Both developments were driven by a catalytic event. In the case of Malmo, the European Housing Exhibition in 2001: The City of Tomorrow was the driver behind the redevelopment of the Kockums shipyard site in the Western Harbour district. In Stockholm, the former brownfield site was intended as the location for the 2004 Summer Olympic village and, although the Olympic bid failed, the site became Hammarby Sjöstad.
It is also important to remember that most people in Sweden are accustomed to a culture of living in apartments rather than houses, and that Sweden does not have a system of social housing. Instead, families and individuals in need of support receive financial help directly from the state and are then free to rent accommodation of their choice. Therefore developments such as Malmo and Hammarby start from a position of supplying housing stock for which there is demand, and within a culture of urban living and social equity.
Hammarby Sjöstad should be looked at in the context of the Swedish “green welfare state” approach to Eco-towns. It was developed from the goal of promoting “sustainable development, new jobs, growth and welfare”. In addition to being ecologically innovative, it is also culturally and socially meeting the Swedish government mandate that all citizens should be provided with a decent, safe, and affordable home.
The development will eventually include around 11,000 residential apartments, along with comprehensive provision of new light rail, bus and ferry links, leisure facilities and green guidepublic spaces. Despite the fact that it was originally assumed that the residents would be in the older aged groups, it now seems that most of the homes will be taken by young families. This fact was reinforced during my visit by the large number of men and women out in the public spaces with prams – and young children enjoying the sunshine in the well designed and maintained public open space.
By all accounts the Bo01 development has delivered a distinctive, resource efficient and liveable place with 500 homes, and commercial and community facilities, in a pleasant “village”-feel environment. A high level of local renewable energy appears to have been successfully integrated into the building fabric from the start of planning. However, it would appear that sustainability and quality of life are not always compatible in real life – it is reported that the high quality of life has led to household running costs and car usage being far higher than the planners had hoped for.
From the social and cultural perspective it is interesting to consider that Malmo is not only Sweden’s third largest city – with a population of 87,554 – but it is also Sweden’s most diverse city, with 30% of the inhabitants born overseas. However, disappointingly, the population of Bo01 does not reflect the city’s cultural diversity. Locals believe this is largely due to the cost of housing: three-bedroom apartments in Bo01 are more than double the national average.
Projects such as Malmo Bo01 and Hammarby Sjöstad show the benefits of developments designed as a comprehensive infrastructure project, of which housing was just one part. The heating, transport and waste collection systems were intended to work in tandem with each other – to reduce the amount of energy and resources needed to maintain them in the long term. These projects also highlight the need to work with residents to build a culture of lifestyle choices and energy use that will not undermine the sustainability benefits gained through exemplary planning and design.