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Hammarby Sjöstad

From eyesore to waterfront utopia: Scandinavian aesthetics and sensible “green” solutions have been happily combined in the Stockholm suburb of Hammarby Sjöstad.

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In what was once a run-down industrial and inner harbor area, a popular and attractive new residential district has been created which is a model of sustainable urban development. Government delegations and journalists from Asia, North America and continental Europe have flocked to Hammarby Sjöstad to get a first-hand glimpse of what one architectural magazine recently termed a “waterfront utopia.”

This visionary project was originally conceived in conjunction with the Swedish capital’s efforts to host the Summer 2004 Olympics. Extensive cooperation between City planning authorities and lead architectural firm Tengbom and its private-sector partners has been required to make this ambitious project a reality.

“There have been many, many meetings held over the course of the years,” observes Tengbom architect and partner Stellan Fryxell, who has been involved in Hammarby Sjöstad virtually since its inception in the late 1990s.

Waste and garbage, a big headache in most urban areas, has been transformed into a valuable resource in Hammarby Sjöstad. In this suburb-of-the-future, rubbish is sorted into three categories—combustible, organic and paper—and dumped into chutes located outside each apartment house and in public places. Underground pipes use vacuum suction to convey the wastes to central collection centers. Organic food wastes are turned into compost and used to provide nutrients for parks and gardens, while sewage is transformed into locally produced biogas for buses and cars, or used to heat ovens.

Electricity generated by solar panels on roofs and walls illuminate street lamps and help to heat buildings in this community. Some of the apartment blocks have plant-topped roofs, a way to add oxygen into the atmosphere and counter the effects of carbon emissions. In addition, the green-roofs filter pollutants from rainwater, which might otherwise find their way to the lake.

Pedestrians, not cars, rule in Hammarby Sjöstad
The lack of traffic in the residential areas is especially appreciated by families with young children. Workers can make use of a free ferry service to cross Sjöstad Lake to the city centre, or pick up a car from a communal pool. The apartment blocks have been built of eco-friendly materials which are locally produced to reduce the need for long-distance transports. The interiors of the flats feature water-saving plumbing, which have helped reduce water consumption by more than 50 percent below normal levels.

And as one might expect in Sweden— ]the promised land of functionalism—apartment interiors and windows are designed to make the best-possible use of available natural light and reduce heat losses. Eventually, Hammarby Sjöstad will be expanded to provide homes for approximately 35,000 residents.

One reason that “Green” urban planning is blooming in this particular region are some positive pre-conditions, such as well-developed infrastructures for public transport and heating systems. The Swedish capital, for example, boasts a network of over 100 subway stations, which is supplemented by a commuter trains and comprehensive bus service. Four out of five Stockholm homes are connected to a cost-effective district heating.

Surprisingly, the special measures taken to make Hammarby Sjöstad a model of environmental responsibility has required additional costs of only about 4 percent, and created new values which can only be described as “quality of life.” The popularity of Hammarby Sjöstad – particularly with young professionals -- has created a heavy demand for the flats, which command premium prices comparable to those in much more central Stockholm locations.

“The popularity of the Hammarby Sjöstad has to do with its good reputation. People feel that this is the best possible place to raise a family,” says architect Fryxell.

Written by David Bartal
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