As our cities grow, smart use of urban resources will become more and more central in planning. Urban resources in this case are land, buildings, materials, energy, access to public transport, nature and public space. A lot of the land in cities has already been used in one way or another for example for industries, parking or low-density suburbs. Building sustainable cities in the future will mean building denser, reimagining how we use spaces and upcycling materials and existing buildings. All that without compromising on the quality of public space and biodiversity in urban environments.
Urban designers can see the potential of a place. We are good at capturing the character of an urban environment and finding ways to give it new life. In the future we will need to work more with densifying already built environments, allowing for new ways of using and sharing buildings as well as public spaces. Public spaces which we will create for the future should prioritize and attract people. Over the coming years, we will have to revitalize large amounts of space previously solely used by cars to become spaces for walking, biking, playing, growing trees or gathering rainwater.
Importantly, urban planners in the future will need to facilitate for new partnerships to allow for synergies, smart use and sharing the urban resources.
We are currently working on revitalizing urban sites in the Nordics, Poland, Germany and North America. At the moment I am involved in two projects in Sweden where the focus is on reimagining today's suburbs. The sites have a lot of positive qualities, like closeness to nature, unique history, public transport or quality education facilities. They are also mono-functional, low density and heavily influenced by the use of cars. In these projects we are working on enhancing the character of the place, introducing new functions and encouraging synergies between them. One of the key steps in this is designing inviting urban public spaces – walking-friendly streets, squares and parks with human scale, microclimate and resiliency in focus.
In Gothenburg, Sweden we are designing a new neighborhood with a large community garden on what today is space occupied by a warehouse. The idea born from the history of the place as a pre-industrial site for growing fruit in the early 20th century. The park is more than just a green space, it is the epicenter for all things sustainable. Here the future users will grow vegetables, meet their neighbors, taste locally produced beer, compost organic waste, learn about nature and play next to rainwater ponds. The park is designed so that it would be protected from the prevalent winds and would get as many sunlight hours as possible – important when designing in the northern hemisphere. Reusing space and building denser for the future also means creating generous public spaces that can be used by many and in just as many ways.