Become an A&B portal user and receive giveaways!
Become an A&B portal user and receive giveaways!

Well Bo in Sweden. Västra Hamnen district in Malmö

01 of June '23

Article from A&B issue 04|2023

In October 2001, in the pages of A&B, Piotr Czyżewski, writing about the Bo01 development in the Västra Hamnen district of Malmö, used the slogan „city of the future.” The combination of high-quality architecture, unconventional urban planning and pro-environmental solutions was to be the path that—in the footsteps of the Swedish city—other centers would follow. Today, after more than twenty years, how does the future look like, which has already arrived?

promenada na nabrzeżu Västra Hamnen; w tle Turning Torso projektu Santiago Calatravy

The promenade on the Västra Hamnen waterfront; in the background, the Turning Torso of Santiago Calatrava's design

Photo: Apelöga / Åsa Glifberg © Malmö Stad

more than architecture

The name Bo01 comes from the Swedish word "bo"—to live, to dwell. Life is good in Västra Hamnen (West Port), as evidenced by comments from satisfied residents. They praise the tranquility, the proximity to nature they can commune with, living not far from the city center. They are proud that their neighborhood is setting new trends.

Even at first glance, Bo01 gives the impression of a place where one would like to live. The narrow, paved streets are covered with variously colored pavers (the color scheme is meant to help with orientation). The frontage is formed by the facades of low-rise buildings. They are similar to each other, yet each is different. They are all new, with three or four stories, large windows, flat or pitched roofs. They differ in facade composition, color scheme and finishing materials. Dark, natural wood appears next to white, and gray fiber cement panels appear next to vivid yellow or brick red. Along the facades run bands strewn with gravel and narrow channels that drain rainwater from streets and gutters. Vines, low shrubs or grasses grow near the walls. In places, a larger lawn appears, with trees. What is striking is the lack of cars parked under the houses.

zróżnicowane formy architektury osiedla Bo01 tworzą złożoną układankę, która kontrastuje z gładką powierzchnią morza

The Bo01 estate's diverse architectural forms form a complex jigsaw puzzle that contrasts with the smooth surface of the sea

Photo: Apelöga © Malmö Stad

A maze of streets with a pleasant, human scale leads through small squares and plazas. Some are paved and can serve as a place for children's games or a skate park, while others—covered with diverse vegetation growing along the banks of „streams” and ponds—are oases of green in this thoroughly urban setting.

This is what it looks like to walk through the new part of the district created on the site of the former port, guided under the watchful eye of Turning Torso, a residential tower designed by Santiago Calatrava. Its white, spiraling mass towers over the district and can be seen from practically any point in the district—just raise your head. It is not the building by the starchitect, however, that is most important and makes Västra Hamnen unique.

zabudowa mieszkaniowa wzdłuż nadmorskiej promenady wyróżnia się skalą i zwartą formą; osłania ona wnętrze dzielnicy przed porywistymi wiatrami wiejącymi od strony morza

The residential buildings along the seafront promenade are distinguished by their scale and compact form; they shield the interior of the district from the gusty winds blowing in from the sea

© Malmö Stad

From the harbor docks to the "best neighborhood in the world"

It all started in the 1990s, when Saab's factory, the last in the region, closed on the site of the former docks. A decade earlier, the docks owned by Kockums, the shipbuilding giant, had been closed down. Malmö's heavy industry was in decline, and thousands of workers ended up on the pavement. Sound familiar? The story of the Swedish industrial center is deceptively reminiscent of the history of many Polish cities in transition. That, however, is where the similarities end. Instead of telling residents to "take the business into their own hands," Malmö's authorities developed a long-term development plan to transform the city of work into a city of knowledge.

oprócz zielonych dachów, roślinności przydomowej oraz porastającej wewnętrzne dziedzińce projektanci Västra Hamnen przewidzieli także rozległe parki

In addition to green roofs, backyard vegetation and overgrowing inner courtyards, Västra Hamnen's planners also envisioned extensive parks—the landscaped greenery, however, remains highly biodiverse and provides both a place of recreation for people and a space where numerous animals live

© Malmö Stad

In February 1997, the city purchased land in the West Harbour area to bring to life a „radical vision of a modern eco-city” on its site. A year later, plans and blueprints began to be drawn up, with construction set to begin at the dawn of the new millennium. Klas Tham became the chief architect of the entire project. Under his direction, „the best residential district in the world in 2001” was to be built on the Öresund Strait.—for such were the ambitious assumptions of the Malmö authorities. The first results of the work, carried out as part of the city's cooperation with more than twenty private developers, were presented at the „Bo01 City of Tomorrow” exhibition.

At the time, the revitalization of the former port and industrial district resulted in the construction of more than five hundred apartments in buildings of varying typologies. Among the architects designing the buildings included in the master plan created by Tham were Bertil Öhrström, Kai Wartiainen and Gert Wingårdh [see p. 128], the Moore Ruble Yudell Office from the United States and the doyen of socially responsible architecture, Ralph Erskine, who is more than eight decades old. Emblematic of the entire establishment became a house designed by Staffan Premmert (FFNS Arkitekter) with a lightweight aluminum frame structure and glazed walls, which made extensive use of recycled materials (including gypsum and plaster).

architektura Västra Hamnen jest przede wszystkim przyjazna środowisku oraz mieszkańcom

Västra Hamnen's architecture is first and foremost environmentally friendly, as well as friendly to residents—and those residents, as research conducted by the developers has shown, look very favorably on the combination of traditional urban structure and close contact with nature

Photo: Lars Bendroth © Malmö Stad

water, sun and air

One of the main objectives of the revitalization of the degraded, post-industrial part of Malmö was to create a development complex that would be both resident and environmentally friendly. Right from the start, before any work was undertaken, three and a half thousand cubic meters of contaminated soil were removed, and the entire area was covered with more than a meter of new soil. In such a prepared environment, a district was created, the creators of which speak proudly of being the first in the world to use only renewable energy.

