New Towns on the Cold War Frontier - Part 1, The First Generation New Towns in the West and the East

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This is a BOOK IN PROGRESS by Crimson Historians and Urbanists. Its title is:

New Towns on the Cold War Frontier

. At this moment, we present you a list of contents, an introduction and some chapters, each in itself the size of a book and independently readable. In due time there will be more chapters, added one by one. Eventually, the book will be printed in one volume of about 1800 pages. But this will take a while. We and our other authors simply can’t wait that long. Our essays want to get out there and partake in the many discussions on urban planning especially in the developing world. We believe in open source, both as a way of sharing knowledge with anyone interested and as a way to improve our own research with other researcher’s insights. Before we take the definitive step to the printer, we invite readers to give their comments and/or advice by sending an email to: crimson@crimsonweb.org Topic The essays in this book examine a series of completely new built cities from the postwar period (1945-1980) from a political perspective. Its hypothesis is that urban planning in the Cold War period was considered to be a powerful instrument in the global competition between the capitalist and the communist block, and that the export of architecture and planning to countries that were still outside one of these blocks functioned as a means of cultural instead of military colonization.


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This hypothesis formed out of our long-term research into New Towns, cities built from scratch, of which thousands were built all over the world in the fifties and sixties of the last century. Invented and implemented in the London region in the forties, these New Towns soon became the panacea for urban growth in Western Europe. After that, the same modernist urban planning started to pop up and spread in developing, decolonising countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The export of these New Town principles can only be understood against the backdrop of the Cold War, in which the east and west were both competing for the loyalty of the developing world and the new nation states. The US, Europe and the USSR sent out urban planners, architects and engineers to countries in strategic places like Iraq, Pakistan, Mexico or Western Africa. This book will finally include a wide mix of New Towns with a geographical spread, different sizes, decades, characters and background stories: Stevenage (UK), Reston (USA), Volzhsky (USSR), Vällingby (Sweden), Tema (Ghana), Hoogvliet (NL), Eisenhßttenstadt (Germany/DDR), Changping (China), Toulouse le Mirail (France), Rourkela (India), Zanzibar and Dodoma (Tanzania), 10th of Ramadan (Egypt), Ciudad Independencia (Mexico), Ciudad Guayana and 23 de Enero (Venezuela). Same same but different This selection of New Towns is obviously diverse and varied, but at the same time they are connected by many similarities. The


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similarities spring from their shared DNA rooted in both the garden city principles as the functional modernist planning rules, which became consensus all over the professional planning world in both east and west. This explains how the world population growth was accommodated along very similar lines in places very remote and different in cultural and political background. Whether one looks at the Villes Nouvelles around Paris, the New Towns close to Hong Kong, the satellite cities of Moscow, Stockholm, Ulan Bator or Accra, a similar strategy and urban design method was applied. At the same time, the differences are also obvious. All of these cities were conceptualized and presented as the prefect embodiment of the political regime that backed it. Like the famous ‘kitchen-war’ between USSR in which Chroestjev and Nixon defended the merits of their political systems through the quality of the kitchen, the different New Towns were also meant to demonstrate the quality of the political system that had taken the decision to design and built it. Every single one of the Cold War New Towns aimed to present the best and most ideal city as the symbol of the political regime. This becomes very clear when we look for instance at Reston, Volzhsky and Stevenage which each are model cities for diametrically opposed systems, respectively for capitalism, communism and social democracy, embodying in their physical structure and architecture all the values of respectively individualism, collectivism and the community.


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At that time the urban plans and architecture were presented by their designers as the ultimate translation of their political system, as the radical alternative to the urban model of the ‘enemy’. After all this time, however, we also see many similarities. For example, many New Towns are very similar in their spatial design concept and in their architectural image (think of the Plattenbau in Sarcelles (Paris), Marzahn (Berlin), Cheryomushki (Moscow). The abundant open space that was designed between the flats can be seen in many cities, but in the Netherlands or Sweden it was the ideal place where the open society and the community could manifest themselves, while the same space in Moscow was presented as unique and typical of the collective experience of the communist ideal. Questions and fascinations Apart from a fascination for the amazing stories these New Towns deliver, there are some specific questions that have been driving us while doing the research for this book. Some of these we started out with and prompted us to initiate the book in the first place and others we found while diving deeper and deeper into the matter. The first one is obviously our hypothesis on the political motives that supported modernist urban planning in developing countries. In the first place this puts urban planning in a very different light from the neutral, technical way it is usually regarded. Urban planning was and is sometimes described as ‘white bread’, the innocent, soft bread, with no particular taste, which everybody likes. But this technocratic


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concept doesn’t prove to be right. Every city in this book is the translation of a certain societal and political concept and embodies these ambitions in every street, square and neighbourhood. This implies a huge significance attached to urban planning during the post war period; a determinist vision on an urban scale of Winston Churchill’s famous statement “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us”. Of course it remains to be determined whether that concept eventually has turned out successful or not in the New Towns in this book. Another of our fascinations is with the internationalization of urban planning in this period, in which the colonial powers not automatically were involved such as before the Independence of the new nation states, but a new generation of engineers and planners was shipped and flown in from either the western, the communist or the non-aligned countries. A new generation of internationally working planners came into being. We started out with a surprised and somewhat indignant feeling when we found in the first phases of the research that in the fifties and sixties there where sometimes farfetched or ambiguous aid programs from western governments, that were always part of intricate networks of cooperating governments and NGOinstitutions. It was a way to exert control over developing countries, not with the forceful instruments that an old style empire would use before the second World War, but in the noncommittal style of free democratic republics. But we were even more surprised


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when studying the present states and challenges of the New Towns. Again, we met with the role of NGO’s, aid organisations, charities and foundations, who provided? assistance as forward posts of one or the other power block. It is precisely the research into the current assignments of the New Towns that shows that the international circus involved in financing, technical assistance and urban design still exists. Our interests don’t only lie with the historical study of the concepts and the designs for New Towns. It has been developed by the editors to include the present state of the cities, to extend the history into the present. It dives deep into the reciprocities and the erratic developments that have happened after the original designers left and new ones came, the original blueprint was overtaken by a new one or just forgotten, new political regimes came and went while the global relations and balances shifted and changed. All authors have also analysed the path to adulthood and the hick-ups on that path and how the New Towns have grown from concepts into real cities and usually are still in the middle of this. It is necessary that the legacy of modernist urban planning is being reconsidered, that all these visions on its future are made known and exchangeable, and that the New Towns are being treated as what they are: real cities not be erased, but waiting for a serious design strategy that will add another layer of urban material, and turn them into normal, growing, developing, aging cities.


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About the authors This book is an initiative by Rotterdam-based collective Crimson Historians and Urbanists who are authors and editors of the book. Next to that, a series of expert architects and architectural historians have authored chapters, such as Ali Saad, Antoni Folkers, Sophie van Ginneken and many more. The book is being realized with support of Creative Industries Fund, the EFL Fund and the International New Town Institute. You may refer to this book as: Crimson Historians and Urbanists (eds.), New Towns on the Cold War Frontier, Rotterdam (forthcoming) www.crimsonweb.org www.newtowninstitute.org


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Content *Introduction 10 How Modern Urban Planning was Exported as an Instrument in 14 the Battle for the Developing World *Part 1 604 “An Iron Curtain has descended across the continent” The First Generation New Towns in the West and the Eastern Block 26 Stevenage, England Nowe Tychy, Poland 30 Neo Beograd, Serbia 34 Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany 38 A City Designed for the Open Society 42 Gestures Towards a Socialist Landscape. The New City of Volzhsky 70 Too Good to be True or too Bad to be Credible – a Tale of Two Towns 168 23 de Enero, Venezuela 376

382 *Part 2 Export to Developing Countries Urban Planning as a Weapon in the Cold War 386 Changpin, China Islamabad, Pakistan 390 The Flagship of Nkrumah's Pan-African Vision 394


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Ciudad Guyana, Venezuela 560 Arad, Israel 564 Karume’s Zanzibar New Town 568 Tracing the Roots of Alamar 604 The City of Dodoma as a Product of Global Politics and Conflicting Ideologies 638 Baghdad, Iraq 718 Kabul, Afghanistan 722 Unidad Independencia, Mexico 726

732 *Part 3 Vernacular Spectacular Critique from the Inside-Out on the Diagrams of the New Towns 736 The Double Life of an Indian New Town Toulouse-Le Mirail: The ideology of De Gaulle meets Team 10 770 Milton Keynes, United Kingdom 836 Poulad Shahr, Iran 840 Swedish City in the Desert 844 *Epilogue 912 Literature 916 Colofon 922


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How modern urban planning was exported as an instrument in the battle for the developing world. Whether one looks at the Villes Nouvelles around Paris, the New Towns close to London, the new parts Hoogvliet, The Netherlands of Stockholm or cities like Hoogvliet in the Netherlands: all these cities were erected on the basis of the garden city idea using the modernist urban-planning tools of hierarchical ordering and zoning. Starting in the London region in the forties, these New Towns soon became the panacea for urban growth in Western Europe. A little later the same type of city planning started to pop up and spread in developing, decolonizing countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The export of these New Town principles can only be understood from the background of the Cold War period, in which the east and west were both competing for the loyalty of the Third World in every which way they knew how. Both the Communist bloc and the US sent out a number of urban planners and architects to countries in strategic places like the Middle East or subsaharan Africa. Urban planning was a powerful instrument in cold war politics, and the export of architecture and planning functioned as a means of cultural and therefore political colonization. Ford Doxiadis

A vivid illustration of this phenomenon is formed by the fascinating coalition of two parties, the Greek planner Constantinos (Dinos) Doxiadis and the American Ford Foundation, who together formed a powerful Constantinos Doxiadis duo of vision and money. They had an intense relationship with long-lasting consequences for developing countries in the Middle East and Africa. Their cooperation shows how the so-called neutral introduction of large-scale development and urban planning was anything but neutral. In fact it was heavy with promises of freedom, democracy, and prosperity and laden with ideals of community

and emancipation. In the polarized atmosphere of the days there wasn’t a single American institution not cooperating in the ‘war on communism’; the State Department, the CIA, the United Nations, the Rockefeller, Ford and Carnegie foundations, MIT, Rice and Harvard Universities, they all played a role in the cultural cold war.

South American plans and Le Corbusier had to satisfy himself with only one, though heroic New Town, Chandigar. How was it possible that this one office built so many large-scale cities around the world while the most eminent urban planners failed? Doxiadis got to build this virtual empire most of all because of the American support he received.

Doxiadis developed an extremely hermetic theoretical, design and engineering system called ‘Ekistics’, the science of human settlements. It was a rational and scientific alternative to the existing historical cities with their congestion of cars and people. Instead of those, Doxiadis proposed his gridiron city model, that would provide for a human scaled environment and at the same time facilitate unlimited growth. Doxiadis was possibly the leading exponent of the explicit application of modernist planning and design models as vehicles for freedom, peace and progress according to a Western model. Because of his political talents Doxiadis was able to form an impressive international network with many US and UN officials, which enabled him to design and build an oeuvre his colleagues could only envy. He probably constructed more urban substance than all of his CIAM-colleagues together. After CIAM had ended, he put up a conglomerate of training and research organizations as well as the Delos-conferences, which were clearly meant to take over where CIAM left off. He designed and built new cities all over the world: in Ghana, Zambia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq and the US. José Luis Sert was never able to realize any of his

Introducing the Ford Foundation The Ford Foundation is a charity erected in the thirties by Henry Ford himself, and was Paul Hoffmann and remodeled president Truman in 1950 to extend its activities outside the USA. Its main goals were formulated under the leadership of Paul Hoffman, formerly the coordinator of the Marshall plan in Europe, in which capacity he befriended Doxiadis. Hoffmann led the Ford Foundation on an ambitious quest for world peace, aiming to better the world by educating the ignorant, increasing their so-called “intellectual capacity and individual judgment” and easing them into democratic western civilization. They tried to reach these

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By his connection to the Ford Foundation, Doxiadis could use its strong ties with official American foreign policy, which became visible in the exchange of board members between the Foundation, the American business world and policy makers in Washington. Also prestigious universities like Harvard and MIT were working in close relation to both Ford and American foreign politics. They contributed mostly in terms of research and advice, and thereby assisted the Ford Foundation to effectively direct its grants. Usually the research done at these centers was sponsored with millions of dollars by the Ford Foundation. Thus a constant feedback process was organized in which an exchange of information,

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noble goals mostly by investing in educational institutions (building schools also) and agricultural modernization programs. Though urban planning was definitely not a main priority, Ford spent 5 million dollars on Doxiadis’ design and research, the largest sum the Foundation ever spent on one private party. Starting with a grant to Doxiadis’ design work for the city of Karachi in Pakistan in the middle of the fifties, Doxiadis and the Ford Foundation became a truly close couple.

interests and funding took place between Harvard, the Ford Foundation and the government. There existed a complete consensus on the aims of the American elite to create peace and order in the world and it was seen as completely logical that private and governmental policies would mutually enhance and strengthen each other. What qualities did the Ford Foundation detect in Doxiadis’ planning, that they did not find in Sert or Gropius, as a useful instrument in their cultural cold war politics? Civilization = Rationality Doxiadis presented his Ekistics as a science, by launching his designs in grids, charts, diagrams and schemes, completely objectified, with no aesthetics or personal choices. In this pre-computer era there was no possible way to resemble computer work any closer. Ekistics was a visionary, scientific system into which local data had to be entered and from which the design solution would then follow automatically. A touch of local landscape and architecture was inevitable and necessary, but not too much since this was contradictory with the universal pretensions of Ekistics. This objective and rational approach fitted the philosophy of the Ford Foundation, which had as its goal the education of non-western people into rational and sensible peoples, and thereby doing away with mistrust and latent violence. In fact, the Foundation exported with this goal some of the most fundamental values of the USA: liberty, anticollectivism, a reluctance to accept centralized political power, and an absolute belief in science and technology as the progenitors of ‘rational action’. So: civilization equals rationality. It was the task of the Americans to raise other peoples into a state of civilization. When turning to urban planning it would have been hard to find a theory more rational than Doxiadis’ Ekistics.

