Today’s Solutions: May 22, 2022

Rethinking our orthodox ways of urban design is essential if we are to achieve meaningful action in our fight against climate change. This is the line of thinking behind an experimental project in Sweden, which has transformed a conventional made-for-cars city block in central Stockholm into a community-centered one.

Using a kit of parts that resembles a Lego set, residents worked together with designers to redesign the space with a new vision of what one agency calls the “one-minute city.”

The project is the hyperlocal version of the “15-minute city” — an approach to urban design that seeks to improve liveability by creating cities where people can reach everything they need within a 15-minutes walk or bike ride.

The idea of the one-minute city, however, isn’t quite as literal: It doesn’t mean that you can reach all your daily needs in one neighborhood block. But it does shed light on how streets might transform if they are given back to pedestrians and cyclists.

“What we really aspire is to slow down the pace on streets for them to work more as the public spaces they are,” said Daniel Byström, project manager at ArkDes Think Tank. ArkDes is a national agency that focuses on sustainable urban design, which partnered on the project with Vinnova, the Swedish national innovation agency.

“We believe that streets can be more optimized considering the needs of humans and nature. Today, streets are mainly designed for cars, leaving little or no space for other activities. It’s not sustainable.”

As part of the design, ArkDes created a set of wooden street furniture called Street Moves that can fit inside standard parking spots to create public benches as well as parking for bikes and scooters.

The project pilot launched last summer in four different blocks around central Stockholm. After the first blocks were transformed, the team saw a 400 percent increase of neighbors on the streets, with the majority saying they were happy or very happy with the changes.

The changes are part of Sweden’s plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Following the success of the project, the designers are now looking to expand to other cities around the country too.

Image source: ArkDes

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