As early as 1999, city officials created a document (subsequently adopted by other stakeholders) defining guidelines for the development of Västa Hamnen. The density of buildings and the layout of streets and squares are to protect against the cold climate and strong winds blowing in from the sea. As many buildings as possible are to face south, in order to make maximum use of solar energy. The buildings should be relatively shallow in depth, with large windows to allow natural daylight to reach every nook and cranny inside. Residential developments must be accompanied by green areas with as diverse a flora as possible.

Rainwater flows down narrow channels surrounding each building. They are part of a complex system along with small waterfalls, ponds, rainwater retention and treatment tanks. They perform an important function in the neighborhood's ecosystem, and at the same time have a beneficial effect on the aesthetics of the surroundings.

 woda jest „motywem przewodnim” kompozycji osiedla Bo01

Water is the „leitmotif” of the Bo01 neighborhood's composition—rainwater draining channels and numerous ponds form a system that improves the aesthetics of the surroundings, allows rainwater retention and supports the biodiversity of the neighborhood's ecosystem

Photo: Linnea Svensson Arbab a© Malmö Stad

city in the landscape

"The foundations of the plan were the majestic surroundings (the sea, the boundless sky, the horizon line), the strong exposure to the winds blowing from the west and the wide grid of the district's boulevards. They introduce order on a macro scale, while leaving room to explore the less visible, living world inside the quarters," Västra Hamnen urban planner Klas Tham said of the concept.
The spatial composition of the new district was based on two water-related elements. The first is Strandpromenaden, a promenade that runs along the western waterfront and is an attractive public space not only for Bo01 residents, but all of Malmö. A walk or bicycle ride allows one to enjoy the magnificent panorama of the Öresund Strait and the view of the delicate silhouette of the bridge linking Sweden and Denmark. The second feature is Kanalparken, a linear park in the eastern part of the district running parallel to the promenade along the artificial canal.

The dense development gives Västra Hamnen an urban character—how different from most neighborhoods—while providing an interesting contrast to the wide panorama of the Öresund Strait. The adopted development layout deviates from common patterns. The tallest buildings with a compact structure are not located in the center of the district, but on its outskirts. They form a kind of barrier protecting the fragmented development of Västra Hamnen and spaces of a more intimate, private (or semi-private) nature.
plants, animals and people

wnętrze jednego z kwartałów zabudowy w Västra Hamnen

The interior of one of the development quarters in Västra Hamnen

photo: Fredrik Johansson © Malmö Stad

Diversity is the guiding idea accompanying the district's developers. It applies to both the architecture and the biosphere. Through careful analysis, it was possible to prepare a long list of plant species, which were then planted and sown along the promenades, in the city's squares and in the inner gardens. All in all, Västra Hamnen has become home to some fifty plant species that produce fruit and nectar for the district's thousands of animal and insect tenants. Bird nesting boxes have appeared above the canals and ponds, bat shelters have been designed in the corners of the buildings and shelves where swallows can stick their nests.

The idea of Bo01 as a place for the good life also involves diversifying the community living there. From the outset, Malmö's authorities were careful to ensure that revitalization did not turn into gentrification and that Västra Hamnen did not become a ghetto for the rich. Doubts turned out to be fully justified, as the 2011 evaluation of the project revealed several significant shortcomings, with a lack of sufficient public housing at the forefront. It's worth noting that the study involved not only residents of the new district, but of Malmö as a whole. After all, Västra Hamnen was to become an integral part of the city, not a closed, exclusive neighborhood. The results of the evaluation made it possible to make the necessary adjustments. Thanks to them, significantly more low-cost housing was planned in the following lots of the West Port (Bo02, Bo03). The idea of public spaces was developed, which, as it turned out, serve residents throughout Malmö.

to live better

Västra Hamnen is being talked about as the city of tomorrow. Bo01 is only the first step—ultimately, the new district is to be home to 30,000 residents, and in the long run become a model for the revitalization of other centers.
"First the life, then the space, finally the buildings—in reverse order it never works".—Jan Gehl wrote, and it's hard to get rid of the impression that his words have become flesh in the former Malmö port area. Västra Hamnen is proof that it is possible to combine the urban character of high-intensity development with green spaces, and that „returning to the city” does not have to mean donning a historicizing costume in the style of "new urbanism."

What seems particularly important, however, also in light of revitalization efforts in Poland, is the ongoing nature of the complex project. Malmö authorities have not limited themselves to implementing the project and boasting about it on social media. On the contrary—at every stage there was evaluation and possible course correction. After all, you can't create the best place to live without a willingness to constantly evolve.

 wejście do portu w Västra Hamnen; zwarta tkanka miejska tworzy interesujący kontrast dla bezkresu nieba i morza oraz linii horyzontu

The entrance to the harbor in Västra Hamnen; the compact urban fabric creates an interesting contrast to the endless sky and sea and the horizon line

Photo credit: Werner Nystrand © Malmö Stad

Błażej Ciarkowski

The vote has already been cast