The USA faced a -still relevant- moral problem here: which means and possibilities could a free democratic republic like America ethically allow itself to influence other nations? This is where the sometimes farfetched or ambiguous but always sympathetic aid-programs came in handy, just as

Ekistics diagrams

the intricate networks of cooperating government and NGOs. These were ways to exert control, not with the forceful instruments that an old-world empire would use, but using the choice based style of a free democratic republic. A Battle for Men’s Minds Sometimes the ambiguous wish for control had to be exercised through covert cultural operations. As it turns out, the CIA was most certainly involved in

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manipulating the visual arts scene in Western Europe. The agency perceived an inherent danger in the traditionally leftist arts world in Equator Europe, and feared they might go communist. Its conviction was that to safeguard European culture, it was of the greatest necessity to win over the cultural and intellectual elite, since they would be the ones in charge of the future. To this end a ‘Kulturkampf’ started immediately after the war, right amidst the rubble of postwar Berlin, with both Soviet and allied sides competing in a frenzy of concerts, reading rooms, recitals, film showings and art exhibits. Architecture was also involved: the well-known publication ‘Built in the USA’, (Museum of Modern Arts, 1952) was one of the translations published by the Psychological Warfare Division of the American Military Government, to showcase the developments in postwar architecture in the USA. It was received enthusiastically and turned out to be very influential in many western European countries and was read by every modern architect in the Netherlands. ‘Apparat’ of the CCF

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Legenda money-flow from CCF-headquarter in Paris to local CCF-offices CCF-offices projects by Doxiadis Associates Miami

cities with projects by Doxiadis Associates money-flow financed by Point Four, Ford Foundation, CIA, UN

A RC H I T E C T U RA L H I S T O R I A N S , 2 0 0 6

This cultural manipulation was institutionalized in 1950, when the CIA erected the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), just a few years after Truman’s doctrine and the launching of the Marshall-aid plan. Together they formed a parallel set of political, economical and cultural measures to prevent Europe from slipping to ‘the other side’. The CCF’s mission was “to nudge the intelligentsia of western Europe away from its lingering fascination with Marxism towards a view more accommodating of ‘the American way’”. It was a ‘battle for men’s minds’, fought by the CCF with the help of an assorted group of radicals and artists, most of them disappointed in Stalin’s totalitarian USSR. They were musicians, writers, painters, actors and included well-known people like George Orwell, Jean Paul Sartre, and Jackson Pollock. The CCF organized an impressive cultural offensive, publishing magazines in many different countries and languages, all over Europe and the Third World,

organizing a flood of exhibitions of American painters (many in cooperation with MoMa), concerts and conferences. Our Man in Urban Planning Though the Congress for Cultural Freedom didn’t have architecture or urban issues as a priority, Doxiadis was among the very few architects involved in the CCF’s activities. In their 1955 conference in Milan he was among the lecturers, where he spoke about the “Economic progress in underdeveloped countries and the rivalry of democratic and communist methods”. In 1960 he was a member of the select group that attended the conference on the New Arab Metropolis, together with Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy, then a member of his office. These CIA-initiated conferences were financed by the Ford Foundation. The CIA and the Ford Foundation operated from the same mindset. The Congress for Cultural Freedom, the Ford Foundation, US government, Ivy League Universities, and private funds like the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations all worked together to accomplish the same goal of fighting ‘the war on communism’ to use a modern paraphrase. They would divide tasks among each other: whenever a certain activity wouldn’t fit into the program of the Ford Foundation, they would ring up the director of the CCF and he would finance or organize it. The CIA would drop by at the Ford Foundation weekly, discuss their own plans and delegate them to Foundation-officials. This period was by most people involved described as a very passionate time, an exiting amalgamate of covert operations, boudoir-politics, intuitive actions, lots of traveling,


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lots of pretense, lots of money and especially: an absolute conviction that all were working for a cause: to save the world. They felt they were “the most privileged of men, participants in a drama such as rarely occurs even in the long life of a great nation”. White Bread Urbanism To the Ford Foundation, the CCF and the CIA, Doxiadis was as much a symbol and a powerful agent in the field of urban planning as Jackson Pollock was in the art scene. Whereas Pollock was the antidote to social realist painting, the work of Doxiadis posed the opposite to social realist urban planning and architecture. The USSR cities after the war -up to a thousand New Towns all over the massive Union-, used the well-known and historical

repertoire of the vista, the axis, the square, the perimeter block and the architecture was in a monumental, Italianate style. In this way an urban image was realized that aspired to be recognizable and familiar to the working classes. Just like Pollock proposed a completely new direction in painting, freed himself from historical precedents and iconography, resulting in endless ‘dripped’ surfaces, Doxiadis freed urban planning from formal three dimensional design, and replaced it by the organization of the urban area in ever enlarging grids and systems, eliminating monumental composition and replacing it with schemes for unlimited growth and change. His theoretical city-models, Dynapolis and

Stalinstadt (Germany, 1954) Baghdad, Sadr-City (Iraq, 1955)

Ecumenopolis (the world-encompassing city), exploded all known scales in urban planning. The neighborhood unit, the basic element in the British New Towns, was stretched and repeated and put in an endless spaced-out grid, until every reference to existing urban settings had vanished. Moreover, the state-imposed collectivism of social-realist planning was countered with the emphasis on the bottom-up creation of communities within the grid.

Doxiadis’ urbanist vision translated into an urban model projecting capitalist and democratic ideas of individualist change, growth without boundaries and ideas of technology solving demographic, ecological, economic and social problems. The Ford Foundation described its urban planning projects (in India, Yugoslavia, Chile, Pakistan) as ‘white bread’, the innocent, soft bread, with no particular taste, which everybody likes. They could ease the way for a different lifestyle: efficient, peaceful, entrepreneurial, western, and help the third world countries to become rational civilizations and grow towards their well-deserved autonomy. The Middle East, located right below the soft underbelly of the USSR and therefore a stage for Cold War activities, was virtually a playground for American architects in the fifties.


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They followed in the wake of American and international aid-programs like the Point Four program and the United Nations Development Decade. The architects were hired by the puppet regimes installed by ‘the coalition’ of the British and Americans. In Iran, ruled by Shah Reza Pahlavi, Victor Gruen designed a masterplan for the capital Tehran and numerous American offices flooded the country to work on New Towns. The Iraqi regime of King Faisal hired Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Gio Ponti, Alvar Aalto and Frank Lloyd Wright. The Ford Foundation, the CIA and Harvard University were never far away.

of Doxiadis’ office were of the utmost efficiency and effectiveness. Especially in Iraq, where he was hired to design a modern national housing program including the capital Baghdad, Doxiadis showed what he was capable of doing: practically on his own he created a complete ministry of housing, planning, architecture, and architecture training. At the same time Gropius’ office was struggling to get the designs for the Baghdad University built, and only succeeded in realizing one tower twenty years ‘Iraq Housing later. Frank Lloyd Program’, Wright saw his Doxiadis Associates grandiose plans for the Baghdad Opera thrown out the window when the revolutionary regime took over from King Faisal in 1958. But Doxiadis didn’t have any such problems: his multidisciplinary Greek team made surveys, wrote reports, designed tens of thousands of houses and was able to build them as well. Yet, official architectural history has shown a disproportionate interest in the failed designs of the darlings of the handbooks, ignoring the far more effective work of Dinos Doxiadis.

Sadr City Unknowingly everybody knows Doxiadis’ work, by watching CNN. By the end of the fifties Doxiadis built projects and towns in Iraq that bear names like Basrah, Mosul and Kirkuk. The largest number of houses was realized in Baghdad. Doxiadis’ endless repetition of square neighborhood units on the east bank of the Tigris is easily recognizable on Google Earth. This is the area called Sadr City. By now it is mostly known as a nightmarish ghetto and the gruesome décor Sadr-City, Baghdad, Iraq for war footage. The area, inhabited by two million mostly Shia Iraqi’s, has been a hotbed of resistance against the Americans. It consists of endless areas of low-rise but high-density development, with narrow alleys and cul-de-sacs, grey concrete slums and small row houses. Sadr City even has the dubious honor of being featured in a multi-player computer wargame on the Internet, called Kuma War: Mission 16, Battle in Sadr City. Sadr City was designed by Doxiadis as part of his 1958 masterplan for Baghdad. The design follows the Ekistics rules and is quite identical to his other contemporary

Kudos for Dinos The American aid-programs which focused on Lebanon, Iraq or Iran, often underestimated the complexities of the countries, with badly prepared American planners finding out that the cities they came to serve with extension plans did not even have basic necessities like public transportation, infrastructure, services, shopping, education etc. They had the greatest possible trouble to interact with the local officials, there were permanent issues of hierarchy and frustrations about lack of cooperation and lack of almost everything else. There was an unbridgeable gap between the western, rational planning Vällingby methods the Americans longed to impose and the existing Stevenage local traditions and habits. Eisenhüttenstadt Compared to these rather Milton Keynes naïve efforts, the results Hoogvliet

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Volzhsky

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Aleppo Tehran Mosul Hama Limassol Kirkuk Baakline Poulad Baghdad Arad Salt Amman Baghdad Basrah Aqaba Shiraz Jubayl Unayzah Qatif Dammam Khobar Riyadh Port Sudan Khartoum

Jos Ilorin Lagos Oron Opobo Tema Eket

ian

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urban designs, in Islamabad, Tema or Khartoum. He encased the historical centre of Baghdad in a orthogonal grid extending on both sides of the Tigris, composed of forty sectors of some two square kilometers each, separated from each other by wide thoroughfares. Each sector was subdivided in a number of ‘communities’, with smaller neighborhood centers and housing areas served

materials, but not in any outspoken vernacular style. Local influences had a very limited, technical meaning to Doxiadis: it involved local techniques and building methods, but not local identity, or cultural traditions.

