“It is particularly ironic that the battle to save the world's remaining healthy ecosystems will be won or lost not in tropical forests or coral reefs that are threatened but on the streets of the most unnatural landscapes on the planet.”- Worldwatch Institute. 2007

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

September 28th Malmo - How many architects does it take to design a development

km cycled 8

First stop this morning – Augustenborg. Built around 60 years ago this low rise housing development was struggling with a variety of social, housing, energy and flooding problems when it came up for refurbishment. It’s had a complete overhaul – external cladding and double glazing, balconies installed where there were none before, green roofs and a network of covered and open drain gullies leading to little streams to deal with the problems of flooding caused by all the hard surfacing.
Play spaces and public gardens have been created between all the flats with seating and barbeques with evidence of having been used and it’s predominantly pedestrianised with cycle tracks – or rather the little ‘cycle roads’ that I am finding everywhere. OK – so the flats are still fairly utilitarian and boxy but some of the cladding has been brightened up with coloured detailing and the green spaces are truly lovely. I meet an old woman with a very-groomed poodle who points out the green roofs and bird boxes on the little buildings (substations?) between the flats. The ubiquitous district heating chimney stands over it, as everywhere else I’ve visited this trip. And this I think is going to be the biggest struggle to get accepted in the UK.
A group of people with clipboards stop to admire a Japanese maple hanging over a bridge across a duck pond – some study group? It’s all very nice and well done and I like it and so when I head off to my next destination, Western Harbour I find myself wanting to not like it. I want it to be brash and plastic.
En route I stop at the museum next to castle (it’s not very castly) where they have an exhibition that Malmo put together for the Copenhagen talks. It’s very slick and probably informative if you haven’t heard it all before but I find it a bit patronizing. I’d have hoped that everyone attending the talks would’ve known a lot more than me and found it equally useless but given the outcome I may be wrong. They do great food though, even vegan – and where are your vegan friends when you find great vegan food? After lunch I head for the Turning tower – Malmo’s only skyline-breaking landmark.
It's nice – smaller and therefore a lot cuter than I expected and the development around it likewise. They had twenty three architects work on this because they wanted variation. Now I’ve been known to start sentences with the words ‘The only good architect is a ..’, and although I know some brilliant architects I generally roll my eyes at the mention of the profession. But maybe, I think, looking at Western Harbour, I’m looking at the future
It’s charming, it’s varied, it’s eclectic and interesting. Maybe we need more architects working on projects – not in charge obviously but getting on with what they do best and maybe another profession, some steady bunch of sensible types, pulling it all together. Any takers? It has a wide variety of housing types – packed closely but still with room for pocket parks that are more than a tree and a planter but actually feel like little gardens, with narrow streets at angles to foil the sea breezes and a volleyball court, gardens, plaza and winding tracks between trees where I see this little fellow.
The ‘Turning tower Gallery’ has some crap art, snooty restaurants and bleak furniture showrooms and there’s a big plastic surgery centre next door. I don’t know what that says about the residents but hey – it takes all types and the area is nice at least.
Just down the beach, across a big expanse of grass, is a pier with a restaurant and bath house at the end. Dating from the late 1800’s and recently refurbished it has a row of saunas and sea swimming pools surrounded by little wooden changing rooms, or just steps leading down into the sea itself if you prefer.
This is where I end my day. Copenhagen is wonderful wonderful, and Malmo is perhaps better marketed from a sustainability viewpoint than it really is, especially in energy terms but it has some nicely done developments, it’s little cycle roads away from the cars are a joy to ride, they have an anarchist kitchen serving bin dinners and you can sauna and swim naked in the sea every day. I like Malmo. I really like it.

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