Göteborg is a beautiful, vibrant city, yet it is also a socially and functionally segregated city. In order to accommodate the expected growth of the population, the city of Göteborg has made a vision. In the vision ‘Göteborg Rivercity’, the city has formulated the ambition to transform Göteborg in a city for everyone. ‘Rivercity Göteborg therefore needs to provide a mix of housing, enterprises, jobs, uses and public places that provide room for different expressions.’
The way in which Göteborg wants to achieve this is interesting. By involving the people of the city, but also professionals and institutes like the Chalmers University the city wants to make sustainable plans for the future development of Göteborg. Up until now they are doing that very well. The vision document is filled with pictures of workshops and quotes from the citizens. The big question is if they will succeed in keeping everybody involved and creating truly mixed areas in the building projects as well.
We have talked to Anna Braide Eriksson, a researcher on housing who teaches at Chalmers university. Chalmers is very involved in the development of the city. Students participate in the development of the city, for example in workshops on Frihamnen, one of the most prestigious development areas on the west bank of the river Älv. Chalmers also participates in ‘real’ projects as a knowledge partner. One of the examples is the project ‘Positive footprint housing’.
Anna is both positive and sceptical. She is very positive about the ambitions of the city, especially in regard to other cities in Sweden. However, she is quite sceptical when it’s about the potential result of this involvement. As an example she mentions Kvillebacken, where the ambitions of the city in order to create a mixed, but delicate and nuanced development of the area were not achieved. The small scale mix of social groups and small businesses that characterised the old area totally disappeared and, according to Anna, have now been replaced by the generic Swedish buildingtypology of 7 to 8 stories apartments.
We also spoke to Josefine Wikholm and Susanne Clase of White architects, one of the largest architecture firms in Sweden. They emphasize that Göteborg needs better functional, social and economical mixed areas and therefor more typological diversity. Both architects live with families in typical Swedish apartments. They immediately add that luckily they also have a weekend house to get out of the dense city and small living space.
It is interesting that White has been acting as an initiator and developer of new typologies. In one of the Millionprogram areas, called Frölunda in the outskirts of Göteborg, they have developed the project ‘Äppelträdgården’. Together with the builder FO Peterson they have realized 19 terraced patiohouses for rent and sale. This development was not completely without risks, but White found it very important to develop these new typologies and show that this innovation could actually improve the quality of the neighbourhood. For this project they won the Swedish Housing Award 2011.
Göteborg will select the first parties for development of Frihamnen this autumn. Frihamnen will be ‘the testbed for socially sustainable development’. Here the city wants to provide possibilities for new ways of living. It will be very interesting to follow the outcome of this process and see if these possibilities are taken up by developers and architects to generate new urban typologies and new living concepts.