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25 Aug


Impressions from Sweden – Urban Design in Stockholm

August 25, 2014 | By |

By Ida Ottesen, Principal

I recently came back from vacation visiting family and friends in Stockholm and Visby in Sweden. During our travels I had the opportunity to see some exciting new and old landscape architecture starting right in the backyard of the apartment we stayed at in Stockholm.

Stockholm, also known as the Venice of the North, is built on 14 islands and water permeates the city in all directions. Lindhagen is a brand new residential area located on a former industrial site at Kungsholmen, one of the islands in Stockholm. Kungsholmen is considered the central part of a high density district in central Stockholm with large block-wide multi-family buildings from 5- 7 stories.

The particular neighborhood we stayed in, Hornsbergs Strand is built on what used to be an old asphalt plant so environmental remediation was a big part of the project just as in other recent developments in Stockholm such as Hammarby Sjöstad.


Aerial showing area before redevelopment The development we stayed in located where the asphalt plant used to be, shown to the left in the picture (Courtesy Stockholms Stadsbyggnadskontor)


hornsbstrand_flyg_okt2012 courtesy stocklholms stad

Aerial showing the new park where the asphalt plant used to be (Courtesy Stockholms Stadsbyggnadskontor)

While the streets are predominantly hardscaped and have very few street trees and plantings, the multi-family buildings features large courtyards and the nearby waterfront park offer ample space for recreation in different ways. The courtyards function on an intimate scale, and typically include a small play area for younger children, a seating area with a communal table, lush perennial plantings and garden-level detailing. The semi- private courtyards are open to the public and become part of the open space structure of the city.


Entrance to Courtyard


Gazebo with seating

Courtyard-Planting-Ida-Ottesen - Copy

Lush Plantings



Stepping stones

It was interesting to see that while we in Seattle focus on “greening” streets to increase urban livability, the architects of Lindhagen took a different – and successful – approach, building at high density while creating sheltered pockets of open space interspersed within the large network of streets and buildings.

The new shoreline park, Hornsbergs Beach park, designed by landscape architect, Bengt Isling (Nyren’s Arkitekter was completed in 2012 and won the Siena Prize, a prestigious award given by the Swedish Society of Architects for the best landscape architecture project of the year.

Hornsbergs Beach Park was the missing link in tying together a 7.5 mile walking and biking loop around the island of Kungsholmen. The park offers an exciting urban “beach” experience right in the middle of the city and during the summer it has become a popular place for swimming or lounging. The park has nice evening sun and while we were there Stockholm experienced record high temperatures so the park was absolutely packed with people in the evenings. The park has become so popular the city has a hard time keeping up with maintenance and trash collection to the disgrunt of local residents.

The hardscaped wavy shoreline ties together this narrow park and offers ladders which you can use to access the water for a swim.

Park “beach” in summer (courtesy Vårt Kungsholmen)

Park “beach” in summer (courtesy Vårt Kungsholmen)


Hornsbergs Beach Park at 5am

There are also three accessible modern docks for sunbathing and swimming that had some beautiful detailing of stairways and ramps.


Hornsbergs Beach Park

Paralleling the shoreline is a walkway bordered by perennial plantings and smaller groves of trees. I visited the park during several occasions during my stay in Stockholm and got to experience the park’s contemplative features during a 5am jog (jetlag!) and during late afternoons and evenings when the park completely filled with people looking to enjoy the long summer evenings in Stockholm. The landscape architects at Nyrens Arkitekter were successful in creating a modern and sinuous park that provides year round interest and caters to a variety of age groups.


An evening walk in Hornsbergs Beach Park