Stockholm 21-23 March 2013

The CWF is a learning partnership that intends to identify and strengthen the impact of culture on aspects of waterfront regeneration; city planning/public space, environment/sustainable development, civil society involvement, governance. This is a report of the fifth meeting hosted by Intercult that took place in Stockholm - “The Venice of the north”. Being truly a water city Stockholm consists of a great number of islands, and is currently undergoing rapid growth with a huge number of planned and ongoing infrastructural projects. In other words a highly interesting setting for a CWF meeting, during which we tried to investigate some of the dialogues and participatory initiatives that have been going on throughout the city in order to involve the citizens in the planning process.

 We need to rethink – there is a common need for different interests to meet and collaborate.

Intercult is situated just off Slussen, the point where River Mälaren meets The Baltic Sea. Slussen has always been an important hub of transport and communication to the city. The site is in urgent need of restoration and due to risk of collapsing major parts have been shut off. Development plans have been put off several times in the past as it would be a hefty project, and once started affect the daily life of a large number of Stockholmers. The city is now determined to set the project in motion which has stirred massive public debate and in parts even wild protests. As a reaction to this, the city decided to start a participatory dialogue. The process is officially still very much ongoing, so we decided to start our round of study visits on Thursday afternoon by at the Department of City Planning who are in charge of the project. Christoffer Carlander, a policy analyst and one of the civil servants who has been active in the process told us about the city's efforts to engage in dialogue and to encourage public participation all in accordance with the Swedish legislation that in fact requires citizens to be consulted in all forms of urban development. His analysis of the situation can be summed up in the fact that the city started this process too late, after protests had already been generated, that the dialogue should start before the decisions have started to be mad. But nevertheless his sentiment is that the dialogue started since, have been vivid, representative and involving a vast number of citizens. The City Planning office holds an ongoing exhibition where visitors can look at an impressive wooden model of the City's proposal for the future of Slussen.
The group resumed back to Intercult for lunch followed by the seminar on Cultural Planning, opened to the broad public. A separate report from the seminar is pubslished on the projects webpage. Tomas Dahlberg during this session introduced Cultural Planning as a method for participatory place development and led a workshop to connect the impressions so far and provided a framework for an integrated River//Cities outcome. More information about the seminar here.

This evening took us down to The House of Dance (Dansens Hus) and the latest show by the Stockholm based contemporary circus company Circus Cirkör.

Friday was an intensive day with a very tight schedule. For our first stop we travelled over the bridge to our neighboring island Liljeholmen and to Färgfabriken. This is a converted paint factory that now holds an impressive exhibition space and functions as an experimental platform for art and architecture, as well as social and urban development. Its creative director, Joachim Granit, gave us a tour of their current exhibition “Stockholm on the Move”. A very ambitious project developed in close interaction with the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), consist of an exhibition that seeks to give a comprehensive overview of the many infrastructure investments that are going to change the Stockholm region in the years to come; but also consists of a historical background; presentation of different visions, utopias and dystopias; and also a part presenting global tendencies in infrastructure. Mr Granit explained how they have also aimed, parallel with the exhibition, to create a venue for debate about infrastructure and urban development through an inclusive forum for constructive dialogue among citizens, politicians and other stakeholders through several workshops, conferences and seminars. They hope to have created an instrument in the future development of the Stockholm region.

During the second half of the visit at Färgfabriken, Mr Granit together with producer Karin Englund firmly held the interest of the group whilst giving a presentation on past and current projects, and also telling us about their working strategy and methodology in gathering material for exhibitions through long term collaboration with research institutes, decision makers and politicians as well in Sweden and as internationally, artists, architects and through a web of networks with NGO:s, activists and of course through interaction with citizens. A method very much implemented in a program they initiated in 2009 called New Urban Topologies. Here they have created an open and free democratic platform for urban development through informal meetings and exchange of experience and ideas between different cities and different stakeholders. The program had mainly focused on countries in which dialogue and discussion about urban planning cannot be taken for granted.

Our designated driver for the day Peter Oijens from Rättbuss – an initiative by three young Swedes to transform and old bus to an exhibition space/festival bus to drive people to carefully selected cultural events – took us swiftly to Haninge Culture Centre, where the impressions from the previous visit were the main topic of conversation over lunch. Haninge, a municipality situated south west?? of Stockholm, is part of the plan to create new “city centre's” outside the capital. So currently Haninge too is going through a city planning process in order to transform into a regional city centre. During the study visit at the Culture Centre we were given a window into their civil dialogue called “Maybe a Playground in the Middle” which is organized as a collaboration between the Administrations of Culture and City Development, a civil dialogue involving artists, architects and inviting target groups (such as children) and the general public to participate through workshops, public debates in the main square (where the Culture Centre is situated) and culminating in a parade. We were told that several artistic processes are in spin; some architect students and young people planning on building on the square, preschool children investigating the square with a professional choreographer and a play about homelessness is being produced. Throughout the dialogue several events are planned, with the big finale being a parade through town and up to the square.

We were also given a presentation of the Culture Centre itself, its conversion to the open plan and  and the library it also houses. There was a rich exchange of ideas between our Ostend representatives and the head librarian who told us about their activities such as The Laundry Library, The Shoe Library, storytelling evenings and a knitting café. Their was a discussion on the new take on a the role and responsibility of a library in creating a space for citizens not only to learn, but also meet and for intercultural dialogue to take place. 25 % of Haninge's population originate from other countries, Finland, Poland and Turkey being the most common. Our overall impression of the Culture Centre this Friday afternoon was that it is well visited with a diverse crowd of poeple.

Our final stop on this enriching day, was Hallonbergen city centre, situated in the municipality of Sundbyberg, also about to undertake large planning projects. Here, mainly thanks to the initiative of the City Head Architect, the city has decided to put all developments on hold until a very lively and genuine dialogue runs its course. This particular participatory dialogue has taken shape in the form of PARK LEK II (Eng. Park Play) - a utopian art project with the aim of concrete intervention in the urban planning process, lead by the artist Kerstin Bergendahl. She is currently working with the residents of Hallonbergen to chart thoughts, ideas and structures they perceive in their areas today. The goal is to incorporate the local perspective in the council’s plans for Hallonbergen and thereby supplement and perhaps even amend the densification of the previous proposal which is currently put on hold. This appears in other word to be a very genuine participatory dialogue.

42 participants in the Cultural Planning workshop
24 participants in the Culture for Waterfronts project meeting, inkcluding bord meeting of River//Cities
3500 learners covered by communication activities in Sweden


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