Archives for category: Interviews

Permaculture. An “approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecologies,” according to Wikipedia. The idea is to move away from industrial farming in order to recognize the patterns of the way nature truly works. The aim: to create edible and bio-diverse landscapes that can sustain themselves as food forests. But what can we grow in the region of Stockholm, how do we do it, and how can people that are interested in sustainable techniques connect with those who already are using this kind of methods? These questions were the starting point of last Thursday’s conversation with architect and permaculture expert Bertil Thermaenius, and Hiroshi Okawa, architecture student at University of Tokyo.

As the small farms we once had in Sweden became less viable during the industrial era, this traditional knowledge fell into oblivion. “We lost a lot on the way, but people are still rather close to the land in the countryside, and many of the houses that were used for farming still stand,” Bertil said. The barns might be falling apart––but they can still be repaired. Bertil himself started having chickens in his backyard in 1988. The following year he and some like minded started a permaculture association in Sweden. The original permaculture movement, scientifically developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications, gained international attention in the beginning of the 1980s. Today, the movement has grown substantially, and now includes everything from a farm in the Austrian Alps when the permaculture guru Sepp Holzer is challenging common assertions of what can be grown in the mountains to roof gardens in London. Recently, an international group set out to support permaculture relief and restoration projects in Haiti in response to the earthquake that took place earlier this year.

What then grows in the city of Stockholm? “In permaculture, we focus on things you don’t have to seed everyday, perennials,” Bertil explained. “In the industrial city, you need 25 hectare of land in energy to take care of one hectare of land. In ecological farming you might need an input of 10 to 1. And in permaculture it is 1 to1,” he told us. “It is all up to our imagination and experience––things just don’t happen, it takes knowledge and time to build such a system,” Bertil concluded. According to Bertil, one key to success is to include the children. “They are the ones that have a chance to do something about this,” he said. They could be given access to school gardens, for example, which would give them a greater understanding of local growth.

So, is it possible that the energy that goes into the city can go back to the farmland? How can  an interest among people for ecological gardens be created? And, do we need to form an entirely new system, or can we build on the existing one? For the time being, there might be many questions hanging in the autumn air. But one thing we do know is that there is a lot of work to do, for all of us.

Text: Rebecka Gordan Photo: David Relan


We had the pleasure of recieving Mr. Thyagarajan as a visitor the other day. As he describes in the video below he has extensive experience in regional and urban planning in cities such as Detroit, Baltimore, and New York, as well as developing public transport in London and now working for cleaner energy. He also teaches at the University of Albany. We were fortunate to recieve his wisdom and insights on how Stockholm might be better connected, and between long discussions with our architects he gave us a short interview on what he sees in trying to connect a city. Have a look..

Filmed by David

Last week we had Sanjoo Malhotra in to talk about how he connects cultures as a chef. Tandoori and meatballs, Sweden and India – the dinner table as a point for intercultural networks makes a lot of sense. He will be cooking at Kulturhuset on the 3rd for those who are more interested.

Filmed by David

We had the pleasure of meeting Håkan Forsell, and Urban Historian from Örebro University the other day to talk about the history of Stockholm and find out his thoughts about connecting Stockholm. He’s spoken in previous works about the economy of segregation regarding the housing markets, and about the reasons for segregation in a city. I beleive that we’ll be posting a more detailed description of the meeting in a bit, but I had to post a clip. It’s facinating to talk about the city emerging as a marketplace rather than a common living space. I wonder what the city might mature into next. The time seems ripe to mature beyond a purely economic city.

Posted by David

In the workshop of Arkitekturmuseet, the Thorsèn family is building models of how they want their future city to look like. This is their own words on their creations:

Torbjörn Thorsèn, 42:        “I am building the city of the future. It is an entirely car-free environment, driven by boats and bicycles. All the trees are taking care of the sewage; it is the greenery that eats all feces and food waste. Together the houses are becoming a big, living compost.”

Elvin Thorsèn, 5: “I am building houses that are stuck together. The people living in them are supposed to make their way to their neighbors by climbing, hanging in those sticks.”

Lovisa, 2,5: “I like glitter. We live there, and grandmother lives close to us.”

Jennifer, 40: “Either I build row-houses or linked houses, or tenement buildings by the water and green fields. It is important that green areas are inserted in the city. I would like to have pedestrian paths and bike paths. I don’t want to walk out of my house and be on a car road right away. I feel that one can be isolated in villa suburbs, so it is important with natural meeting places. I would like to keep the little town, even if it is a utopia. With the shopping malls people don’t meet on the streets. They take the car, and then they stay in their own backyard without talking to each other.”





Text: Rebecka Gordan Photos: David Relan

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

On Saturday, we met with Stephen Hinton from Transition Towns. A Transition Town – or a village /city /forest /island – responds to challenges of peak oil and climate change. It stresses the need to undertake a community led process to rebuild resilience and reduce carbon omissions, and it underscores the value of people’s own initiatives and special knowledge. The aim is also to connect existing groups in the community, build bridges to local government and form new groups focused on key areas of life such as food, energy, transport and social welfare.

The Transition Town, Stephen explained, always starts on the grassroots level. It happens when a group of individuals sharing the same concern within a community come together. “We must be prepared to change the way we are living,” Stephen said, “it is all about designing how we want to live, regarding physical structures as well as making a place resilient concerning food provision.” Being one of the founders of the Swedish version of this global initiative, his network already has 1 600 members in the country, since starting in February 2009. In Sweden, the two main centers have so far been Sigtuna and Gothenburg, the latter with the initiative Stadsodling. In all, Transition Towns has now over 50 active places in Sweden.

When hearing about the strategies of Connecting-Stockholm, Stephen told us that his main goal for many years has been to make Stockholm a better city for walking. He has created three walking maps of the city, and has been working close with the municipality of Huddinge. He explained that most people neither know how long they can walk, nor how fast they are as pedestrians. Even if people have lived in a place for a long time, they still aren’t always familiar with the surrounding walking routes and how close things actually are just by foot. “Walking for 20 minutes is nothing, but you have to know what it means in terms of where you will get at a certain walking speed,“ he explained.

Stephen agreed with the need to grow food locally. Sweden does not have to buy garlic from China nor to buy onions from New Zealand. “We need to do a simulation on what would happen if the oil prices rise,” he said, adding that a family needs one hectare of land to be fed. He told us that we, being in a cold country like Sweden, could learn from methods from as far back as the 1700th century, when people where more skilled at preserving food.

The initiative Transition Towns initially started in 2006 in England, and has now spread to countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, the US. “Sweden is in denial if you ask me, and we need to figure out how we can live in the transition,” Stephen said. “A transition phase is very painful. Having different eyes is painful.”

Text: Rebecka Gordan Photos: David Relan