Cold War episode. Again there is an attempt by the USA to impose its own societal model on Iraq, this time, as the anti-globalist writer Naomi Klein has analyzed, the neoconservative idea of the free market economy. Even officials who were part of the American policymaking in the fifties, like the eminent pro-fessor of history William Polk, now issue warnings not to make the same mistake twice, by again im-posing structures not indigenous to the local culture. As Polk has stated: what every country has in common with the USA, is that it wants to determine its own destiny. We could add

‘Gossip Square’, Sadr-City, Doxiadis Associates

Sadr-City, Baghdad, Iraq

by a network of cul-de-sacs. Each community center consisted of a modernist composition of market buildings, public services and a mosque. The row housing was organized in such a way that the smallest communities each had a ‘gossip square’, an intimate open meeting space inspired by existing local Iraqi customs. Though these small oases could be interpreted as contextual elements, on the whole the extension of Baghdad was part of a generic, universal system. The architecture was also generic with some local touches; a restrained modernist architecture with decorative panels in a pattern slightly reminiscent of Arab motives, built with local

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The most appealing feature of Doxiadis’ plans for his American patrons and the Ford Foundation in particular was the emphasis on community building. The thing to be avoided at all costs was that the new urban immigrants from the rural areas would feel alienated by the urban lifestyle and would revert to archaic superstitions or worse, would turn to communism. We could therefore regard the cities designed by Doxiadis - with their small-scale urban design of gossip squares, little streets and community centers- as precisely tuned ‘emancipation machines’. This emancipation was part of the modernization package, which included democratic institution building and economic reforms to create a free market. Imperialism Fails Again One thing is certain: the urban planning projects in Iraq, Iran or Pakistan did not create stable democracies. The inherent hypothesis embedded in the plans was that an open layout for a city, would not only symbolize an open society, but also help it become one. Of course it is tempting to compare the present situation in Iraq with the

Islamabad, Pakistan, Doxiadis Associates

to that: all countries want to determine their own urbanism. Architecture and urban planning are not ‘white bread’ as the Ford Foundation believed, they are not technical works with no inherent meaning or taste; on the contrary, by their organization they project a strong ideal image of a specific kind of society. But however you judge Doxiadis’ cities and however critical you might be, they at least projected a positive, constructive vision for the country of Iraq, something sorely missing from the contemporary USA policy in Iraq. It also seems highly unlikely that the current American policy will leave anything comparable to the huge legacy of urban infrastructure left by Doxiadis. New Towns Are Real Cities It may seem bizarre to compare Baghdad with the issues faced by European New Towns and modernist housing projects from the fifties and sixties. The fact that they share the same political and urbanistic DNA is, however, undeniable. Also in Europe there was a cultural and political mission hidden somewhere in the technocratic project of the industrialized and standardized city. The open design was to shape the minds of the inhabitants, to open their minds to the open democratic society but things turned out differently than planned. The worldwide consensus in western policymaking and planning circles of the


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fifties and sixties that this was the only way to build, is matched by the current consensus that this kind of urbanism has turned out to be a total failure. This denies the painfully undeniable fact that these cities exist in reality; they exist in great numbers and form the context for hundreds of millions of people to live their daily lives. They have performed this function for many decades now. Treating the old new towns with a tabula rasa-approach condemns thousands of cities to a negative sameness, and their inhabitants to another round of top-down bulldozering and forced moving. There is no alternative than to develop a radically different approach to this generation of cities, one that takes

Toulouse Le Mirail, France

into account that these cities at the one hand share the same DNA, but on the other hand have become completely specific, by influences of their culture, their history, and their inhabitants. It doesn’t really matter if we talk about Baghdad or Hoogvliet, the satellite town of Rotterdam, Le Mirail, the Candilis & Woods designed satellite of Toulouse, 23 de Enero, the highrise development in

Caracas designed by Carlos Villanueva or Rourkela, the German planned steel town near Calcutta; they all are part of the same 20th century CIAM-related heritage. All of them can and should learn from each others widely diverse efforts to deal with their physical and social infrastructure in order to create their own future. Whenever a city in Europe is being restructured

Tema, Ghana


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it makes a lot of sense to study the social organizations that have uplifted the neighborhood of 23 de Enero in Caracas, Venezuela, or the Indian cities where inhabitants have appropriated their modernist cities by decorating them with personalized symbols and signs and surrounding them with entire new unplanned cities that complement the planned ones. A combination of the European experience concentrating on much needed large scale infrastructural projects, with the much more experimental and bottom-up experiences in cities in the second and third world, will be crucial for the rebuilding of devastated cities like Baghdad. What

Rourkela, India

waiting for serious and specific strategies that acknowledge them as normal, growing, developing, aging cities. That the city should be a democratic, open and emancipatory manmade space,

we can learn from Baghdad however, is the extreme resilience of an urban population and of the relative flexibility of the gridiron concept of Doxiadis. In short, it is high time the legacy of modernist urban planning is reconsidered, that all these visions of its future are made known and exchanged, and that the New Towns are treated like real cities, not as concepts that can be painlessly erased. These cities are

is the one article of faith that we unhesitatingly share with Dinos Doxiadis and his generation.

23 de Enero, Venezuela


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*Part 1 “An Iron Curtain has descended across the continent� The First Generation New Towns in the West and the Eastern Block

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This chapter provides an introduction to the British New Towns and their eventual dispersal into Western Europe along with the simultaneous development of the Stalincities in Russia and their consequent spread into Eastern Europe. The underlying connections, the main differences and the fundamental constants in East-West relations are taken into consideration. Also discussed in this chapter is the striking coincidence of Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech before Westminster College and the signing of the New Towns Act by the British Parliament (both in 1947), which marked the official starting point of both the Cold War and the spread of New Towns.

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A City Designed for the Open Society 1

Michelle Provoost

1.  article ‘Happy Hoogvliet’, in: Cor Wagenaar (red.), Happy, Rotterdam 2004. And in: Shrinking Cities, 2005

HOOGVLIET, THE NETHERLANDS

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Only six kilometers long, Rotterdam’s subway line was the shortest in the world when it opened in 1968. Not surprisingly, the city took great pride in having built the Netherlands’ first subway. It was yet another sign of the city’s agility in re-inventing itself after the devastating air raid that had destroyed it’s historical core in 1940. It manifested the two pillars of Rotterdam’s carefully cultivated image: modernity and progress. A new urban core dominated by buildings that meant business, and spacious new housing estates fostered the city’s self-esteem. The subway was welcomed as a gadget that strengthened the new image. Starting in the rebuilt center, the line crosses the river disclosing the old working class estates on the southern bank. It continues to the postwar housing estates that repeated endless series of identical or very similar units (which had appropriately been labeled ‘stamps’). For the time being the line ended in Slinge station, in one of the world’s most famous housing estates: Pendrecht.

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The first designs for Pendrecht had been made by a vanguard of modern architects from the CIAM: Van den Broek & Bakema and Lotte Stam-Beese. The purity of the design and the much famed spatial concept had turned it into a model that inspired similar experiments all over Europe. It was one of the highlights of Dutch urban planning. The line was soon extended beyond the city’s municipal borders. First it led to the stations in Rhoon and Poortugaal. Even though we have hardly left Rotterdam behind us, the city looks light-years away. Small villages accentuate the dikes, there are small shops, churches, quite a number of farms: a typical Dutch pastoral. Green pastures show up on both sides of the subway line, willows mark the course of narrow country roads, sheep graze the banks. Then, all of a sudden, one of the new housing estates appears and we’re back in Rotterdam. Station Hoogvliet is lined with high-rise blocks and large apartment buildings. It is the city’s farthest outpost, 12 kilometers away from the center. Hoogvliet is a veritable New Town, an autonomous urban unit designed in the late 1940s according to the principles of the English New Towns near London. The reason to build Hoogvliet this far from the existing city was the passionate desire to do more than only repair the destruction caused by the war: the


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The old village giving way to the New Town

port of Rotterdam was to become the largest in the world. To achieve this ambitious goal, in the Botlek and Europoort areas, huge new harbor basins were created and complemented by new industrial complexes. The small medieval village of Hoogvliet, situated in the immediate vicinity of the Shell refinery, was singled out as a ‘nucleus of growth’, suitable for housing the labor force needed by the expanding port. Gradually, the old village was to be replaced by a completely new Hoogvliet. The historical port was filled in, historical farms and the characteristic small houses along the dikes were demolished. As a prelude to these grand ideas, the old core near the seventeenthcentury church (that escaped demolition) was destroyed to make place for the New Town’s shopping center. The scale of this shopping mall was quite large: the plan envisaged shops, high-rise apartment buildings, cultural buildings including a musical center, and a sports stadium. Hoogvliet was to become a regional center, a sparkling magnet attracting people from the neighboring villages. Lotte Stam Beese’s drawings of Hoogvliet radiate a mundane, urbane atmosphere comparable to Harlow or Stevenage, and quite different from the famous housing estate Pendrecht. Hoogvliet was to be a proud and independent urban core next to Rotterdam. 44


Development strategies for Hoogvliet

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SUCCESSES AND FAILURES In it’s urban lay-out, Hoogvliet clearly reflected the ideals of the neighborhood unit. The social hierarchy of family, neighbors, the neighborhood community and the urban society was mirrored by the physical hierarchy of the individual house, the street, a group of streets with a small shopping center, the neighborhood and the city at large. All housing units were designed as parts of a balanced community comprising various types of houses. The architecture of the houses, schools, and shops was sober and homogenous. This functionalist Organization scheme WiMBY! feeling was greatly enhanced by the industrial building methods that were applied in Hoogvliet. Apart from that, it expressed one of the great ideals of the time: social equality. An abundance of open spaces and collective gardens compensated for the small houses; the transparency and openness of the public greenery represented a new, open urban society. Naturally, traffic was organized according to the latest ideas on efficiency. Cars, bicycles and pedestrians were provided with their own special lanes. These were combined to create wide traffic arteries provided with ample greenery: a modern version of the American parkways. All components of the urban structure were endowed with the qualities of modernism and efficiency, simultaneously manifesting a idealistic social model. Like most post-war utopia’s, the ideal New Town of Hoogvliet soon experienced serious difficulties. Instead of fostering social cohesion, the neighborhood units promoted a feeling of contingency. In nearby Vlaardingen, sociologists discovered that inhabitants identified with their street and its immediate surroundings, but not with the social module of the neighborhood. To add insult to injury, the size of the houses was seen as too small. Lacking an extra room that could be used as a study, the houses offered in Hoogvliet were bound to have a devastating effect on the development of the individual personality, at the same time hampering opportunities to have harmonious 46 family life. This was all the more serious because the population of Hoogvliet was


Logica

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Campus “toornend”

made up of a curious mix of dockworkers from Rotterdam and immigrants from the agrarian provinces of Drenthe and Zeeland. They had their own dialect, clung to their own lifestyles and formed a source of continuous friction. Finally, the possibility to transform Hoogvliet into an autonomous New Town was questionable right from the start. Rotterdam was nearby, and after the construction of the subway line and new highways in the 1960s, the inhabitants of Hoogvliet were no longer dependent on the amenities offered in Hoogvliet. What had been conceived as one of the blessings of Hoogvliet, its situation at a stone’s throw from the Shell refinery, turned out to be a major setback, as a series of accidents and the continuously polluted air demonstrated.

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On January 20, 1968, an explosion shattered most of the windows in Hoogvliet, dramatically changing its image from a friendly, efficient and modern city into the stigma of a place that could better be avoided. Even before Hoogvliet lost its utopian ring, town planners had understood that its location was far from ideal. In the beginning of the 1960s, when new housing estates where still being added and the population of the New Town grew rapidly, the planners decided that the original vision of a city inhabited by some 60.000 people had become problematic. They decided to extend the subway line, adding one more stop to create Spijkenisse, at a safe distance from the industrial complexes. Spijkenisse was to develop into a New Town of approximately 80.000 people. The housing estates originally intended to be part of Hoogvliet were transferred to Spijkenisse. With it, the image of an optimistic, desirable housing estate definitely left Hoogvliet. Hoogvliet never had more than 37.000 inhabitants. Of the ambitious plans for a shopping mall with numerous cultural and recreational facilities, only some shops remained. Decades later, rows of terraced houses were built on the area that was left open. Even today, the area near the church gives the impression of a suburban wasteland, used for parking only. Instead of the urban, even semi-metropolitan character originally meant to single out Hoogvliet’s housing estates, the last ones that were built show a typically suburban

The Estate Hoogvliet, brick house

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character, defined by small, meandering streets lined with single family houses. Lost within one of these estates, stuck between the remnants of old dikes, the subway station is a far cry from the direct access to a really urban center that was originally planned. The entrée to the city is marked by a vast and desolate square used as a bus station, where ten surrealbus stops all await the same line: no. 78. Whoever enters Hoogvliet at this point cannot help but remember the feelings of the town planners in the late 1960s: Hoogvliet is a town planning accident. It has become a mutant: half New Town, half suburb.

GHETTO It may be true that Hoogvliet failed to live up to its promises of a New Town, and it is hard to deny that the dream of the modernist city became discredited here even before half of the project had been realized. Even so, Hoogvliet does exist and is there to stay. In the mid-1990s, over 30.000 people lived here, some of them the middle-aged ‘pioneers’ of the 1950s and 1960s. They liked Hoogvliet because to them it was a quiet place at a comfortable distance from the increasingly problem-ridden metropolis of Rotterdam. Many of the former inhabitants of Hoogvliet - those who could afford to move - had left the tiny, noisy homes and settled in the bigger houses of the surrounding cities. The inexpensive houses of Hoogvliet attracted new inhabitants: Hoogvliet became a refuge for immigrants, many of them from the Dutch Antilles. They took up residence in the northern parts of Hoogvliet, where their different lifestyles soon caused trouble. It did not take long for a real schism to develop between the suburban, white well-to-do southern parts, which were mainly inhabited by native Dutch people, and the northern parts that were increasingly dominated by socially weaker groups. ‘Nieuw Engeland’, the ‘oil’-estate, epitomized this new trend. In 1951, so-called fan-shaped flats had been erected here, lining streets named after regions rich in oil: Caracas street, Texas street. The homes in this area were especially small, built in somber brick and located at the least desirable part of Hoogvliet: close to the oil refinery alongside the highway. In the 1990s, these streets changed into what soon became known as a ghetto. Junkies, drugs dealers, and vandalism made Nieuw England an ideal topic for a documentary on Dutch television that further strengthened the image of Hoogvliet as a sad and lost neighborhood.

