The history of Malmö can be traced back through the centuries to its humble beginnings as a flourishing herring marketplace but the forward-looking city is setting ambitious goals for itself: to be climate neutral by 2020 and to run on 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Sweden’s third most populous city has undergone a major transformation with significant architectural developments, growing biotech and IT companies, and a new university, due in large part to the construction of the Öresund Bridge crossing the strait to Copenhagen.
Malmö is focused on becoming a global role model for urban environmental sustainability, and has gained recognition for large-scale developments such as the Western Harbour, Västra Hamnen. The first stage of its renewal began in 2001 with the Housing Fair Bo01, or the City of Tomorrow, a post-industrial district built in the former shipyard. The pilot project’s 500 homes, commercial and community facilities are constructed to standards enforcing a strong ecological approach as set out in the ‘Quality Programme.’ A ‘wall’ of tall mixed-use buildings fronting the sea acts as a wind shelter around a densely built interior of small-scale housing blocks separated by green space and alleyways. A few dozen architectural firms had a hand in the design, including Ralph Erskine, Mario Campi and Gert Wingårdh, lending variation to the energy-efficient dwellings. Unfortunately, for all its success, the heavily publicized, visionary branding project was criticized for being an exclusive, secluded urban residential neighbourhood and for sky-high costs.
The Västra Hamnen and Hyllie neighbourhoods continue to be active areas of growth, with broad initiatives taken to integrate environment and energy in their urban planning. As a leading city, Malmö is hosting the upcoming International Conference on Sustainability Certification of Urban Areas on September 16.
On an entirely different scale, the nearby 54-storey (190m) Turning Torso by Santiago Calatrava is Scandinavia’s tallest skyscraper. Completed in 2005, the tower’s twisting form, composed of nine segments of pentagonal floors wound a total of 90° from the structure’s base to the top, has become a symbol for the city of blue collar roots.
The design dialogue continues with an exhibition this summer entitled ‘Ah Vådda-då? Malmö!’ at the Form/Design Centre, a non-profit organization aimed at promoting good design. An eclectic mix of objects, architectural projects and ideas were laid out, per the curators, “like a visionary medieval feast.” Examples addressed issues from climate concerns to multiculturalism, and included interactive city guides and bicycle campaigns, furniture made from ‘green’ materials, and a model of Malmö’s new World Village of Women’s Sports by the Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) due to be completed in 2014. Also on display: a video of invited architects and planners discussing what the “capital” of the Skåne province will look like in the future.