Across Europe and North America, urban centers and their surrounding suburbs continue to see a surge in growth – Yet the boundary between urban and suburban is no longer what it once was. As architects and citizens alike navigate new philosophies of urbanization, we sat down with Henning Larsen partner Viggo Haremst, who leads the development of Tibble 2.0, to discuss how suburban living models might grow in the future.
We often picture the suburb in its purest, traditional form as the place you just commute back to in the evening to sleep. But the suburb of tomorrow is where you have your everyday life. You work, live and play there, and you don’t necessarily need to go anywhere else. Good cities have a fair amount of nature embedded in them, but I think suburban environments offer an opportunity to connect with nature in a different way. Looking at our Tibble 2.0 project, for example, the proximity to dense forests and lakes isn’t something you can find in the same way in the big city.
I’m not sure if it’s necessarily a matter of trying to draw people out of the city – It’s more a matter of people actually coming back to the areas where they came from, while also adding new inhabitants. The suburbs and smaller cities in Sweden experience a huge brain drain of talent, which often never comes back. But Tibble wants to create what they call an innovation cluster, an area that concentrates opportunities for the people that otherwise might have moved elsewhere to build their own identity. Creating that environment outside of the city makes it easier for people to come back – They see that they can find the same connected, challenging environment that they seek in urban centers.
So the focus doesn’t fully rest on attracting new people – Of course that’s part of the strategy, but first and foremost, it’s about creating the opportunity to come back or to allow talent to flourish the place it grows up. There’s a huge young generation growing up right now in Tibble – And do they actually need to move? Maybe they don’t. Maybe they’ll find a way to stay there and find opportunities close to home, which is something we want to help provide.
Our starting point is to understand the different needs of different user groups. It’s asking the question, “Why should you move there?” As a company, as a family, as an educator, what would make you want to be part of this community? I think that’s extremely important in navigating how we can orchestrate better connections between people, to plan the overall layout in a better way and connect the different sectors within the community. But paramount to working in this area is for us to provide spaces where people can meet. It might sound banal, but if you want to create a strong community, you need to think about how you can cross-pollinate different users, backgrounds, and professions within this larger group.
Because we’re in the early phase of this project, our focus is defining the ideal balance between density and public space. Ensuring public space has a commercial interest, but also represents nature – Ensuring a strong connection with green space and so on. So right now, we’re creating a unique identity in the balance we find between density and public space. Specific to Tibble, though, we’re looking at what sort of structures we can keep as part of the area’s architectural heritage. Combined with the density and layout we create and the natural elements, I think we can give a unique atmosphere and sense of identity to the community.
Something I think is extremely important is what I call perspective planning, which is the practice of planning an environment so you get a sense of depth when you’re standing in the street. For example, if I’m walking along a sidewalk and I’m surrounded by tall walls, I can’t see what’s behind them. It feels enclosed. You need to plan so that someone can look down the street and see something coming up around the corner, to be aware of a deliberate sense of depth within the cityscape, to see the variety within their surroundings. I’m very conscious of that. When I’m walking through a city, having this sense of depth inspires me to be more curious, to be active in exploring what’s on the next block or around the corner. In Tibble, I want to give a sense of depth and variation at eye-level, in a way that feels authentic to the scale and feel of a lower density community. I think that’s a great starting point for making a varied and exciting atmosphere, to create a place that delivers a great quality of life, a place you want to discover and come back to.