idea. A building in the middle of the city that has no designated use. People can use it to organize events, promote culture, interact or just calm down.

There is a huge craving for spaces that are not planned or thought of in advance.  Spaces where spontaneous things can happen

Going up

Apart from the public transport ideas that take us up in the air there were more ideas where the sky is the limit. As Johan said; the lack of space is the mother of innovation. He contrasts Taiwan with its dense and small alleys to the quiet, segrageted and structured streets of Stockholm?

He would like Stockholm to be more like Taiwan with buildings that rise high and as a city that organically grows like a campus. This will enhance a spontaneous city.

A dome for pop up art would be Jens’ dream, this glass dome will cover all Slussen area with platforms for pop up exhibitions and stairs on the outside. Veronika suggests add-ons to existing houses: build cubes on houses to diversify the city. On the ground level of the houses needs will be provided, people gather there and will be more connected.

Pia is willing to go all the way with realizing a cultural mountain in the center of Stockholm a place to take a break and to practice cultural activities.

Again I thought Stockholm had enough space, but silly me, it seems Stockholm people feel the urge for thinking as a metropole so why not use the sky?

My advise to Sweden; Stop over-organizing and start living your city all over by the means available, enjoy it and let spontaneity take control.  In aiming for perfection creativity can be suffocating. Give some room for doubt, for not knowing. That is where it starts!

Next stop: My home country the Netherlands, Amersfoort, see you there on the 2nd of September!



I would like to give a huge amount of thank you's to the Stockholm SKETCH artists. Emma Macintosch, Cecilia Hanssn, Hrönn Hedin, Linda Andersson and Marthe Roosenboom YOU SHOWED GIRLPOWER! 

Further I had some great help in finding the artists: Thanks to the Dutch Embassy in Sweden and Saskia van der Zanden. Katarina Schylberg, Anna Sehlin (IQ Samhällsbyggnad) and Joakim Forsemalm (Gothenburg university), without you the day would not have been so nice and last but not least the great place the SEISMIC meeting was held, the Färgfabriken!


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