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Housing and

Exploring the Øresund region: Malmö's western harbor development

The transformation of the Western Harbor of Malmö began with the European Housing Expo Bo01 in 2001, and the last stage was completed in the summer 2011. The area has a mixture of housing, industries, workplaces, education and recreation spaces.
In 1996, Malmö Municipality bought the 175-hectare artificial island of Västra Hamnen (Western Harbor) with the idea to transform it from a polluted industrial island into a modern, environmentally aware, forward-looking district, by using a sustainable approach to urban planning. Project managers Andreia Fidalgo and Shirley Bröcker visited the area to explore the current state of development and found interesting examples:


Malmö is, with 323.000 inhabitants (2015), Sweden’s third largest city. Further, it is known as the commercial center of southern Sweden. The city of Malmö was formally known for its industries in shipbuilding. Do to the recession in the 1970s the city suffered an acute industrial decline, resulting in the abandonment of the industries and docklands on the north coastal part of the city. However, this opened the door to redevelopment. Over time it became evident that social sustainability was a major challenge for Malmö, experiencing a very unequal and segregated urban fabric.
From the beginning of the 21st century the city started undergoing a transformation into a city of information and knowledge, and sustainable urban development framed the new political agenda. Having the knowledge that dense urban areas are more resource-efficient and have therefore reduced environmental impact, compared to low-density development, Malmö focusses on inward expansion. The City priorities are close range distances, high density, green and mixed-function urban areas. An important part of this sustainable urban development was the waterfront (re)development: the Western Harbor, which was supposed to be a showcase of what sustainable urban development could look like. Today’s Malmö is a visibly multi-ethnic and young city, and considered by the OECD to be the third most innovative city (Malmö region, which also includes Lund) in the world.

Western Harbor and Bo01

The Western Harbor is approximately 140ha and gives room for 30.000 residents. The expansion of the Western Harbor began with the European Housing Expo - Bo01 in the summer of 2001, with the last stage completed in the summer of 2011. Bo01 have an area of 9ha, 600 dwellings, and 1.000 residents, and it shows the vision of future living with high demands on aesthetics, ecology and high technology combined. 
The main objectives for this area were, the use of brown field sites for urban development; 100% net locally renewable energy, which means the use of renewable energy only; minimize future transport needs and car dependency; no use of hazardous materials and the use of reusable materials for when the buildings are demolished; and biodiversity, with a diverse range of natural life, the creation of habitats for many different plant and animal species, green roofs and walls.
A great example of this is shown on the wall of a parking garage. The plants are climbing over the wall which makes it look green instead of grey. Furthermore, by adding bird and bat boxes, it will also attract a great variety of animal life. Also, an open rain water system, contributes to a high level of biodiversity.
Going back to the city being ‘green’: even the playgrounds at schools are green. Since research shows greenery affects the well-being and ability to learn, the school playgrounds should not be grey but green, spurring the developments of healthier children. 
The minimization of transport-needs and car dependency is achieved through the creation of a footpath and a cycleway network, an attractive and well developed public transport system, and environmentally friendly vehicles. The parking norm is only 0.7 per household and an electrical car pool is available for the residents. 
Further, there is a smart waste system incorporated in the development. Organic waste is transformed into biogas through a system of vacuum waste chutes that take the waste to the biogas plant. The created biogas can then be used to heat homes and power vehicles.
The famous landmark of Sweden, the Turning Torso, is part of the area development in the Western Harbor. It is a 190 meters high residential building and has 54 floors. This building won several prices and rewards, such as the FIB award for outstanding structures. It stands out from the rest of the city because of his height, as well as its unusual shape.
However, there is also criticism directed towards the Western Harbor and the Bo01 developments, mainly related to affordability since the high cost of the units is too high to serve moderate and low-income residents. Also, due to the fact that the originally plan, to have 0.7 cars per household, was not successful, one of the main problems is related to the shortage of parking spaces. Lastly, also the energy efficiency goals projected were not met.
How do we live today and how do we will live in the future? When you are a member of the IFHP you can move this discussion forward and share your knowledge with the IFHP community through our Urban Labs, IFHP ones, social media and other events. Please join us in making better cities for people. Because… don’t you want to live in a better city? 
Written by Andreia Fidalgo and Shirley Bröcker