New Housing in Northern Europe: a presentation by Geoffrey London

European inner city housing was the focus of a recent presentation to clients and staff at CODA when Professor Geoffrey London, Victorian Government Architect, discussed his recent trip to Europe. In May this year, Geoffrey travelled with Grimshaw Field Operations on an international benchmarking exercise for VicUrban. In ten travel-packed days, they visited Freiberg, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Malmo, Stockholm and Helsinki.

First stop was Vauban, a project begun in 1997 to develop a World War II military base in Freiburg. The key considerations of the development were ecological concepts of construction and energy provision; participation of inhabitants in the planning process; and aiming for predominantly car-free living within a mixed used environment. The city owns, develops and sells the lots. The project went beyond built form and urban planning to engage with future residents about issues which would mean changes in their established lifestyle patterns, such as car sharing, public transport and energy usage.

On to Hafen City, Hamburg, and we saw the transformation of 157 hectares of inner port waterfront land. The project is a model for adaptable and effective inner city development for the future. A masterplan, prepared in 2000, encouraged the intensive interaction between existing and new buildings and the water, the elevation of buildings as a flood protection concept, the public character of many ground-floor uses, and the fine-grained mix of uses.  Various development, marketing and residential options were considered including demographic segmentation, joint venture investment and co-operative housing. Development will continue in to the 1920s.

Hafen City, Sandtorkai Quarter

And in Orsted, Copenhagen, we are taken through streets leading to new medium and high rise residential buildings which house the workers of local IT and technology companies. About 12,000 people work in the Orsted area. When the residential development is completed in 2020s, over 80,000 people will be working here.

Moving on to Mo01, a City of Tomorrow, in an entirely new district in the Western Harbour of Malmo, Sweden. The area has capacity for 600 dwellings as well as offices, shops and other services. In a few decades, it has transformed from a redundant and contaminated industrial park into an area for knowledge and sustainable living. The aim is for the district to be an internationally leading example of environmental adaptation of a densely built urban environment and is already a well documented and observed example for urban designers, planners and architects. The development is embracing many of the positive aspects of its location by the sea, the beach and the city centre.

View of Malmo, revealing its high level of building activity

Hammarby Sjostad, Stockholm, impressed us with its verdant waterside paths and its community rubbish recycling system which transports rubbish through a network of ducts under the city paths.

Finally, at Low2No in Helsinki, Finland, technology once again impressed us with the ecology friendly community heating and cooling system.

Across all these sites was a noticeable engagement with shared public spaces and facilities which provides a true sense of community and social co-operation. Something perhaps, that Australian developers and town planners could learn from as we plan for the future.

Thank you, Geoffrey.

– Michelle Blakeley