Mohamed Elabed works for Regionplanekontoret in Stockholm and is engaged in the RUFS 2010 regional development plan, which has a long scope: from now to 2030. Himself the son of immigrants and raised in one of the “million program” areas outside Stockholm, he regards issues of segregation and social exclusion as very fundamental in debate as in action. He has reached his current position by taking a degree in political science and recently organized an event at this very place , namely Arkitekturmuseet!

Mohamed was project leader for the of the group doing research and compiling the document “Mötesplatser i Stockholmsregionen”, in English, “Meeting Places in the Stockholm Region” (February 2010) with case studies from Norrköping, Stockholm and Malmö, the two latter known for increasing challenges due to failed integration. This issue of creating places to meet; mötesplatser, and the importance of social capital are both in focus in the RUFS 2010 (regional development plan). Certain residential areas appear to be stigmatized almost from the planning stage due to disregard to aesthetics, the absence of meeting places, poor infrastructure, low quality housing, the topography of the area etc. This stigmatization reduces immediately the social capital of the people who come to live in these areas.

In the discussion around the Connecting-Stockholm model table, one of the first subjects raised concerned physical versus mental connections. Mohamed regard the latter as really difficult and described how he today, though living in a typical middle class neighbourhood: Reimersholme, and having a career job, still socialize mostly with friends with a similar background!

After lively and positive discussions Mohamed and the Connecting-Stockholm team around the table agreed on a number of critical issues:

• Building “purpose bridges”; tools for interactivity, is preferred to formulating “orders” (rules and laws) to interact.

• If you want to fight the “power”: do not be too aggressive and not too timid. Find a balance and practice it.

• If a network-city is to become a reality, segregation must be seriously addressed. Segregation distracts people not only from their own efforts but from what is possible.

• Yes, create institutions like “cultural houses” but make them flexible, multifunctional, open for improvisation and, not least, de-centralize them to the suburbs. If they are “created for purpose”, depending of where they are located, prejudice are often built into the use/program and tend to enforce segregation. These problems can be seen everywhere, from play-grounds to discos.

Text: Kristina Börjesson Photo: David Relan