It is symptomatic of global processes of urbanization and related conflicts, worldwide. Resilient urban development will increasingly have to be negotiated between various citizen groups, stakeholders, authorities, and disciplines. In these struggles, artifacts such as maps, stories, images, and scenarios play important roles in articulating different understandings and possible futures. Architects, designers, and urban planners will hereby play a crucial role.
In 2015, the Sustainable Urban Planning and Design (SUPD) studio formed a joint venture with Studio 10 at KTH School of Architecture. The program educates students as professionals with a deep and holistic understanding of the multiple factors in sustainable urban development. Students are trained to adapt planning and design practices to the environmental conditions and societal needs of the future.
The studio explores conflicting interests as an opportunity to critically rethink professional planning and design tools. At stake is the question: How can we explore, project, and design for resilience in ways that contribute to just environments? Students developed research and proposals concerning planning controversies around the Årsta field (Årstafältet) in Stockholm. Årsta field has been designated as the site for a new housing area (6000 apartments).
Central to the studio are participatory mapping methodologies. Input is gathered from the city planning department, ecologists and experts in urban farming and socio-ecological urbanism, from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University and Chalmers University of Technology. Also crucial are local organizations, groups and individuals such as the citizen initiative Nätverket Årstafältet, the allotment garden association, bird watchers, children and other concerned actors. We depart from a critical planning perspective, with feminist theories grounding an approach involving actors that are too often marginalized or invisible.
To explore and discuss alternative futures of the Årsta field, students worked in multi-disciplinary groups to develop visionary images. The images were complex – rather than ‘selling’ a final proposal. They materialized research findings, including desires and fears, conflicts and synergies. Rather than ends in themselves, the images were starting points for critically exploring alternatives and generating proposals. Within their groups, students developed a common masterplan, through which they had to negotiate their individual projects. Thus, different standpoints and scenarios, conflicts and synergies, were continually discussed.
The group “Årstagraphy” addressed the future issue of flooding as a result of climate change. Rather than working against this, they explored how this could shape Årstafältet as a kind of wetland. Their proposal explores resulting dynamics of landscape, habitat and increasing biodiversity.
Alexander Forslund’s individual project within the Årstagraphy group revisits the “million program” housing – in ways that are adaptive to contemporary and future issues of habitation. For example, external excess roads are 3m and can also be used as terraces and gardens. Roof terraces are public or semi-public in his dense proposal at the edge of the field that extends Valla Torg.
The dystopian visionary image by the group “Prismå” shows a dense new development. It is a city segregated by planning that serves those who can afford the new flats – those who cannot, camp in the park – a quite real scenario these days.
Laura Gioanetti’s individual projects within the Prismå group deals with a storm water system and with the social by-products of the system, such as naturally-cleaned swimming areas. She has also mapped how she made her design decisions.
The group “Semlan” explores an idea that natural environments will become more scarce and desirable. In their visionary image, the Valla high-rises are on the left and Årstafältet is on the right, walled off and no longer accessible to everyone. In their common masterplan, they have taken a larger regional perspective, putting in relation actors, ecological components and design reasoning, mapping both spatial and social conditions and conflicts.
Bryans Mukasa’s individual project within the Semlan group takes into account non-human actors and the global scale through mapping bird migration. Grounded in his research on how Årsta field is one of Sweden’s most important sites for migrating birds, he investigated how to facilitate migration on many scales: on the plan and the architecture, on the facade designs and materials. Housing facades, for example, integrate bird nests and habitats.
The group “Strawberry Ninjas” focused on the childrens’ perspective, and their dystopian visionary image shows a field that will be densely built, sparing only Göta Landsväg, a medieval road which is a cultural heritage site. Through a series of workshops and lectures at schools, they learned about different perspectives, which influenced their design decisions for a new masterplan. They focused on three spatial components – active ground, performative buildings, and, most importantly, green arteries.
Justina Jakubkaite’s individual project within the group deals with building social and sustainable relationships. Food production generates and connects a network including new types of stakeholders, forms of building, and design components. Her proposal shows that new ways of life also produce different spatial typologies, such as shared spaces and facilities. For example, staircases became social gathering places, and the laundry facilities are placed there as a result.
SUPD is a collaboration at KTH among the School of Architecture and the departments of Urban and Regional Planning and Sustainable Development. In spring 2015, the studio had 27 students from 9 countries across 4 continents. Teachers are Meike Schalk, Ramia Mazé, Johanna Jarméus, Thérèse Kristiansson and Maria Ärlemo.