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REVITALIZING HOOGVLIET To stop the downward trend, Hoogvliet proclaimed itself a disaster area in the mid1990s. First of all, the fan-shaped flats were raided by the combined forces of the police, the public health service, tax collectors and bailiffs who combed out all the apartments in an attempt to stop all illegal activities. Drugs dealers were imprisoned, defaulters indicted, illegal tenants chased away. Subsequently, the remaining inhabitants were offered better houses elsewhere in Hoogvliet. The flats were demolished. Thus, the most disgraceful part of Hoogvliet had been dealt with in a mettlesome manner, meant to set an example for the next projects. The local authorities and the two housing corporations that had recently been privatized and owned most of the housing stock in Hoogvliet, cooperated in an attempt to improve housing conditions. No less than 5000 houses, 30% of the housing stock, were to be demolished, mainly flats of 56 square meters or smaller that could no longer live up to the expectations of the population of the 1990s. Likewise, the maisonette flats and the homes for the elderly that in the 1960s had been built around small courtyards, all of them miniature houses with only one small living room and an even smaller bedroom, were singled out for demolition. Marketable homes were to take their place. By creating a more diverse palette of housing types, reducing the rate of subsidized tenement housing (which used to be 70%), a more diverse and well-to-do population was expected to be willing to move to Hoogvliet. The revitalization campaign for Hoogvliet was clearly an answer to concrete needs, but it also reflected fundamental changes in the Dutch Welfare State. The state withdrew from public life, a concept that led Public Housing to become almost completely privatized. The Housing Corporations shook off their traditional role as social organizations and started to be run as semi-commercial companies. Not only in Hoogvliet, but in almost all post-war housing estates that have become subject to the processes of revitalization, this leads to strategies that are determined more by administrative and commercial concerns than by social ideas. As Jaqueline Tellinga put it in a recent publication on ‘The Big Make-Over’: ‘Since their privatization in 1995, the corporations have turned into real estate companies in which decisions on investments are taken at the highest level. They evaluate their possessions as part of their complete holdings, irrespective of their specific setting.’1 This is why they choose a generic approach for all reconstruction projects, no matter how different the original situation may be. Everywhere, high-rise buildings and flats are substituted for low-rise, mostly single family homes; private gardens replace collective greenery, small neighborhood

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1.  Jacqueline Tellinga, ‘Corporaties zijn sinds hun verzelfstandiging in 1995 vastgoedmaatschappijen geworden waarbij de investeringsbeslissingen op hoog niveau in de organisatie worden genomeen. Ze beoordelen hun bezit vanuit hun complete vastgoedportefeuille, niet op buurtniveau.’, in J. Tellinga, De Grote Verbouwing. Verandering van naoorlogse woonwijken, Rotterdam 2004, p.20.


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shopping centers disappear, instead, large central shopping malls are designed. Last but not least: low-cost tenement houses are suppressed, expensive owner-occupied houses strongly promoted. The revitalization of Hoogvliet followed the similar lines. To correct the negative image, it was decided to replace most of the urban structure, the public spaces and the housing stock by something with a more ‘contemporary’ outlook. The characteristic composition of elementary blocks floating in space, so typical for the modern city, was considered out of date. They were replaced by enclosed spaces and traditional urban motives: the inner city street, the return of the building line as the main organizational principle, the square, the boulevard. The original concept of an introvert pedestrian shopping mall was to be turned inside out by moving the shops to the boulevard. The free flowing public space that washed through the Hoogvliet’s urban tissue was to be framed by new blocks of houses, streets and cozy courtyards. Collective spaces, a fundamental principle in postwar town planning, had to make way for private gardens. Everything reminiscent of the original ‘collective’ ideals was banned. From now on, the individual and his personal lifestyle were to determine Hoogvliet. In short: the most characteristic feature of the revitalization scheme was the urge to eradicate the modern model on which the original plan for Hoogvliet had been based. Everything associated with it was seen as negative. The town planners’ main aspiration was to reinvent Hoogvliet. Even though they returned to tested traditional models, their ambition to bulldozer most of the existing New Town out of the way is reminiscent of the tabula rasa mentality of their colleagues who built Hoogvliet in the 1950s. The new plan did not relate to the existing situation any better than the original concept had related to the historical village it wanted to replace.

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Schoolparasites: from top to bottom: Barend Koolhaas, Onix and Christoph Seyferth

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WIMBY! In 1999, the alderman for physical planning, at the time a representative of the Holland’s green party, proposed a motion that urged for an International Building Exhibition modeled on the German example of the Internationale Bau Ausstellung (IBA) in Berlin and the Emscher Park. It was a brave attempt to counter the prevailing currents in urban politics and the town planning profession, which were entirely focused on spectacular and highly prestigious projects in Rotterdam’s inner city. Instead, it wanted to direct attention to the slum like conditions in many of the postwar housing estates. The motion proved to be the starting point for the WiMBY! manifestation: Welcome in My Backyard. Since 2000, the management team is led by Felix Rottenberg, former chairman of the Dutch social-democrat party. The contents of the manifestation are defined by two architectural historians of Crimson, Michelle Provoost, author of this article, and Wouter Vanstiphout. Even though the famous German projects inspired the WiMBY!-project, it soon became clear that neither Berlin nor the Emscher Park provided a model for Hoogvliet. Not only was WiMBY! never more than a miniature version of these projects, the context was also very different. Whereas the Emscher Park project worked in a virtual vacuum - both the industries and the population tended to move away from the Ruhr region - Hoogvliet was bombarded with reconstruction proposals. There was more than enough money, revitalization had already started. The local political board, the corporations and commercial realtors were engaged in what they called the ‘Hoogvliet conspiracy’. A conspiracy that promised to be very successful. Then came WiMBY! What could WiMBY! possibly add to a planning machinery that was already in full swing? Its special assignment was to improve the quality of the revitalization scheme, to introduce innovative concepts on various levels: social, economic, architectural, urban, and - most importantly - to make their proposals really happen. Visits to the Emscher Park had helped to give the participants some clues as to what was to be expected: industrial ruins turned into cultural attractions, the promotion of high tech industries that built striking modern offices, beautifully designed public spaces and magnificent light projects that attracted car loads of tourists from all over Europe. However - was this really what Hoogvliet needed? What kind of projects were possible, feasible, and necessary here? It soon became clear that it was no use to found yet another separate organization, a real WiMBY! institute, to join the already existing organizations - this would only have led to time-consuming, competitive strife. Instead, we decided to concentrate on the existing planning machinery’s blind spots. We decided to cause a coordinated series of incidents that should have a marked effect on Hoogvliet. First and foremost, the

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projects that we embarked upon were to have a direct bearing to Hoogvliet and set an example for similar projects elsewhere. Apart from engaging in concrete projects, we also wanted to change people’s mentality. Our focal point was the existing substance of Hoogvliet, both physically (the buildings) and socially (the people). As in so many reconstructed housing estates, there had hardly been time to reflect upon the object of so much planning fervor: the New Town of Hoogvliet. Nor had the results of research by sociologists, traffic experts, and town planning historians been properly assessed. WiMBY! identified the need to correct this as a prerequisite for reinterpreting the worn out New Town. It wanted to rediscover its now hidden qualities as an unknown, captivating new urban entity with its own peculiarities. Reinterpreting and reusing what was already there should become the guiding principle in the reconstruction process. As a consequence, some projects - the Domain Hoogvliet, Hoogvliet inside out, the WiMBY! Week - were on the verge of becoming social community work. Sometimes initiatives that bore no direct relation to architecture were most effective in presenting alternative approaches for sometimes over ambitious, large-scale reconstruction projects. Temporary interventions, cultural reprogramming or a onetime event could help to rediscover the New Towns hidden but positive qualities. Above all it brings to light unexpected urban potentialities, that can inspire future strategies. This potential is located both in the inhabitants and in the existing urban fabric. It is an open question whether or not a program based upon suburban and costly houses can ever generate such vitality.

ANTI TABULA RASA

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We were absolutely sure that if Hoogvliet was to become a new, vital and attractive city in ten years, nothing could be more counterproductive than to start from scratch. The tabula rasa mentality that wants to do away with everything it encounters, from buildings to the underground infrastructure, may have been useful in the postwar reconstruction era, in this case it was totally useless. Using existing qualities helps to prevent the New Town from becoming generic, something that could have developed everywhere, in a suburb near Leeuwarden as well as in Enschede or Amersfoort. While the planning machinery set in motion by the corporations went on preparing the demolition of thousands of homes, postulating the values of the new, quiet suburban middleclass Hoogvliet that was be created in its place, WiMBY! worked at a totally different concept of Hoogvliet. Hoogvliet was to resemble itself and should not try to emulate other cities. It should find ways to deal with its green, village like character and the ethnic make-up of its inhabitants, and it should cherish what positive opportunities


(photo: Maarten Laupman)

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manifested themselves. This approach called for a thorough analysis of Hoogvliet, focusing not only on problems and difficulties, but on its positive aspects. By stressing the negative qualities, the large-scale reconstruction process that had been going on for some time ignored the positive characteristics. Nobody mentioned the profuse greenery, public gardens were only seen as wasteland waiting to be developed. Nobody drew attention to the potentialities of the large community of people from the Antillen, the problems of recent years only left room for negative feelings. Thus, many qualities that could have inspired the revitalization process were just simply discarded - an approach that seems inherent in Rotterdam’s ‘progressive’ tradition. Our deviant views on Hoogvliet were first published in a book in 2000: WiMBY! Welcome into My Backyard!. Its cover illustrated our intentions: Hoogvliet’s historical church is shown adjacent to a vast expanse of Stelcon slabs, symbol of the failure of the New Town but at the same time manifesting its own peculiar beauty.2 This beauty is enhanced by Hoogvliet’s unfinished character and can be seen in many places: the dike that had to make place for the subway line, but simply continues on the other side of it, farms that look out of place between the flats, geese and sheep grazing in a setting of 1950s architecture. The WiMBY! strategy demonstrates precisely these qualities by exaggerating even the tiniest specimens of it and by idealizing what went wrong. This analysis had distinct therapeutic features because it showed the inhabitants how unique their New Town really is. Thus, their ingrained inferiority complex was to be healed. We expected to promote a change of mentality that might help to stop the purely negative way of dealing with the existing situation. One of the earliest urban projects of WiMBY! seems to confirm that this strategy may be successful.

LOGICA Believing that Hoogvliet has many positive qualities, we needed a different type of town planning document than the all encompassing master plan. What was needed was a set of instruments that could help to steer the processes already at work, directing and manipulating them into a coherent policy. What was needed most was to create some logic in the often conflicting projects initiated by the many institutions working in Hoogvliet. This is how Logica, a town planning manual for Hoogvliet came into being. It was designed by the Rotterdam based architectural firm of Maxwan Architects and Planners. Time and again, Logica emphasized the need for a joint approach of 2.  WiMBY! Welcome Into My Backyard. Internationale Bouwtentoonstelling Rotterdam-Hoogvliet, Rotterdam 2000.

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the ‘Hoogvliet project’. Logica stated that as long as a coherent vision was lacking, the revitalization campaigns could only result in a chaotic, unremarkable generic city in which the most important characteristics of the New Town would be lost. Logica identified the qualities that should be seen as Hoogvliet’s main characteristics. Four urban devices were believed to result in a consistent structure: the green buffer surrounding the New Town, guaranteeing a rural setting on all sides, the isolated situation of the neighborhoods, endowing each of them with its own particular values, the green joints between the neighborhoods containing the New Town’s infrastructure, and finally the overall green qualities of Hoogvliet, a result of the fully grownup trees in the open spaces and collective gardens. Logica presented clear choices: each of the four structuring elements were put to the test. Were they to be respected, or could one do without them? These issues were addressed in the so-called Logica committee that was made up of representative of all parties involved: the municipal planning board, the local political board, two corporations and the development agency of Rotterdam. The same issues were put before the inhabitants on the WiMBY! website. Thus, Logica changed from a plan into a negotiation process. It resulted in a binding choice for one of the 24 models that could be composed by combining the variables offered in the process. Remarkably, the strategy that was preferred opted for conserving and enhancing all existing qualities. Hoogvliet’s green neighborhoods were to retain their self-contained qualities, flanked by wide parkways and surrounded by a recreational zone alongside the river Oude Maas.

