Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city and a major port and technology center on the western (North Sea) coast of the country, has had a particularly vivid experience of the economic and social transformations that are reshaping cities in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In addition, as a coastal city shaped by shipping and industry, it faces the challenges of sustainability, resilience and adaptation in relation to climate change, human migration, and increasingly uneven distribution of income and opportunity. This studio will explore the role, both performative and representational, of architecture and urban design in identifying and implementing innovative responses to these challenges.
The spatial epicenter of these explorations will be riverfront area, known as Lindholmen, across from the historic city center and until the 1970s, the site of some of the world’s biggest ship building companies. The decline of the ship building industry began in the 1960s, and at the same time, the major part of the Port of Gothenburg was moving out of the center of the city to new container-based facilities to the west, where it is well established today as the largest port in Scandinavia. Meanwhile, large tracts of riverfront land in the heart of the city were left vacant and available for redevelopment, which began in the 1980s and is ongoing. Lindholmen itself, at the geographic center of this redevelopment, was reinvented as a Science Park, anchored by technology and media companies, Gothenburg’s two major research universities, and technical high schools which were in part a legacy of the ship-building industry. As such, Lindholmen has become a focus and symbol of Gothenburg’s transition from an older economy of Fordist production to characteristic new economy fueled by research, knowledge and innovation.
While Gothenburg seems to have managed that transition relatively successfully, there are now critical questions emerging about the next phase of urban development, including economic, social and environmental sustainability and resilience, differential impacts on an increasingly diverse population, not to mention, in general, the kind of city that new development is creating. In the context of these questions, the studio will look at other cities around the world, and especially in northern Europe—like Amsterdam, Hamburg, Helsinki, Stockholm and London— that have seen similar transformations of formerly industrial waterfront areas. We will look not only at changing urban and architectural morphology and typologies, but also consider the old and new networks that these areas activate and to which they connect their cities.
Then, turning back to Gothenburg and Lindholmen, the studio will link broad themes and urban challenges—like climate change and resilience, mobility and accessibility, uneven development and inequality, industrial heritage and contemporary urban culture, public health and well-being, or food production and supply—to specific sites, systems and uses in Lindholmen, and then to potentially related sites in the broader urban region. Students will be challenged to design, and find innovative ways of representing and communicating their design, at multiple scales—from materials and details of buildings and public space to regional and global networks—and through various and mixed media. Travel for the studio will include one or more northern European port cities as well as Gothenburg, and perhaps a more local trip to see relevant new development in the northeastern U.S., and projects will be developed in close consultation with planners, architects and academics in Gothenburg.