We have in our practice and teaching over many years developed a trajectory of projects investigated how global issues are affecting local conditions. By mapping, analysing and understanding responses and tactics to the global crisis in a local context, we have explored how local ways to operate could catalyse change within global transformations affecting urban and rural areas today.
As an example of this endeavour here we describe a project on the city of Gothenburg.
We have investigated transient edge conditions of harbour cities in relation to climate change, rising water levels, dynamic water conditions, flooding strategies and shifting economies. Studying the dynamics of the flooding in Gothenburg, we have explored the threats and problems the city and its built environment are exposed to, due to rising water levels. We have explored natural water edge ecologies; the logics and dynamics of ecosystems that are dependent on and profit from flooding and fluctuating water levels, imagining the riverbanks as a potential productive edge and water infrastructure system. How could this system be developed to be integrated in and become part of the city, and contribute to ways of living and working, production and recreation?
In our work and investigations of Gothenburg, a city which has undergone major changes during the past decades, have been focusing on developing alternative future scenarios and identities for the city, departing from its relationship to water. From being a significant harbour and industrial city, then turning into a city with an industry in decline, Gothenburg shows a high rate of unemployment, socio-cultural and racial tensions, a shortage of housing, and is one of the most exposed and threatened cities from rising sea levels and flooding in Sweden. The City Planning Office, in collaboration with property developers and the industry, have developed future plans for Centrala Älvstaden – an urban regeneration project for the region and the city of Gothenburg, branding, densifying and changing the structure and character of large areas of the city through 15,000 new dwellings and 40,000 new work opportunities for the north and south river-banks located in high-risk flooding zones.
Departing from the understanding of the coastal edge as a system, a productive industrial edge and an operative infrastructure, we developed propositions for an urban network – a series of interconnected cross-programmed spaces and architectural interventions – where the flooding water could be considered as a resource for the future of Gothenburg. Based on the model of a network, its physical as well as non-physical organisational pattern is an urban planning strategy in which the relationships and connections between actors, programmes, activities and spaces can be understood as both spatial and programmatic. The network is developed as a flexible series of self-sufficient spaces for fluctuating flows and uses, making it adaptable to future challenges and opportunities. Applying a wider and softer notion of infrastructure or infrastructural ecology, this added layer of intensity, enhancing the production, interaction, exchange and sharing of resources and space, could make it less vulnerable and less dependent on high technology and advanced infrastructure. Programming of spaces and architectural interventions, such as floating markets, biogas parks, waste water gardens, algae farms, and osmotic power plants, have been focusing on self-sufficiency in terms of energy and resources, local production and recycling, commonly shared, owned, used and run by local communities. Imagining Gothenburg as a city on water, where the rising water is considered a productive and common asset rather than a threat, we believe is critical for a sustainable development of the city.