NEW COLLECTIVES

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While Logica addressed Hoogvliet’s urban and physical qualities, other aspects of WiMBY! focused on its social qualities. Like the physical qualities, these were being grossly neglected, no matter how many publicity campaigns and inquiry procedures the official planning machinery organized. WiMBY! wanted more. We wanted to show what the inhabitants themselves had to offer. We wanted to exploit their creativity and make them responsible for projects we developed with them. In doing so, we discovered that the concept of the collective was much more important than the official reconstruction campaign took it to be. Working with single mothers from the Antillen community, we found that they needed forms of houses that combined the individual home with collective amenities and collective public spaces. The reconstruction campaign’s implicit mantra: ‘collective spaces have become impossible to maintain because the contemporary New Town lacks a collective mentality’ may be true for


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the average Dutch family commuting from one place to the other in an ever expanding network city, it does not apply to other groups. Judging from the growing number of communes, even among native Dutch, there appears to be a growing need for collective arrangements. These considerations fostered three projects we organized with the support of the corporations. They are intended to accommodate new collective housing arrangements. In one of the maisonettes - the most endangered type of house from the 1960s - a group of single mothers from the Antillen is provided with their own individual homes and a collective room that can be uses as a crèche, a study or a café. Part of the surrounding public spaces will also be brought under collective control and designated as safe places for children to play and mothers to eat or party together. In another maisonette flat in the same part of Hoogvliet, homes for young people are planned that follow the so-called ‘Foyer’ model which offers living, education and work. The third initiative attempts to attract categories of people that so far try to avoid Hoogvliet. Even though Hoogvliet is easily accessible and has a lot to offer, it’s negative image puts off the more wealthy and creative layers of Rotterdam’s population. How to make Hoogvliet more attractive for these categories, that could add to the social diversity of Hoogvliet? The usual type of single family house with a garden can be found anywhere. As such, it cannot induce to move to Hoogvliet. It is believed that a form of co-housing might do the trick. Co-housing is a form of housing that combines twenty individual homes and a collective amenity that is assigned to them and managed by the twenty households living there. The nature of this collective entity is decided collectively. It can either be a day-care center, an ecological garden, a car repair hall or a sports facility. Thus, a new meaning is given to the term ‘collective housing’. The oppressive connotations associated with the collective arrangements of the 1950s are replaced by self defined contemporary forms that combine individual homes with a wide variety of opportunities to use public space.

Nearby oil refinery

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COLLECTIVE SUBSTANCE Judging from the way Hoogvliet manifests itself in its town planning and architecture, one would be inclined to think that its population must be homogenous. It is not. Behind the anonymous facades form the 1950s and 1960s, a rich palette of people live. They differ in income, ethnicity, and lifestyle and express theses differences in the way they dress and the way they decorate


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their homes. The photo project ‘Hoogvliet inside out’ asked dozens of people to have their pictures taken in a circulating photo tent. The elderly with their rollators, mothers with a perm, hip hop boys acting tough, all kinds of people showed up. These portraits were complemented by interior photographs taken by designers Gerard Hadders and Edith Gruson. Subsequently, the portraits and the interior photo’s were blown up to larger than life billboards that were placed near the highway and as traffic signs at street crossings. Apart from that, they were used as propaganda for the WiMBY! week that was organized in December 2002 in a now demolished row of homes for the elderly, where all WiMBY! projects were presented, while half of the U-shaped row of houses was still occupied. The facades of the empty houses were used as huge billboards for the interior photo’s. All empty houses were dedicated to one of the WiMBY! projects, while

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in others historical movies were shown. In one of the houses, people could get their portraits while the elderly people living nearby provided them with coffee. In this way, WiMBY! week did not only show a diversity of WiMBY! projects, but also they wide variety of people living in Hoogvliet.

EDUCATION

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What are the elements that make a city worth living in? The quality of the housing stock and the shops, the facilities you find there, the surroundings, the population, all these things matter. In a depressed area, educational facilities are particularly


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important. A lot needed to be done to bring Hoogvliet’s schools up to date. Most of them had been built in the 1960s, many according to the standard types then designed by the municipal authorities. They are inconspicuous buildings in which the classrooms are connected by long corridors. The special rooms needed in present-day educations are usually lacking. It is difficult to find a suitable place for teaching pupils on an individual basis, for libraries, music performances, etc. The shabby concrete classrooms designed as temporary solutions when the schools became too small are hardly suitable for these purposes. The need for special classrooms is further enhanced by the changing make-up of Hoogvliet’s population. More often than not, children from various groups

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arrive at school without having breakfast. Provisions have to be made to help the parents. After school or during holidays, pupils have to be taken care of. Improving the facilities for primary schools, WiMBY! developed the so-called ‘SchoolParasites’, which were designed in cooperation with the Parasite Foundation. For three schools, beautiful facilities were created where the pupils can cook, eat, work by themselves or rehearse plays. The plans by Barend Koolhaas, Onix and Christoph Seyferth can be industrially produced. Apart from educational purposes, they can also serve to accommodate neighborhood festivities, meetings and gatherings of parents. For secondary schools a special initiative was already on its way: the concentration


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Heerlijkheid Hoogvliet (photo: Maarten Laupman)

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of three schools on a campus. This enabled them to share a.o. sports facilities and the auditorium. WiMBY! urged the participating parties to build this campus near the subway station. This was seen as a remedy for the disadvantageous location of the subway station, adding thousands of potential passengers, contributing to make the station safer, and giving the campus a function for the entire region. The campus is believed to make Hoogvliet a more attractive place: nice houses can be found almost anywhere, a nice campus is something special. Urging the schools in Hoogvliet to cooperate far more intensely than they were used to, the Campus-project tried to improve Hoogvliet’s educational system by promoting pupils to move from one school to the other. This should reduce the terribly high rate of dropouts. The subway station is presently framed by flats that are going to be demolished. The campus is going to be integrated in the housing program that is going to replace them. This will result in an ensemble of nice, small scale school buildings and collective facilities such as a library that can be used by both the pupils of the schools and the inhabitants of the neighborhood.

TO CONCLUDE: THE ESTATE HOOGVLIET What will happen to Hoogvliet once all our projects will have been realized? Will the result differ fundamentally from the outcome of revitalization schemes in other New Towns? Or will our efforts prove to be but incidents that are bound to drown in the vast reconstruction work carried out by the official planning bureaucracies? Are they but romantic visions illustrating the merits of an old New Town? Is it at all possible for a small organization like ours to alter the course of these bureaucracies, as WiMBY! claimed it would? Probably, the Domain Hoogvliet will be the ultimate test case. All what WiMBY! has stood for the last four years culminates in this project. The Estate Hoogvliet is a Summer Park intended to provide recreation and entertainment. It is situated in the green buffer between Hoogvliet and the highway in the periphery of the ‘oil’ neighborhood. It comprises several components that have been developed in close cooperation with various groups of people in Hoogvliet: a tree collection, a graveyard for pets, a natural playground, sports fields and a Villa. The local inhabitants not only initiated all these amenities, they will also be engaged in building, managing and maintaining them. In the park itself there are spaces for all kinds of activities: there are pick nick and barbeque tables, there is a pond for paddling. In the center of the Estate the villa acts as an eye catcher. It has been designed by the London-based firm of FAT architects that also planned the park. It’s character is purely narrative. The ornamental facades show elements that refer to the original village like, green Hoogvliet, the

Heerlijkheid Hoogvliet (photo: Maarten Laupman)

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chimney of the Shell refinery that triggered off the idea to build Hoogvliet and the geometrical facades of the 1950s architecture. It is a Venturian decorated shed containing the symbols and signs of a popular and recognizable visual language that can be understood by anyone. Even for fleeting passersby, the need for a facility like the Estate is easily grasped, for in Hoogvliet nothing ever happens. The shopping mall boasts of a brasserie where one can drink a cup of coffee, but for younger people there is absolutely nothing to do, least of all during evenings and nights. The Villa is going to change this. There will be musical performances, plays will be enacted, family celebrations can take place here. Like the park, the Villa has something to offer for everybody. By keeping ourselves submerged in the wonderful world of Hoogvliet and engage ourselves in a never-ending pursuit of the creative forces inherent in it, we believe WiMBY! can contribute to a renaissance of the old New Town. Hoogvliet’s negative image of a city inhabited by a dull NiMBY! population will be transformed into the positive image of a city with a peculiar mix of young and eldery people, people from the Dutch Antilles, nature, industry. A place that makes its inhabitants proud and visitors curious.

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Gestures Towards a Socialist Landscape. The New City of Volzhsky

Anna Borunova

VOLZHSKY, RUSSIA

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A HERO CITY ‘Russia has a plan,’ stated an illustrated oneshilling booklet published in 1945 by the news agency Soviet News in London, whose office was later to be moved to the Soviet Consulate. It comprised information about the benefits of the Soviet centrally planned economy system and further provided the international public with a general overview of the new Five-Year Plan (1946–1950) that set ambitious goals for the recovery of the country. According to the program, the pre-war level of economic development had to be not only achieved but ‘considerably surpassed,’1 compensating for wartime losses. These touched upon almost every aspect of Soviet life from the demographic void caused by the death of approximately 27.000.000 people to the mass destruction of basic infrastructure and housing stock.2 According to the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Services, by 1945 the country had lost roughly a quarter of living space, and the average per capita was just 4.85 m2, compared to the theoretical norm of 8.25 m2.3 In the following decade, there was a remarkable surge in the restoration of old cities and the construction of new ones. They embodied architectural concepts of their own epoch and had a very practical purpose of supporting the industrialisation and urbanisation all over the country. At the same time, their architecture was also meant to give a physical translation to declarations on a representative socialist city, ‘like a medieval

1.  A. Kursky, Russia Has a Plan (London: Soviet News, 1945), 47. 2.  Mark Harrison, “Counting the Soviet Union’s war dead: still 26–27 million,” Europe-Asia Studies 71, no. 6 (2019): 1036–1047.

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3.  Gosudarstvenny Arkhiv Rossiiskoy Federatsii (hereafter GARF, State Archive of Russian Federation), f. A-314, op. 2, d. 189, l. 45, in David Dale, “Divided We Stand: Cities, Social Unity and Post-War Reconstruction in Soviet Russia, 1945–1953,” Urban Societies in Europe 24, no. 4 (2015): 494.


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New Towns in USSR, 1917–1967. Ilya Smolyar, Novye goroda: planirovochnaya struktura gorodov promyshlennogo i nauchnoproizvodstvennogo profilya (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Literatury po Stroitel’stvu, 1972), 7

cathedral, awing the people.’4 Stalingrad (since 1961 renamed Volgograd) and its satellite-city Volzhsky appear to communicate these exact narratives. They were the result of the accelerated development of the national economy and, in the meanwhile, powerful ideological directives about positive transformations that architecture was intended to support. The battle of Stalingrad took place between the summer of 1942 and the winter of 1943. It left behind completely destroyed space, where 41.895 buildings, 48 factories, many theatres, schools, hospitals, museums and libraries lay in ruins.5 Infrastructure was destroyed, and only 12.1% of the city’s housing stock was still standing.6 Architect

4.  Hugh D. Hudson, Blueprints and Blood: The Stalinization of Soviet Architecture, 1917–1937 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), 212. 5.  Dale, “Divided We Stand: Cities, Social Unity and Post-War Reconstruction in Soviet Russia, 1945–1953,” 498. 6.  GARF, f. R-8131, op. 37, d. 2445, l. 72–73, in Ibid.

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Välli ngby 23 d e En er o Chap t er 2 Chan g pi n Islam a ba d Tem a Ciud ad G uyan a Arad Ruins of Stalingrad, 1943

Alexander Pozharsky reported during his examination of the town in 1943: ‘People live in blindages, dugouts or even in holes… There are no trams, sewerage and plumbing systems only exist in some parts. (…) For carcasses that have remained (from two to four walls), there is a fight.’7 The consequences of the battle were so devastating that the idea of rebuilding Stalingrad in a new spot emerged. The writer and war correspondent Alexander Werth, who at that time resided in Russia and worked as a reporter for the BBC, recalled meeting a Russian soldier. The soldier noticed that as there was nothing left of Stalingrad, to leave its ruins as a museum and rebuild the city elsewhere would ‘save a lot of trouble.’8 However, when the Academy of Architecture of USSR published in 1948 a book, dedicated to the city, Pozharsky gave a different interpretation of the same story, full of Cold War rhetoric against a foreign enemy. He wrote about American businessmen

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7.  Rossiisky Gosudarstvenny Arkhiv Ekonomiki (hereafter RGAE, Russian State Archive of the Economy), f. 293, op. 1, d. 75, l. 78–79. 8.  Dale, “Divided We Stand: Cities, Social Unity and Post-War Reconstruction in Soviet Russia, 1945–1953,” 498.


