‘It Takes a Block’

An Urban Design solution to Corona Anxiety and Recovery.

This current challenge presents an opportunity to re-prioritize the need of designing socially-inclusive community as a core form of resiliency, while accelerating the culture of share economy to meet the rapid pace of global shortage of resources. This sharing culture is a “norm” outside of the North American landscape. North American are blessed with abundant resources which partly lead to a general culture of self-reliance.  In other parts of the world, sharing is caring and so does reciprocity.  This also applies to knowledge sharing and passing of “life-long legacy” from baby-boomers to the next generation, enabling a cycle of unveil resource/economy.  The combination of these two could lead to the perfect solution to meet the anticipated regional challenge: 1) shifting culture to a new “norm” that reflects diversity; 2) repositioning aging population as irreplaceable valuable social/economical resource.

City block

There is an opportunity for Urban Designers to step up to the plate, to explore a new prototype to speak to all of these, through designing a perfect block that can withstand the test of time.

In 2016, Malmö hosted an innovative design competition namely the Nordic Built Cities Challenge. The winning scheme “It Takes a Block” by Kjellander Sjöberg (K + S) is a sustainability-oriented city planning concept that explores the boundaries for what can be shared and offered within a city block.

Despite the high density and block arrangement, the scheme contains a multitude of shared spaces and open, unprogrammed communal zones. These areas are intended to act as points of shared knowledge and resources, consolidating waste and fostering a greater sense of community interaction within the complex.

The proposal intertwines typologically variant apartment types with public program, with the intention of creating “rich socioeconomic variation.” Careful consideration of the existing environment will further this variation by creating conscious links to integrate the new development into its surroundings. The new building stock is proposed to “organically grow” from the existing 1930s buildings and parklands, creating a diverse new urban neighbourhood.

Features

Notable design features include:

  • A dense block structure with various residential typologies and mixed forms of tenure. Sharing resources, time and knowledge is a red thread throughout the neighbourhood.
  • Additional value is created by increasing the amount of shared spaces, while keeping private dwellings compact.
  • A system to actively improving the qualities of the surrounding picturesque area and making them accessible for the future residents, as well as allowing the new built environment to densify and grow organically over time. Such a strategy will allow for a rich socioeconomic variation, creating an urban neighbourhood which is open and attractive for all.

“The starting point of the design has been the fact that the long-term sustainability is ensured by providing opportunities for residents to engage and interact with their local environment,” K+S said of their design.

Implementation

The implementation of the design, scaling up to neighbourhood scale namely Sege Park, will become Malmö’s new showcase for sustainable urban development, with 800 new housing units planned over the next ten years. Sharing resources will become a means to create climate-smart and affordable housing in the area and will simultaneously enhance the quality of life of the residents.

Notes

1. About “It Takes a Block”:
http://kjellandersjoberg.se/en/projects/project/sege-park/

2. Designing Age-Forward communities: a urgent call to action that could offer a roadmap to an era of economic growth, inclusion and resiliency:

Age-Forward 2030: A New Vision for the Future
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3. Sharing a snapshot of what the bound-back from aftershock is like:
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/china-life-returning-normal-coronavirus-outbreak-slows-200317084803189.html

4. How “talking to friends” and being social is core survival to overcoming corona anxiety:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/15/write-a-diary-take-action-hubei-residents-on-fighting-coronavirus-anxiety

5. Also an interesting opportunity to collect stories and build local legacy:
https://www.citylab.com/solutions/2020/03/coronavirus-community-resilience-reader-stories-covid-19/608143/

Written by: Yvonne Yeung LEED ND AP PMP, Manager of Urban Design for the City of Brampton, Vice-chair of the ULI Urban Land Institute National SDRC Product Council, Lead of Regional Leadership Initiatives for the ULI Toronto District Council, WLI Champion.

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