What do we want our city to be? That’s the question posed in a project offering space for architects of differing size and experience to be visionary and to engage with the city. Architecture Projects: Skeppsbron is the first instalment in the series of exhibitions bringing together some of Sweden’s most talented architects to reimagine their city.
Architecture Projects: Skeppsbron highlights the artistic methods and visionary ideas of eight Stockholm-based architects and studios to propose new possibilities for Skeppsbron – the large, and largely underused, waterfront site stretching from Slussen and all across Gamla Stan to the Royal Palace.
Through drawings, models, words and references, these eight visions consider possible futures for Skeppsbron as an architectural, symbolic, and public landscape. They celebrate the architect’s ability to address the city as a layered, multifaceted environment capable of absorbing unexpected proposals and, together, they can help us to see its potential in a new light.
“This project celebrates the agency of the architect and their tools — drawing, modelling and words, both written and spoken — as a creative force. For this first iteration of Architecture Projects, we reached out to eight Stockholm-based architects and studios of differing sizes and approaches and were delighted that they all accepted engagement with a challenging, open brief: to envision a future Skeppsbron and Skeppsbrokajen as a public, symbolic and architectural landscape”, explains James Taylor Foster, curator of the ArkDes project.
Is a project of this kind a possible way not only to engage with the city, but to create meaningful discussion and, with some political will, help enforce change? And could actually see some visionary ideas in this series that could be brought into life?
The lifeblood of any city is its continual renewal – the cycle of demolition, addition, and extension for which architectural thought should be a key force. The participants who have contributed to this collective effort have each taken unique approaches. Some have speculated radically and abstractly, while others have put ideas on the table that are more grounded and, in many ways, feasible. The real magic of speculative work lies in its capacity to open our eyes to new possibilities, and while the intention of the project is not to create viable proposals, so much from them could be made real!
You say some have speculated radically and abstractly, since this is not an actual project they were pitching for, how do you think that influenced what they submitted? Are the ideas getting wilder and less realistic for that reason?
The exhibition is testament to the creative force of the architect, presented through the most powerful tools at the architect’s disposal: 2D drawing, 3D modelling, and words – both written and spoken. At its core, Architecture Projects is an experimental project that uses these types of conventional architectural formats to frame free, speculative work as central to architectural practice. Speculation is always bound by something. The formats that the participants have worked with, alongside the objects they have created (a large-scale drawing, a model, words, and reference objects), have undoubtedly influenced their lines of thought.
What were your criteria when choosing what subject the architects would work on? What is, in your view, the significance of Skeppsbron and how come that was the first project in this series?
We want to offer a site for speculation that is historic, symbolic, and full of potential. As Stockholm’s oldest quay, Skeppsbron and Skeppsbrokajen has a unique history as the ‘storefront’ of Sweden: a hub for the import and export of goods, a marketplace, a thoroughfare, and a metaphorical bridge between the city and the rest of Europe. Between people, ideas and goods, this was Stockholm’s foremost site of exchange. Today, however, it is dominated by car parks and underused public space, and there is no clear vision for how this area could be used in the future. This is where the architects’ skillsets can contribute enormously.
What do you personally see as the strong points in Stockholm’s architecture and what would you like to see be reworked?
Stockholm has a very specific character: as an archipelago city, it has large bodies of water and islands upon islands – a topography that few cities in the world can boast. I would love to see a more considered discussion about how Stockholm can move forward – how new architecture can play with the historic fabric of the city in ways that enhance its existing character. Cities evolve. We should be as open as possible to new ideas, from all corners of the country and the world, in order to understand what the future of our city really could be. The more introspective the discussion is, the more we might lose sight of its exciting potential.
Example of a vision – In Water Writ by Hermansson Hiller Lundberg (main image)
”In central Stockholm, no symbolic public place of any significance has been created since Sergels torg fifty years ago. At Skeppsbron, we can reverse this trend. This proposal is simple and straightforward, with two elements: the place and the water. Away with the road, the pedestrian paths, the service areas, the traffic lights, the pedestrian crossings, the Customs Houses, the parking lots, the bus stops, the cars, the buses, the coaches, the taxis, the trucks. A place emerges: a long, wide square stretching from the façades of the palaces to where the quay meets the water. The functions, the practical necessities, the infrastructure, the transport all float on the water in the same way that port cities have worked the world over for millennia. Here, the water is used to take things in and out – both goods and people. It is filled with barges, restaurants, clubs, jetties, and bathing facilities with functions and contexts that are ever-changing. Let’s create an open place. A noisy, festive, ambiguous, unruly common place. For diverse encounters, for mighty manifestations, for delirious summer night small-hours chats. A place where we walk freely on the square, jog along the quay, and listen to the sound of the waves between the barges”.
Architecture Projects: Skeppsbron is on display at ArkDes until June 9.