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who intended to ‘make money off the tragic fate of the city’9 and proposed to recreate Stalingrad in some other location. He proudly concluded that much restoration work by Soviet architects proved their delusion, and businessmen ‘were politely but firmly pointed out that their “help” is not required.’10 Whether these businessmen were real or fictional is unclear, but John Steinbeck, when visiting the city, indeed concluded that the common reasonable suggestion to move the city up or down the river was ignored, and ‘Stalingrad should, for sentimental reasons, be restored exactly where it had been.’11 In August 1945, the government of the USSR passed the decree on the restoration of Stalingrad and singled it out as an independent administrative and economic centre with its own budget.12 The government further created the General Directorate of the Reconstruction of Stalingrad (Glavstalingradstroy) with three trusts named Zhilstroy (Housing Construction), Kultstroy (Cultural Construction) and Santechstroy (Sanitary Construction) and the architectural studio directed by the chief architect of the city Vasily Simbirtsev. Many towns and factories from all over the USSR, as well as British and American humanitarian organisations, also participated in Stalingrad’s reconstruction, collecting money and sending different goods and materials to the city from building tools to shoes and books.13 There were many reasons for giving the city such a high priority. It was an important industrial and cultural centre, a strategic gateway to Asian Russia with its oil resources and a memorable city of the Civil War (1917–1922), when Joseph Stalin fought against anti-Bolshevik movements there. Its status became visible in the naming of the city to Stalingrad in 1925, the city of Stalin himself. The rebaptising signified the importance of the place to Stalin and hence to the state, and it made the city symbolically one of the most important ones in the USSR. However, after 1943, Stalingrad also became an almost sacred place because it turned the tide of the Second World War and embodied the victory of the Soviet Union. Thus, the projects of its restoration grew from one main conceptual stem. The city had to be both ‘worthy of the great Stalin’14 and a monument in its own right glorifying the feat of the heroism: ‘Stalingrad should and will be rebuilt so that its architectural image will be perceived as a grandiose monument of the epic 9.  Alexander Pozharsky, Stalingrad (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Akademii Arhitektury SSSR, 1948), 21. 10.  Ibid., 21. 11.  John Steinbeck visited Stalingrad in 1947. See: John Steinbeck, A Russian Journal (London: Penguin Books, 1999). 12.  Galina Ptichnikova and Alexey Antyufeev, “Architecture of Stalingrad: the Image of the Hero City by the Language of ‘Stalinist Empire Style’,” E3S Web of Conferences 33, (2018): https://doi.org/10.1051/ e3sconf/20183301046. 13.  Olga Baladina, “Leningradtsy v dvizhenii ‘Pomoshch’ Stalingradu’,” Arkhivny Komitet Sankt-Peterburga (2018): https://spbarchives.ru/cgaipd_publications/-/asset_publisher/yV5V/content/leningradcy-vdvizenii-pomos-stalingrad-1/pop_up?inheritRedirect=false. 14.  Gosudarstvenny Arkhiv Volgogradskoy Oblasti (hereafter GAVO, State Archive of Volgograd Region), f. 71, op. 1, d. 638, l. 99, in Ptichnikova, Antyufeev, “Architecture of Stalingrad: the Image of the Hero City by the Language of ‘Stalinist Empire Style’,” https://doi.org/10.1051/e3sconf/20183301046.

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of war, as a symbol of the vitality of the great Russian people.’15 During the Cold War, this narrative persisted and served as a source of pride to show foreign visitors, whose delighted impressions were translated and published. For instance, a book about the restoration works on the city mentioned A Song of Love to Stalingrad written by Pablo Neruda and also quoted French actress Loleh Bellon. During the press-conference in 1950, she said, ‘For all honest people in the world, the word “Stalingrad” is an example of heroic resistance to aggressive imperialist forces.’16

EVERYDAY UTOPIA

Satirical magazine Krokodil. 1953. "Ten Years Later — What is your impression, Herr General? — The beginning is excellent, but the end is horribly to remember!"

In line with these ideals, Soviet architects conceived of a creative competition for a new master plan as a splendid opportunity to turn the city into a utopia.17 As the architect Alexey Shchusev declared, ‘it is a great honour for an architect to design a city that was destroyed by the war. (…) Reborn cities will become more majestic and beautiful. This is going to be a new era of the flourishing of Soviet culture, which was not destroyed by an evil enemy.’18 They aspired to show the gargantuan appetite of the state for demonstrating its own greatness as well as to get rid of those urban weaknesses, inherited from the pre-revolutionary merchant city of Tsaritsyn, as the city was called before 1925. According to Pozharsky, among the most prominent defects of the prewar city were the lack of a pedestrian promenade and representative architectural ensembles as well as the chaotic mix of industrial and residential areas. After several stages of the competition that merged projects of famous architects as Boris Iofan or Lev Rudnev with the fanciful ideas of amateurs, the Commission chose the plan of a group led by Karo Alabyan. Together with Nikolay Polyakov, Dmitry Sobolev, Andrey Dzerzhkovich, Alexander Pozharsky and with the participation of Shchusev, Alabyan 15.  Karo Alabyan, “Kakim budet Stalingrad,” Stalingradskaya Pravda, September 10, 1944. 16.  Collective of authors, Volgograd. Podnyaty iz ruin (Volgograd: Volgogradskoe Knizhnoe Izdatel’stvo, 1962), 341–342.

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17.  Official institutions were in charge of architectural competitions, showing the dominance of loyal adherents of neoclassicism. 18.  Alexey Shchusev, “Sovetskaya arhitektura i vosstanovlenie gorodov,” Slavyane, no. 1 (1945): http://www.alyoshin.ru/Files/publika/afanasyev/afanasyev_shchusev_09.html.


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Embarkment of Tsaritsyn, 1909–1912. Postcard of Trading House Sheshmintsev i Syn.

created Stalingrad as a monument-city. Even though his project was not implemented fully, it nevertheless formed the basis for later experiments. According to the master plan, the streets and buildings of Stalingrad would become a particular decoration in a play dedicated to themes of memory, glory and the party leadership: ‘This was not visionary planning, rooted in scientific perception, but iconographic design meant to portray the sacralised space…’19 The system of squares and avenues formed two main directions clearly visible on the map. The first axis started with the square in front of the central railroad station, ran through the area of the Ploshchad’ Pavshikh Bortsov (Square of Fallen Fighters), where also the House of the Soviets was planned, the wide Alleya Geroev (Alley of Heroes) and ended up in the Park Pobedy (Victory Park), descending to a new riverfront. It was framed by the monumental staircase and the propylaea, creating a palatial façade of the city. The second direction, with the main arterial road named Prospekt imeni Lenina (Lenin Avenue), stretched perpendicularly to this compositional axis. The avenue was flanked by cultural and administrative buildings and linked the centre of Stalingrad with remote districts and with Mamayev Kurgan (Tumulus of Mamay), where the memorial complex commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad was erected.

19.  Heather D. Dehaan, Stalinist City Planning: Professionals, Performance, and Power (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 2013), 107.

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Alexey Shchusev. Competition Design for the Central Part of Stalingrad, 1943. Shchusev State Museum of Architecture.

Karo Alabyan. Design for the Central Part of Stalingrad (second version), 1944. Shchusev State Museum of Architecture.

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Välli ngby 23 d e En er o Chap t er 2 Chan g pi n Islam a ba d Tem a Ciud ad G uyan a Arad Vyacheslav Oltarzhvesky. Competition Design for the Central Part of Stalingrad, 1945–1946. Shchusev State Museum of Architecture


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Vadim Maslyaev, the chief architect of the city in 1958–1985, argued that Stalingrad was rebuilt ‘for a new eternal life, for the comfortable living of happy people.’20 However, its spatial structure, design and the quality of housing construction rather reflected, as the historian Mark B. Smith argued, the fact that ‘the late Stalinist order was incapable of making the resolution of the housing crisis into a priority.’21 A selective focus on the reconstruction of Stalingrad’s centre followed the prevailing architectural rhetoric of a city as a static and hierarchically organised set of squares and dominating architectural symbols casted in columns and friezes. Architect Alexander Mostakov stated already in 1935: ‘A city is the sum of ensembles. An ensemble is a group of buildings. If an architect knows how to design a building, then he must know how to design an ensemble, and, consequently, a city as a sum of these elements.’22 It was the ensembles and public buildings with lavish décor that shaped, at the first stage, the core of Stalingrad, manifesting ‘the heroic spirit of the city, achievements and victories of the Soviet people under the leadership of the Lenin-Stalin party.’23

Map of Central Volgograd, 1988. http://etomesto.com/ map-volgograd_1988center/?x=44.517004 &y=48.707081.

20.  Collective of authors, Volgograd. Podnyaty iz ruin, 313. 21.  Mark B. Smith, Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010), 26. 22.  Alexander Mostakov, “V chyom nedostatki instruktsy,” Planirovka i stroitel’stvo gorodov, no. 9 (1935): 15–16. 23.  Vasily Simbirtsev, “Conclusion of the Chief Architect ‘On the Main Points of the New Master Plan’,” in Ptichnikova, Antyufeev, “Architecture of Stalingrad: the Image of the Hero City by the Language of ‘Stalinist Empire Style’,” https://doi.org/10.1051/e3sconf/20183301046.

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Välli ngby 23 d e En er o Chap t er 2 Chan g pi n Islam a ba d Tem a Ciud ad G uyan a Arad Dmitry Boyko. Pace of Residential Buildings Construction in Volgograd, 1850–2015. https:// geoclever.ru/articles/ vozrast_zdaniy/.

The standardisation of architectural projects and the prioritisation of affordable mass housing were even perceived as an almost unfortunate feature of Western architectural practice. Victor Baburov, the head of the Agency for Planning and Developing Cities at the Committee for Architecture, claimed in 1944:

‘Anyone who studied the projects of Birmingham or Chicago will notice one feature. The English seem not to be worried about the question of urban artistic development, the concept of monumental architecture. (…) What matters is comfort, and they achieved amazing results. (...) When we restore cities, we pay attention to


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central districts and questions of monumentality in order to build, as Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin says, for centuries. (…) This goal should be realised within public and administrative buildings, and we cannot assume that this can be done by means of residential blocks.’ 24

Even though the housing stock of Stalingrad exceeded the pre-war level in 1953, when there was 11.8% more living space than in 1941, and the average per capita was 4.9 m2, housing conditions of citizens remained unsatisfactory.25 When planning residential districts (kvartals), architects used decorated façades symbolising the inclusion of every inhabitant into the main heroic narrative of the city, but the apartment blocks themselves were not often of good quality. In 1951, 23% of the housing stock was temporary, and in 1953, only half of the state housing stock had sewerage service and water supply.26 Moreover, the flats were mainly communal ones. The Architect Yearbook of 1947 prescribed that small size apartments were intended for single-families and multi-room flats had to be distributed among families room by room. The precedence of communal apartments was not the result of ideological aspirations to break up with the individualism, but of the demands of economy.27 The general data for the country indicated that in the 1950s-1960s, there were approximately 150 families for every 100 dwellings (flats or individual houses).28 Stalingrad, like many other Soviet cities, vacillated between the representative neoclassical city centre and communal flats behind its walls. In the communal flat (kommunal’nay kvartira or kommunalka), single residents and families occupied their own rooms but shared kitchens, bathrooms and other common facilities with neighbours. People tried to organise and regulate their daily life by communicating with each other, but the lack of privacy made a fertile ground for mutual rejection and hostility. The artist Ilya Kabakov, for whom the communal apartment became one of the central metaphors for Soviet life, accurately described this paradoxical abyss between the outside and inside: ‘The world outside of the communal apartment is great and

24.  RGAE, f. 9432, op. 1, d. 16, l.114–126, in Yuliya Kosenkova, “Sovetsky gorod 1940-h – pervoy poloviny 1950-h godov. Ot tvorcheskih poiskov k praktike stroitel’stva” (PhD diss., the Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciences, 2000), 11–12. 25.  Nadezda Kuznetsova, “Vosstanovleniye zhilogo fonda Stalingrada v 1943–1953 godakh,” Vestnik VolGU 4, no. 8 (2003): 18. 26.  Ibid., 17–18. 27.  Smith, Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev, 43. 28.  Katerina Gerasimova, “Zhil’yo v sovetskom gorode: istoriko-sotsiologicheskoe issledovaniye (Leningrad, 1918–1991),” Centre for Independent Social Research, European University in St. Petersburg: http:// ecsocman.hse.ru/rubezh/msg/16298294.html#.

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Georgy Zel’ma. Ploshchad’ Pavshikh Bortsov (Square of Fallen Fighters), 1955– 1956. Stalingrad. Set of Postcards (Moscow: Izogiz, 1957).

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Välli ngby 23 d e En er o Chap t er 2 Chan g pi n Islam a ba d Tem a Ciud ad G uyan a Arad Georgy Zel’ma. Main Staircase at Central Embankment, 1954. Stalingrad. Set of Postcards (Moscow: Izogiz, 1954).


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Plan of the apartment no. 5 on Bolshaya Sadovaya street, 10 in Moscow before the revolution and in the 1950s–1960s. Bulgakov Museum These schemes show that communal flats did not have special layouts, but traditional plans were adapted for them.

