Status: Competition (2013)
Location: , SwedenKristinehamn, Sweden
Climate: Continental, Temperate
Environment: Old town
Types: Masterplan, Public space
City of Kristineham faces the challenge of preserving and enhancing the quality of life of its inhabitants. The adaptable city will be successful if its able to evolve as the new ways of life of its citizens does. Situated over river Varnan, in a privileged middle position between Oslo, Stockholm and Gothenburg, it was once the heart of lake Vänern. Today, a small plot in the center of the city can become an strategic lever for activation and regeneration on an urban level.
Beyond the small scale, and due to its position, Svinvallen is clearly destined to become a new hub of the area; the heart of Kristinehamn and its citizens. The competition brief offers a defined site and also an a wider strategic area, aware that the impact on the city will be much bigger than its physical size.
Nowadays, Kristinehamn presents a very defined and differentiated urban fabric. History has taught us, though, that hybridity of uses and rhythms work towards a better quality of life in which the car is less necessary, and the inhabitants spend less time in commuting and more time interacting. Svinvallen serves as the perfect platform to become this new multi-purpose, animated complex space.
Back to citizens.
Beyon the bridge
Svinvallen acting as a connector means that the link between the areas goes beyond the sole piece of a bridge as an entrance. A transition of spaces, with a mix of uses, allows the inhabitants to walk (or ride a bicycle) and meander from Downtown to the commercial area through the new center.
A variety of pavements reflect the different ambiences we can find; form the dynamic ‘portuguese arranged’ stone pavement nearby the entrances of the historical buildings, to the easy to walk (both for wheelchairs and for kids and elder people, who will also thank a regular pavement) rubberized asphalt.
Kristinehamn can proudly presume of the quality of life of its denizens. The unique character of the city comes from a very rich public space and an even richer green surface. Combined with the string identity of river Varna, Svinvallen becomes a new opportunity for the city to enhance the life of its citizens and visitors. Providing the desirable amount of free space for a wide and ambitious collective programmatic, it becomes a new heart for both the river and the lake.
Connected through the three main doors (a ‘land entrance’ and two ‘bridges’) River Varna should by no means be perceived as a barrier; on the contrary, it visually connects the city throughout it and serves as a communication (and leisure) path for locals and guests. Historically, River Varna has been the revitalizing element that brought wealth and activity to the city. It is time to give it back this major role as it indeed does not break but join the two shores both visually and mentally.
A new centrality with intensive programming always works for a more sustainable city in which commuting by car is replaced by pedestrian and bicycle paths. Providing a central hub makes the perfect excuse to extend the normal commercial and leisure routes, creating new flows of people who wants to share the new collective space.
In fact, cars and their sided services (roads and parking) are clearly against a cohesive idea of the territory as it provides a false idea of connection, when it really acts as a the main barrier. Lately, in Kristinehamn as in many modern cities, it has been easier to drive than to walk.
Citizens for citizens.
The unpredictable program
After the civic dialogue held in September of the 2012 it seems clear that citizens of Kristinehman are eager to have a new collective space where to meet and interact. It is also true that there is no a clear consensus on the scope of the use. Time will tell us which activities are more adequate.
City planners should not impede normal growth and evolution of spaces; citizens should. On the contrary, we should provide a flexible frame for them to spontaneously redirect the course of activities and uses so public space matches the real needs of their real owners. From early morning to late evening; from children to elder; both for visitors and local inhabitants
Adjusting to a somehow unpredictable program is what has granted successful resilience to historical cities through history: the capacity to mutate With their inhabitants.
What it is clear though is that open spaces don’t activate and regenerate by themselves. An intensive development must be envisioned to create the proper frame of usage that will translate in flows of citizens and activities. Axes, connectors, hierarchy of paths and buildings must create a system; a network that sews the territory and links with the rest of the city.
It is paramount that this new frame or growth strategy is on par with the existing context in order to build and preserve a string of identity.