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Delivering Better Places in Scotland: A guide to learning from broader experience

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Case Study 4: Hammarby-Sjöstad Stockholm, Sweden

1. Development opportunity

First conceived in the early 1990s, Hammarby Sjöstad is a new neighbourhood for Stockholm, located to the south of the city centre. The site had originally developed as an industrial area in the early 20th century. It was mostly occupied by low-value industrial uses, scrapyards, car breakers and the like. It was widely regarded within Stockholm as an insalubrious area: the haunt of small-time crooks and gangsters. To the immediate north of Hammarby Sjöstad is the 19th century Södermalm district. The two areas are separated by a large body of water called Hammarby Sjö (meaning lake in Swedish), which had previously formed the southern boundary to central Stockholm.

In 1994, a masterplan for the Hammarby site was drawn as part of Stockholm's bid for 2004 Olympic Games. The central tenet was that the Games would be as environmentally friendly as possible. Stockholm ultimately lost the contest to Athens, but the momentum remained as Stockholm City Planning Bureau decided to develop the Hammarby site as mixed-use urban extension to Stockholm on a similarly sound environmental basis.

A strategic masterplan was drawn up by Jan Inge-Hagström, Stockholm's Chief Planner, for a mixed-use residential neighbourhood, with very strong emphasis on energy efficiency and environmental protection. This was followed by a design code to ensure that the overall character of the plan was delivered in practice. The planning process was highly integrated, with all actors closely involved from the start.

Hammarby Sjöstad is well known for being built to the highest environmental standards. The Hammarby site had previously been occupied by low-rent industry and scrapyards, but its fortunes were transformed in 1994 when it was chosen as the site for Stockholm's 2004 Olympic bid. Though this bid failed, the momentum remained within the Stockholm City Planning Bureau who decided to commit resources to the wholesale development of the site. Hammarby is widely regarded as an exemplar in place making. It is attractive, well thought out, environmentally sound and very well integrated with the existing urban fabric.

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Internationally, Hammarby is best known for its pioneering role in the development of the 'Hammarby Model' for handling energy, water supplies and waste streams. This closed-circuit system reflects the wider environmental aims for the project. It is intended that all flats use only 50% of the energy and water of a typical Swedish development in 1990.

For the purposes of the study, Hammarby is of particular interest due to the way in which it has been delivered through a process of state-led consensus. Stockholm City Council took a leading role in the delivery of the project, engaging a very large number of private and public sector actors, including 41 developers and 29 architectural practices. This led to the rapid and successful development of an attractive area with a strong local economy in its own right and high property values.

2. People and organisations

Although Hammarby is a typically Scandinavian example of consensus-based planning, much of the vision and early work is generally credited to the late Jan Inge Hagström who was chief city planner at Stockholm City Council in the 1990s. He designed the original strategic masterplan for Hammarby and was instrumental in the emergence of the place as it is today.

The Hammarby project was conceived, delivered, financed and managed by Stockholm City Council to ensure that Stockholm's growth took place in an environmentally friendly way as possible. The project has been delivered by Hammarby Sjöstad Project Team, which is composed of staff from two different organisations: the City of Stockholm Land Development Bureau and City of Stockholm Planning Bureau. Each assigned staff specifically to the Hammarby project to engage and work with developers, architects, public sector stakeholders and Stockholm residents.

3. The overall vision

3.1 Spatial development framework

The strategic masterplan drawn up by Stockholm City Council for Hammarby envisaged a mixed-use residential neighbourhood, with a very strong emphasis on energy efficiency and environmental protection. A design code ensured that the overall character of the plan was delivered in practice. The planning process was highly integrated, with all actors were closely involved right from the start. One significant outcome of the integrated planning approach is the 'Hammarby Model' for dealing with energy, fresh water and waste (see Figure A.2). This has allowed the development of a closed-circuit resource model with very high levels of energy and heat recovery.

Figure CS.3 The Hammarby Model

Figure CS.3 The Hammarby Model

Masterplanning and design coding have been critical in translating the strategic vision to a more local scale. This is a two-step process:

  • 'Detailed plans' are made for the smaller details of the project, such as building lines, heights, roof pitches, the locations of jetties and gardens etc and the sizes of flats. These are based upon extensive discussions between the City Council, developers and their architects. The City Council uses its power as landowner to enforce these plans. Notably, the Council does not give much leeway regarding the location of buildings. Enforcement of the building line creates certainty for developers, who can exist safe in the knowledge that the balcony depth, height etc of a later building will not affect their own development adversely. This is essential to successful high density development.
  • To really guarantee the outcome of the building designs, the second step is to use ' Quality Programmes' which are produced after the detailed plans are finished. These are similar to design codes and cover facades, windows, colours etc, producing a very detailed specification of how each building will look. Each area has its own Quality Programme and emerges as a result of discussion between planners, architects, builders and the planning enforcement team. The quality programme forms part of the planning permission for the building. So essentially there are two stages of regulation: one is the right of sale, the second is the right of permission. Both are controlled by the City Council.

3.2 Stakeholder engagement

A quite extensive consultation process was undertaken throughout the planning process for Hammarby, by the City of Stockholm Planning Department, reflecting the need for consultation as enshrined in Swedish law. As well as the incumbent industrial occupiers, there were already some residents on the north shore.

There was a general welcome for the redevelopment of the Hammarby shore, since it was felt to make for a safer area. The area was felt to be a haven for illegal activities and the consensual opinion was "it couldn't be worse".

Further support was given to the proposals by neighbours because the development of Hammarby has been accompanied by the development of waterside paths and bike tracks along both sides of Hammarby Sjö. This potentially benefits everyone in SW Södermalm. Ironically, public engagement and further modification/refinement of the design code has become much harder now that the majority of the development is complete. It is easier to carry out community engagement when the perceived need for significant investment is essentially unequivocal and there is a relatively small local community.