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Residential Buildings in Saratovskaya Street. Alexander Pozharsky, Stalingrad (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Akademii Arhitektury SSSR, 1948).

Vladimir Lagrange. Communal Flat, 1992. https:// arzamas.academy/ materials/594.

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united. (…) The radio with the voice of Levitan had an important role too. 29 (…) There was a continuous flow of positive energy from a loudspeaker. But in the flat, you heard, “You used the toilet and did not clean up after yourself, and who would clean up after you?” And at the same moment, “My Moscow, my country.” It acts subconsciously. In the street, there is a paradise (…), and you have a dog’s life here.’30

THE HABIT OF NEOCLASSICAL THOUGHT Such a disparity between everyday architecture and the sublime city centre was not exclusively a result of dissatisfactory organisation, lack of labourers, materials and new technologies, as the regional committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union reported.31 In many ways, the situation was rooted deeply in the significant shift in Soviet architectural practice which happened in the 1930s and led to the politicisation and de-intellectualisation of the field of architecture. From above, the Party high command with Joseph Stalin, Lazar Kaganovich and Anatoly Lunacharsky issued the decree ‘On the Restructuring of Literary and Artistic Organisations,’ creating the Union of Architects and the Academy of Architecture and thus forbidding the independence of individual designers. Through statements and purges, they also formed the conceptual framework to be followed by the architectural community. In 1934, Stalin gave the speech on the topic of equality justifying that pompous avenues and ensembles were not to be perceived as a source of envy to citizens but as ideals to inspire them.32 Kaganovich, in turn, declared that architecture was a ‘wonderful demonstration’ of the solidarity between architects and the Party. In 1934, when the attempts to hold the Fifth Congress of CIAM in Moscow ended unsuccessfully and gave way to the organisation of the First Congress of Soviet Architects, he called upon his audience to fight against the formalists33 as well as against ‘philistinism, nihilism, and bareness, for majestic and truthful architecture.’34 To be realised, these ideas had to find fertile ground among architects, and it was the VOPRA group (All-Russian Society of Proletarian Architects) that embodied the Stalinist perspective. One of its true voices was that of Karo Alabyan, who was an

29.  Yury Levitan announced on Radio Moscow all major events, both local and international. 30.  Viktor Tupitsyn, “Drugoe” iskusstvo (Moscow: Ad Marginem, 1997), 17–18. 31.  Kosenkova, “Sovetsky gorod 1940-h – pervoy poloviny 1950-h godov. Ot tvorcheskih poiskov k praktike stroitel’stva,” 162. 32.  Anna Bronovitskaya, “Open City: the Soviet Experiment,” Project Russia, no. 53 (2007): 196. 33.  The vague term ‘formalism’ was used to accuse works of art and architecture of following the Western idea on the secondary role of moral and social content. 34.  Hudson, Blueprints and Blood: The Stalinization of Soviet Architecture, 1917–1937, 167–168.

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executive secretary of the Union of Soviet Architects in the 1930s and who established a firm intolerance to non-Stalinist architecture. In 1937, during the Congress of Soviet Architects that put an end to modernist experiments, Alabyan made the essence of the architecture of socialist realism clear, saying: ‘Our party and personally comrade Stalin pays exceptional attention to architecture. Every day, together with the Party, he guides us, helps us, directs our work. (…) We consider the work of the architect the most important state affair. Inspired by the great ideas of socialism, warmed by the attention and love of the entire Soviet people, our architecture is rapidly moving forward.’35 However, neither Stalin nor Kaganovich knew what socialist realism should look like. Architects found themselves in a situation based on practical demands to restore and construct buildings and cities while simultaneously they had to translate the extremely metaphysical declarations of the Party into ideologically correct architecture. As the only point of reference, the Party set a goal to master classical heritage critically. In this way, neoclassical forms inspired by the Russian Imperial architecture and the Renaissance-style historicism became the canonical vocabularies to use. The post-war ensembles of Stalingrad approached them with reverence and perceived them as the general and permanent architectural principles, celebrating within buildings an idea of opulence in the broadest sense of the word. The structures were crowned with towers, had deep rustication, arches, balustrades, colonnades and were saturated with a blend of symbols, including flags, medallions with figures of warriors, hammers and sickles, stars, ribbons, flower rosettes, garlands and sheaves of wheat. This visual framework with a high degree of historically familiar monumentality was meant to establish the conceptual link between the Soviet nation with its intention to present itself as a majestic, eternal totality and to reflect the faith in classical art that could be highly appreciated only by the Soviet people. Both architectural publications and official declarations conveyed these ideas. An author of Arkhitektura SSSR stated in 1952 that ‘Soviet architectural classics would eclipse everything that was done before.’36 Earlier, Lunacharsky mentioned that ‘the proletariat (…) will begin from a good stage, like the Renaissance… The natural form of their art will be traditional and classical, (…) based on healthy, convincing realism and eloquent symbolism in decorative and monumental forms.’37 However, at the same time, an inconceivable blend of details reflected the lack of architectural theory. ‘Soviet architecture’ had never been clearly

35.  Karo Alabyan, Zadachi sovetskoy arkhitektury (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Vsesoyuznoy Akademii Arkhitektury, 1937), 2.

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36.  “Ideynost’ i masterstvo v tvorchestve zodchego,” Arkhitektura SSSR, no. 3 (1952): 1–3. 37.  Anatoly Lunacharsky, Ob izobrazitel’nom iskusstve, 2 (Moscow: Sovetsky Khudozhnik, 1967), http://lunacharsky.newgod.su/lib/russkoe-sovetskoe-iskusstvo/iskusstvo-v-moskve/.


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Kommunisticheskaya Street, 1950–1952. https://pastvu. com/p/279761.

Georgy Zel’ma. New Railway Station Building. Stalingrad. Set of Postcards (Moscow: Izogiz, 1957).

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formulated and instead was a mixture of pseudo-universal concepts of tradition, national and classical styles. In 1946, Victor Vesnin, the President of the Academy of Architecture, argued, ‘We came to the conclusion that beginning with 1947, we need to set ourselves the goal of creating a “Theory of Soviet Architecture”.’38 To that end, the first master plan of post-war Stalingrad was intended to offer a particular set of spatial methods and architectural details to be replicated in different cities all over the country. While in the 1930s, the neoclassical taste was not a unique feature of Soviet architecture but also remained present in works of European architects, after the Second World War, the Soviet Union turned it into a conceptual weapon. It emphasised the chasm between the communist and capitalist systems and created cities that impressed with their imperial scope while simultaneously showing tight political control over the field of architecture. Even though the purpose of Volzhsky as a new industrial city was different from that of Stalingrad, its centre nevertheless aspired to use the same methods, convincing its inhabitants of the immortality of the country and evoking in them a sense of happiness and prosperity.

TO WORK, COMRADES! If the central part of Stalingrad was to be characterised by beauty, another primary concern of the Party was the industrialisation of the area, ‘and again, the city of the great Stalin was advanced to the forefront of the battle for peace, for the union of peoples, for communism.’39 Before the war, the city was an important industrial site and a traffic hub with a shipyard, a forest logging centre and a number of big factories such as the Dzerzhinsky Tractor Factory and the Krasny Oktyabr’ Steel Plant. The new master plan suggested not only to restore enterprises but also to move some of them to the periphery, minimising their negative effects on people’s health and making room for leisure in the city centre. Such urban zoning, which had similarities with the functional principles proclaimed by the Charter of Athens using the division between work, home and leisure, showed the rhetorical quality of the Cold War. Soviet architectural theory rejected the Charter in the context of political debates, and yet Soviet cities opted for many modernist ideas that co-existed with historical grandeur and came to the fore decisively in the late 1950s. Separated from residential areas by means of green zones, enterprises formed together, in the words of Pozharsky, ‘big Stalingrad,’ consolidating

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38.  Collective of authors, Osnovnye arkhitekturnye problemy pyatiletnego plana nauchno-issledovatel’skikh rabot: materialy VII sessii akademii arkhitektury SSSR (Moscow, 1947), 25. 39.  Anatoly Agranovsky, Stalingradskaya GES — velikaya stroyka kommunizma (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo Politicheskoy Literatury, 1953), 9.


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Plan of the Stalingrad Industrial Region, 1942. http://etomesto.com/mapvolgograd_1942-stalingrad-promrayon/?x=44.505931&y=48.724804.

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various industrial entities, such as factories. Moreover, the conquest of the Volga river mattered a great deal to the government. The river could be used for the production of electric power as well as for the improvement of agricultural conditions of the region that had a dry steppe climate with adverse winds from the southern steppes and hot summers. Along with the fifth Five-Year Plan (1951–1955) that set a goal to triple the amount of hydroelectric energy in comparison with the pre-war level, the Party launched the widescale creation of hydraulic structures, including the Volga Hydroelectric Station or Volzhskaya GES that is still one of the largest hydropower plants in Europe. 40 Presented as a mighty construction of communism, it became not only a source of energy but also an important site to show to foreign visitors as an outstanding example of Soviet science, engineering and collective labour. The project had several main objectives.41 Firstly, Volzhskaya GES generated electric power which was recognized as being of great value to the country already in the 1920s, when Lenin famously proclaimed that ‘communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.’42 The authors of 60 Years of Lenin’s GOELRO (State Commission for Electrification of Russia) plan noted that after the Second World War, hydroelectricity turned to be one of the most prospective sources of energy as it saved organic fuel while providing factories, cities and villages with light and power.43 Secondly, Volzhskaya GES enabled local authorities to create a new irrigation system and boost agriculture in the region, including farming, animal husbandry and forest planting to protect cities from winds and dust. The official decree allotted seven years (1951–1956) for the construction of the hydroelectric power complex, and every single detail of it aimed to demonstrate ‘the mind, will and organizational talent of many thousands of builders… (…) The achievements of science, technology and art…’44 To manage and execute the project, a new trust named Stalingradhydrostroy (Stalingrad Hydro Construction) was founded. Fyodor Loginov, who later became the first deputy minister of power plants of the USSR, was its director, and Stepan Medvedev the chief engineer. The government allocated 12.600.000.000 rubles that were shared between the hydroelectric complex, the residential area and public buildings on the left shore of the Akhtuba River (a left

40.  It is also known as the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Hydroelectric Power Station or Volgograd Hydroelectric Power Station. 41.  Agranovsky, Stalingradskaya GES — velikaya stroyka kommunizma, 54. 42.  Ibid., 31. 43.  For instance, in 1950, the countryside was still enveloped in darkness and only 15% of the kolkhozes had electricity, in Daniel Tarschys, The Soviet Political Agenda. Problems and Priorities, 1950–1970 (London: Macmillan, 1979), 75. 44.  Fyodor Loginov, Speech in September 1954, in Collective of authors, Istoriyu delaem sami, 2 (RusHydro), 6.

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Hydroelectric Power Stations of the Volga and Kama Cascade Systems.

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Construction Site of the Stalingrad Hydroelectric Power Station, 1955–1956. https://pastvu. com/p/484412; https://pastvu.com/p/484415.

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Layout of the Stalingrad Hydroelectric Power Station. Institut Hydroproekt, http:// www.mhp.rushydro.ru/company/history/fotoarkhiv_unikalnykh_proektov_instituta_ gidroproekt/86181.html.

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distributary of the Volga River on which shore Volzhsky was built) and industrial facilities.45 However, by the end of 1958, only three hydraulic units were operational. Nine other units started working a year later, but the official opening with Nikita Khrushchev, who cut the ribbon, did not take place until 1961. The completed Volzhskaya GES delivered electricity to Moscow and the Donbass through the longdistance high voltage direct current powerline of 750 kilovolts, stretching for almost 500 km, and formed Volgogradskoye vodokhranilishche (the Volgograd Reservoir). The station’s architectural complex was five kilometres long and included, among other things, the dam of 1.250 metres, the administrative building, measuring 736 metres and the 725-metre spillway dam.46 On the eve of the final presentation, a group of local artists under the guidance of Nikolay Barokha created a large-scale mosaic mural on one of the walls of the station. In his memoirs, Barokha wrote that together with Yury Bosko, Mikhail Pyshta, Dmitry Pankratov, Pyotr Malkov and Alexander Petrov he could not find an appropriate subject for a long time. He further recalled that Rafael Yakubov, the architect of the Volzhskaya hydroelectric power station, suggested that regardless of the subject of the mural, inspiration could come from reliefs of ancient Egypt.47 So, the painters elaborated an image with three dominant figures, symbolically holding the working tool, the dove of peace and the latest scientific achievement of the country, Sputnik 1. This dynamic and concise work offered a fine example of the so-called Severe style that reflected the spirit of de-Stalinisation and an artistic protest against syrupy Socialist Realism.48 Workers, scientists and cosmonauts were the heroes of the epoch, and together with the whole community, they aimed to construct a socialist society which was ‘born to make the fairy tale come true.’49 The composition of the society working together on the construction site was quite diverse. People came from different regions, and as one book written by the journalist Anatoly Agranovsky proudly described: ‘the builders of Moscow, the metalworkers of Georgia and Uzbekistan, the miners of the Donbass, the oil workers of Baku, the steelmakers of Magnitogorsk, the woodcutters of Karelia, the grain growers of Ukraine, Siberia, the Volga region, the army of many thousands of Soviet scientists — our whole

45.  Tsentr Dokumentatsii Noveyshey Istorii Volgogradskoy Oblasti (hereafter TSDNIVO, Center of Documentation of Contemporary History of Volgograd Oblast), f. 9442, op. 1, d. 129, l. 33, in Elena Glukhova, “Stroitel’stvo Stalingradskoy GES: komplektovanie kadrami, organizatsiya truda i byta” (PhD diss., Volgograd State University, 2007), 18. 46.  Collective of authors, Istoriyu delayem sami, 2, 52. 47.  Ibid., 50. 48.  In the period of de-Stalinisation under Nikita Khrushchev, who denounced Stalin in a special address to the Communist party comrades in 1956, the strict stylistic and thematic norms of the Stalinist period were loosened. Previously much attention was paid to the representation of Stalin, but in the 1960s, more humane subjects were allowed. 49.  This expression initially came from the song ‘March of the Aviators’ (1920–1923). It gained great popularity and became the common phrase to describe the utopian aspirations of the Soviet Union.

