Western Harbor – a planned sustainable oasis resists becoming another suburban island

For 100 years, the Western Harbor was home to a major shipbuilding industry located at the edge of the Öresund strait, which separates Sweden from Denmark. The land was originally claimed from the sea to create a home for Kockums, a Swedish shipbuilding firm. When the industry vanished in the mid-80s taking with it around 6,000 jobs overnight, it set in motion a complete transformation of the district into an internationally acclaimed model for sustainable dense urban communities.

The Bo01 district – known as the exhibition area – along the area’s western edge was a neighborhood constructed for the 2001 European Housing Fair complete with ecologically built (high- and low-rise) houses and public spaces, many designed by internationally renowned architects. The idea was to showcase green-building techniques and a compact approach to growth and development where residents can live a car-light lifestyle.

The nature of the pilot project allowed for a high degree of flexibility and innovation in the design of the street system. Roads in the district are primarily pedestrian only or “pedestrian speed” (Swedish version of the woonerf) streets. The dimensions of the roadways and materials used display a diverse range of techniques to convey their purpose is first for placemaking and secondly for traffic. Touring the Bo01 site, you can’t help but be impressed by the skinny streets, beautiful architecture and integration of nature into the built environment. The Turning Torso, the 54-story skyscraper designed to mimic the twisting human form, is an absolute wonder to witness.

The Western Harbor is in the heart the city, just west of the central station and a short distance from pretty much anywhere. The concept was to offer an urban lifestyle where residents would not need to own a car. The City built more than 8 km of bikeways, extended frequent bus service to the area and set the parking ratio to allow for less than one parking space per unit. The only problem is that most of the people who can afford to live there, also can afford to own a car, or two. As a result, cars are nearly as ubiquitous as bikes. There is a hope that as the rest of the district develops, making the connection to the Central Station more pedestrian-friendly, and perhaps even a streetcar line is introduced, the vision of a car-light neighborhood will be realized.

Link to more info on the Western Harbor: http://www.malmo.se/download/18.3101c0911206abdf07380001750/GuideVastraHamnen_EngelsktOriginal_Web.pdf

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About Denver Igarta

This blog was established to document my search for streets that my 5-year old can play near without my constant supervision. Where kids can live active lives and learn independence. My quest began when I was selected as an Urban and Regional Policy Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, for info: gmfus.org/cdp/fellowships. I am a multi-modal transportation planner for the City of Portland (OR), America's sustainable transportation capital. SHORT BIO/PROJECT DESCRIPTION Denver Igarta (October-November 2011), Urban Planner, City of Portland Bureau of Transportation Project: Livable Streets Where People Live: Fostering People-Friendly Streets by De-emphasizing Automobile Traffic in Residential Areas Cities: Munich, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Malmö Denver Igarta is an urban planner with the Transportation Bureau of the City of Portland. He works on a broad range of transportation policy, street design initiatives and pedestrian, bicycle and freight planning efforts. He recently served as one of the principal authors of Portland's new bicycle plan. He is currently staffing two “active transportation” projects: a rails-with-trails project along the Banfield Freeway and a local street system plan for one of the state's most diverse neighborhoods. He performed his graduate studies at the University of Dortmund, Germany and the University of the Philippines and holds a Master of Science in Regional Development Planning. Portland is struggling to reverse generations of auto-oriented development patterns and make neighborhood streets more “livable” (people-friendly) by restoring their multimodal and placemaking functions. Mr. Igarta's research will evaluate how cities in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden have enacted policies to restore the multiple functions of public streets through traffic management, green infrastructure and giving priority to sustainable travel modes. He will meet with local practitioners, policymakers and civic leaders involved in transportation planning, traffic safety and neighborhood livability projects, street design, and implementation of multi-modal traffic policies. The ultimate aim of the study is to compile a set of best practices and policies implemented in European cities that have broadened the role of residential streets beyond automobile mobility. Additional focus will be given to understanding how acceptable policy tradeoffs are determined within city agencies and the level of public support for measures that restrict car movements, such as reduced speed zones, bicycle streets, shared spaces, residents-only streets and residential parking restrictions.
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2 Responses to Western Harbor – a planned sustainable oasis resists becoming another suburban island

  1. Tom Litster says:

    Intriguing project. I will share this with colleagues at work. Perhaps a little more research will come from that.

  2. Roger Geller says:

    Interesting this idea of considering a street’s character as a place. You mentioned it in an earlier post, as well. That seems something we typically overlook/don’t consider when we’re designing the functions of a roadway. Transportation professionals think about level of service and honoring design guidelines, but don’t typically consider whether the roadway will be a “place.” Urban designers do consider it–though typically only at commercial nodes and then often only from the facade to the curb.
    It makes sense to consider streets as places; there are so many of them and we see them and experience them all day. May as well make them places where you want to be and not just where you have to be.

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