4. Development process

4.1 Land ownership and assembly

Land assembly was undertaken by the Stockholm City Development Department, who already owned the majority of the Hammarby site. Compulsory purchase and relocation was largely met with acquiescence by the remaining owner-occupiers, as their premises were out of date, poorly located for industry and as they believed they would be better served by new premises in a different part of the city.

4.2 Infrastructure provision

The City Council has invested about €500 million in Hammarby and generated around €3 billion of private investment. If the project had failed, it would have seriously damaged the City Council's reputation. Much of the public infrastructure was put in place early on, including Hammarby Allé and its constituent tramway. As Hammarby is built on former industrial land, decontamination was the other main upfront, which was both expensive and extensive.

4.3 Land release and development procurement

With the exception of the north-shore flats (whose residents in any case tend to think that they live in Södermalm) Hammarby's development has started from the 'core' (i.e. Sickla Udde) and worked outwards. There are 15 phases in total. The 12th phase is currently being designed. Phasing has worked very well; the development is continuous and there are no large and obvious gaps in the middle of the urban form.

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4.4 Design control

The building of Hammarby Sjöstad was (and is) very tightly regulated, and not only because the City Council is strict. This is because the codes emerge from detailed with architects and other professionals and have widespread support. (For clarification, in Swedish nomenclature, a 'planner' is seen as someone who looks forward and works to deliver a vision along with architects and developers. A 'regulator' is someone who enforces the rules, and is much more in line with the notion of a 'planner' as construed in the UK's planning system.)

4.5 Long-term management arrangements

The public realm is managed by Stockholm City Council.

5. Quality appraisal

"Hammarby Sjöstad cost about 5% more to build than a 'standard' development model, but values are 20%-25% higher than comparables" Henrik Svanquist, Skanska Construction.

"It is always a risk, developing an urban area and you never know whether it will deliver this bustling urban life that you dream of as a planner. But I think it has been very successful, especially along the main road. There are lots of shops and restaurants and it is a location for good urban life and good public life. I also think there is a good mixture between the public parts (i.e. the parks) and the more private aspects (i.e. the courtyards)." Louise Heimler, Stockholm City Planning Bureau interviewed in January 2010.

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Hammarby Sjöstad shows how former industrial areas with poor connections can be reinvented as part of the city. Its previous physical condition corresponds to numerous industrial sites in semi-peripheral areas of large cities, particularly Glasgow and Edinburgh. Key lessons of relevance from the Hammarby experience are:

  • A combination of a strong vision, high levels of consensus working throughout the project, and wholesale commitment to design excellence can produce a very successful place indeed. Successful collaboration also breeds market certainty.
  • Public transport infrastructure needs to be installed early on, so that the new neighbourhood is well-connected and accessible, influencing people's travel patterns from the start.
  • When creating an 'urban' place from scratch, it needs to have (as Hammarby does) a full range of social infrastructure: library, parks, activities, sports activities/centres, schools etc.
  • 'High density' does not have to feel intense and oppressive. High quality open space ensures that the area is pleasant to live in.
  • Clean-sheet thinking on energy, water and waste can combine with a strong institutional delivery capacity to create a place that has exemplary environmental credentials.

Assessment of Hammarby according to Scottish Government's 'Designing Places' criteria

Does the place have a distinct identity?

Hammarby Sjöstad is made unique by its distinct, place-specific architecture and its relation to its surroundings, most particularly the water. The place has been designed to the same basic proportions as 19th century Stockholm but the architecture is very definitely 21st century. Its strong environmental credentials have made it a world famous example of a successful new urban area.

Does the place have spaces that are safe and pleasant?

There are many places in Hammarby that fit this:

  • Linear park, with stream running through Sickla Kaj
  • Hill, park and playgrounds in middle of Sickla Udde
  • Lens-shaped path in Hammarby Gård de Gård
  • Sickla Park (just over the motorway)
  • Nacka nature reserve (likewise Skistar.com ski slope

Streets and courtyards are also themselves pleasant.

Is the place easy to move around (especially on foot) ('permeable')?

Hammarby is arguably the most permeable of the case studies. There are paths and passages everywhere. It is possible to walk from courtyard to courtyard or along any number of footpaths between locks or along watercourses. There are almost no dead ends. Moreover the courtyards are really attractive because they have been designed to be so. Parking and rubbish collection both take place underground so there it no need for the courts to be dominated by such activities and they feature as good gardens and thoroughfares.

Does the place make visitors feel sense-of-welcome?

Yes. Five reasons particularly spring to mind:

  • The buildings are all outward-facing; it does not seem that the place is turning its back on you.
  • The place is permeable; you can go anywhere, there are no implicit 'keep out' signs.
  • There is plenty for a visitor to do. There are attractive parks, shops, cafes, sushi restaurants etc that are used by both locals and visitors.
  • There is almost no CCTV so the visitor does not feel an intruder.
  • It is easy to get to with the tram, bus and ferry.

Will the place adapt easily to changing circumstances ('robust')?

Hammarby Sjöstad is an urban area with good connections, a good mix of land uses and a strong economic base. There is a wide variety of flats and they are designed to cater for all ages, as reflected in the broad demographic range, so the place should adapt easily. The only proviso here is that there is not that much free space for new infrastructure and buildings.

Does the place make good use of scarce resources ('sustainable')?

Absolutely. It makes best use of energy, water and waste via the excellent Hammarby Model. Wholesale development of the area has also made good use of land that was previously used in a suboptimal way. Living in Hammarby reduces energy consumption and discourages the temptation to drive everywhere. This has been assisted by early introduction of a tram line, ensuring that people's travel patterns immediately became centred on public transport.

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Further nformation