Vision of the new Albano Resilient Campus. Photo: Q-book Albano 4

Urban planning: a chance to put Stockholm on the world map

Centre researchers call for political leadership to build a new sustainable campus area in Stockholm.

This is a translated version of an op-ed published in Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. The original Swedish article can be read here.
 
“With the Albano area now being developed, there is a unique opportunity to build an ecologically sustainable neighbourhood that can become a model internationally. But it requires political leadership so that the project does not crumble in the trade-offs," architects and researchers argue.
 
In the international competition for skilled workers, business start-ups and research, Stockholm is looking to build a strong identity. The current Albano urban development project offers a unique opportunity to both strengthen Stockholm's future as a competitive knowledge region as well as take international leadership in sustainable urban development. Thus, it is about further developing its brand within knowledge building and environmental thinking, areas in which Stockholm already enjoys great credibility. In order not to miss this opportunity, a completely different political approach is required, not only in the city, but also in the region and nationally.

Stockholm has an excellent reputation on sustainable urban development. The city district Hammarby Sjöstad is regularly praised in the international press and attracts a steady stream of visitors from universities and city administrations worldwide. However, we believe that progress in knowledge is fast and it's high time for the next generation of sustainable urban planning to step forward.
 
In Hammarby, sustainability issues are addressed in particular through various technical systems for energy supply, waste disposal, sewage, etc. This is important and skilfully resolved by the city, however the big challenge is how ecological systems can be coordinated with urban development in a long-term coexistence. The consequence of this unresolved conflict between man and nature is something we encounter in almost every newscast these days.

On behalf of Akademiska Hus (the largest property company in Sweden), we have developed a vision that presents both principles and concrete solutions on how to deal with this conflict. This vision is integrated into the programs proposed for the Albano area that the city presented. Now, however, comes the critical phase of turning the vision into practical solutions which will require much work.

In this process we see the obvious risks that the unique opportunities Albano carries will crumble when all stakeholders involved have had their say. Already, traffic has received its share of earnings which means that only marginal changes of Roslagsvägen will be allowed. In our perspective, it could, together with Valhallavägen, be transformed into one of the city's most attractive urban spaces, a green corridor from the Gärdet area to the university with extensive car, bicycle and pedestrian traffic but also with an enhanced ecosystem. Without an integrated approach there will never be as good arguments from various technical departments to lead to a sum that no one wants to acknowledge. This requires political leadership that gives this project priority and a focused planning process.

Albano is now a stripped industrial area between Roslagsbanan and Roslagsvägen, the cross point between Stockholm's three main universities: the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm University and Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). While it is in the border zone between the dense inner city and one of the regions's most high-quality areas in terms of biodiversity and ecosystems, the Royal National City Park. Here a new campus area can become a unifying hub between the universities and develop this part of town into an academic environment that will have few counterparts internationally because of the attractive location and business diversity. Even more innovative is how an urban development with its traditional urban demands for a rich and vibrant urban environment can be synergised with the conservation and development of local ecosystems and biodiversity.
 
The innovative nature of this concept is that it is not just about maintaining and developing the ecosystem for its own sake, but understanding that these systems perform a variety of essential ecosystem services crucial to the city of Stockholm. It's about the invisible services such as purifying water and air, that the city's green spaces currently clean 40 percent of today's carbon dioxide emissions, and pollination, without which we would not have beautiful parks, gardens and more. The cost of operating such services would otherwise be astronomical had it not been for the free services provided by Stockholm's local ecosystems.

We want the politicians of Stockholm to show leadership and prioritise a project which deals with all the big questions about Stockholm's future; the knowledge economy, a sustainable society and an attractive urban environment for all. If you want to put Stockholm on the map, we have not seen a better opportunity than this to be first in the world to build a sustainable knowledge city district with the next generation of architectural solutions. Then Stockholm politicians also live up to what all too often become empty words: a future world class Stockholm.

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About the centre researchers:

Henrik Ernstson pursues an understanding of cities and urban landscapes from a social-ecological perspective. He is interested in developing frameworks that can account both for ecological complexity as well as issues of social equity and power.

Stephan Barthel is employed by centre partner Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics. His research revolves around aspects in relation to management of urban ecosystem services and resilience. Focus is on social as well as ecological features that influence management practices.
Johan Colding holds a PhD in natural resource management and is employed as a research coordinator of urban studies at the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, and serves as a theme leader of the Urban social-ecological systems theme at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

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Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Stockholm Resilience Centre
Stockholm University, Kräftriket 2B
SE-10691
Phone: +46 8 674 70 70
info@stockholmresilience.su.se

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