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The opening ceremony of the Stalingrad Hydroelectric Power Station, 1961. The album of photography “How the Volzhskaya Hydroelectric Power Station was built. To the chief engineer of Volgogradhydrostroy Emelyanovu F.I. from the builders of Volgogradhydrostroy,” 1958–1963.

The Volga Hydroelectric Station, 1963. Volgograd. Set of Postcards (Moscow: Izogiz, 1963).

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Вождь кубинского революционного движения Фидель Кастро в городе Волжском и на Волжской ГЭС им. ХХII съезда КПСС 1963 г.

Че Гевара — герой Кубинской революции в гостях у строителей Сталинградской ГЭС 1950-е годы

Император Эфиопии Хайле на строительстве Сталингр

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1959 г.

Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and Emperor Haile Selassie I visit the Volzhskaya GES, the 1950s – 1963. Collective of authors, Volzhskaya GES. Istoriya v litsakh. Pochyotnye gosti na stroyke XX veka (RusHydro).

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Посещение строительства Сталинградской ГЭС Вальтером Ульбрихтом — секретарем ЦК СЕПГ

Шах Ирана Реза-шах Пехлеви в гостях у строителей Сталинградской ГЭС

1958 г.

1956 г.

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Президент Югославии Иосип Броз Тито с супругой на строительстве ГЭС 1956 г.

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Walter Ulbricht, Josip Broz Tito with his wife and Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran visit the Volzhskaya GES, 1956–1958. Collective of authors, Volzhskaya GES. Istoriya v litsakh. Pochyotnye gosti na stroyke XX veka (RusHydro).

Delegates of the United Arab Emirates, Muhammad al-Badr and Charles de Gaulle visit the Volzhskaya GES, 1956–1966. Collective of authors, Volzhskaya GES. Istoriya v litsakh. Pochyotnye gosti na stroyke XX veka (RusHydro).

Делегация ОАР в котловане Сталинградской ГЭС 1959 г.

Визит президента Франции Шарля де Голля на Волжскую ГЭС им. ХХII съезда КПСС 1966 г.

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Наследный принц Йемена на строительстве Сталинградской ГЭС 1956 г.

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арль де Голль — неординарная личность, тогдашний президент Франции. В поездке в Волгоград его сопровождал А. Н. Косыгин — председатель Совета Министров СССР. Было предусмотрено посещение Шарлем де Голлем гидростанции. Четко в назначенное время подъехал кортеж автомашин в сопровождении эскорта мотоциклистов и охраны. С президентом Франции, высоким, с выправкой аристократаофицера, с орлиным взглядом, хотя ему было около 75 лет, была большая свита, в том числе его сын.


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Vsevolod Tarasevich. Mrs Ramsing in the USSR, 1968. Moscow House of Photography Museum.

Evgeny Gundobin. The Great Construction Projects of Communism. The Stalingrad Hydroelectric Station, 1951. Soviet Union Stamp Catalogue, no. 1655.

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mighty and hardworking people considers it their patriotic duty to help with the great construction project…’50 The USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs initially planned to use more than 100.000 civilians and prisoners simultaneously. These were inflated plans, and the reality was somewhat different. The total number of workers never reached these numbers. For instance, in 1953, it was planned to have 79.000 people, but in fact, there were only 21.628.51 Among the first builders, there were demobilised soldiers, local citizens, youth and collective farmers (kolkhozniki), for whom this was also an opportunity to get passports from the chairpersons of their collective farms (kolkhozov).52 In 1951–1952, approximately 10.000 people came within the Komsomol voucher program.53 To hire more people, Stalingradhydrostroy also organised a recruitment campaign through advertisements in newspapers and on the radio. During the first eight months, the administration received more than 11.000 responses, expressing a desire to take part in the construction.54 One of them, for instance, said: ‘We, three friends, Komsomol members, decided to build the hydroelectric power station with our own hands. To be a part of construction is real happiness.’55 What these letters indicated was a paradoxical duality between reality and people’s consciousness. Along with poor housing and working conditions and the general totalitarian atmosphere, many Soviet people yet had the self-confidence that it was possible for them to construct a better future. People created their own interpretations of communism’s officially presented image, and some actually had a belief in their own potential to be skilled labourers within the system and be proud of it. Ivan Uizlov, a tractor driver, recalled that even though he had a small salary and lived without basic household items as tableware, he was not discouraged: ‘We knew that we would build the greatest hydroelectric power station on the Volga… (…) We were young, full of energy and Komsomol enthusiasm.’56 To compensate for the lack of professional experience of many workers recruited by public announcement, Stalingradhydrostroy organised various types of professional training. The most common was a brigade method whereby labourers learned simple jobs by immediately reproducing tasks on

50.  Agranovsky, Stalingradskaya GES — velikaya stroyka kommunizma, 11. 51.  Glukhova, “Stroitel’stvo Stalingradskoy GES: komplektovanie kadrami, organizatsiya truda i byta,” 231. 52.  In order to get the passport and to leave the collective farm, farmers had to get permission from their chairpersons. This permission was hard to obtain, and many people went into education, performed military service or became construction workers. In this case, it was possible to get an urban residential permit. 53.  Komsomol voucher program was created by the Soviet Youth Organization and directed young workers to the top-priority industrial projects (udarnye stroyki) to accelerate their construction. 54.  M. Vyazovikov, Volgogradhydrostroy (Volgograd: Nizhne-Volzhskoe Knizhnoe Izdatel’stvo, 1975), 6.

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55.  Daniil Sysoev, Gorod Yunosti. Volzhsky (Volgograd: Nizhne-Volzhskoye Knizhnoye Izdatel’stvo, 1984), 15. 56.  Glukhova, “Stroitel’stvo Stalingradskoy GES: komplektovanie kadrami, organizatsiya truda i byta,” 208.


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the building site. Higher qualified staff, such as engineers, followed ‘Masters of Socialist Labour’ courses. One group of workers whom Agranovsky did not mention, but who nevertheless played a significant role, were prisoners of GULAG (the government agency in charge of forced labour camps). Since the 1920s, the system of settlement colonies for both political and criminal categories of prisoners became an integral part of the Soviet state, and the regime used it to relieve overcrowded prisons and accelerate the construction of industrial sites. This work often took place in severe climatic and living conditions and required a large number of healthy and physically strong workers, mostly men. In 1929, the Politburo approved the resolution ‘On the Use of Labour of Prisoners,’ launching a network of forced labour camps (ITL) in remote areas of the country to colonise and industrially exploit them. An Akhtubinsky ITL that dealt with prisoners for Stalingradhydrostroy was organised in 1950 near the construction site of the hydroelectric power complex, and just prior to the amnesty of 1953, there were 26.044 people in it. Most of them belonged to the category of so-called ‘ukaznikov,’ convicted under the incredibly harsh decree ‘On Criminal Liability for Theft of State and Public Property’ for sentences of three years and more. There were also other crime categories such as speculation, premeditated murder and violation of the passport law.57

LABOUR AND TENTS The impossibility of meeting the preliminary deadline became evident very quickly. In 1952, the Ministry of Internal Affairs concluded that one of the main reasons for this had to do with the frequent resignation of employees. In many ways, that was the outcome of the unsatisfactory and severe living conditions, the poor distribution of food supplies and goods as well as a lack of cultural places such as clubs, cinemas, libraries and red corners (krasnye ugolki),58 forcing workers to leave the project.59 By the 1950s, the whole country experienced a grave housing crisis, and the situation on construction sites was no different. Hydroproekt, which was in charge of building the hydroelectric power stations, used to build low-rise temporary housing and barracks or they would transform industrial buildings into living spaces.60 The standard explanation

57.  Ibid., 89. 58.  Red corners (krasnye ugolki) were reading rooms and recreational nooks that offered people a socialist collection of books and newspapers. People could also listen to specific radio broadcastings, meant to politically educate them and spread socialist ideas. 59.  GAVO, f. 6497, op. 9, d. 10, l. 76, in ibid., 34. 60.  Bratskaya GES imeni 50-letiya velikogo Oktyabrya. Tekhnichesky otchyot o proyektirovanii, stroitel’stve i ekspluatatsii, 2, ed. Ivan Naymushin (Moscow: Energiya, 1975), 28.

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for this approach was insufficient financing as well as the large number of workers and tools needed to develop rural territories simultaneously with the main industrial objects.

Temporary Tents for the Construction Workers, the 1950s. Sergey Novsky, Moy gorod Volzhsky (Volgograd: Izdatel’, 2006), 18.

When the construction workers of Volzhskaya GES arrived, they lived in shared rooms in Stalingrad and villages around the site that did not have regular public transport. Sometimes workers had to go about 15–20 km on foot.61 Stalingradhydrostroy also had a practice of renting houses and encouraging individual construction, but still, there was not enough space. People lived, for instance, in tents and yurts. By 1952, the total living area was 32.000 m2, of which wooden yurts occupied 6.000 m2, tents 1.200 m2 and dugouts 3.800 m2.62 Furthermore, workers and their families experienced shortages of food and clean water that made life uncomfortable on a daily basis. Maria Martynenko, a former resident, described how they used to buy products in Stalingrad: ‘In winter, we went across the Volga on ice, and in summer on a ferry. Later, a cableway and a pedestrian bridge were built. (…) The only products we could buy on our small salaries were pasta, peas, margarine and sugar.’63 Prisoners of the GULAG who lived in the Akhtubinsky ITL camp also suffered from the low quality of life. They occupied barracks and tents, and the average area per capita was 1.33–1.75 m2.64 An anonymous letter to the newspaper Pravda, written by prisoners, asked for an official check of their living conditions and also described their mundane suffering: ‘Absolutely poor nutrition, only balanda [poor quality soup] from water and without any fat. (…) When the chief Vorobyov [assistant construction manager] arrives, then the camp authorities make a soup with meat. (…) But as soon as our bosses leave, there is again no meat but only water. I am saying frankly this is the reason why our productivity is low. If we had nice living conditions, we would build not twenty houses per year but a hundred.’65 This state of affairs, as well as the absence of proper hospitals, schools, workers’ clubs and other public facilities, inspired the head of Stalingradhydrostroy, Loginov,

61.  A. Bryklin, Moy svetlyy gorod Volzhsky (Vozhsky: Grafika, 1999), 10. 62.  Ibid., 32. 63.  Glukhova, “Stroitel’stvo Stalingradskoy GES: komplektovanie kadrami, organizatsiya truda i byta,” 210.

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64.  Ibid., 222. 65.  GARF, f. 9414, op. 1, d. 439, l. 62–64, in ibid., 221.


Cableway with the Pedestrian Bridge across the Volga River, 1956–1957. https://pastvu. com/p/484355.

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Monument to Builders of the Volga Hydroelectric Station, 1967. Volgograd. Set of Postcards (Moscow: Pravda, 1967).

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to establish a new city, in the first place for the construction workers. One of his arguments to convince the authorities was that there was nothing more permanent than temporary settlements, requiring regular financing to keep them in a proper state.66 Another reason to construct the satellite city not as a district of Stalingrad but as an autonomous entity, had its roots in the attempt to reduce cities’ sizes. Architects and urban planners perceived their continuous growth as an extremely harmful trend, echoing in this way one of the principles of Howard’s Garden City planning theory. They aspired to elaborate cities as fixed units planned once and forever in accordance with preliminary calculations and optimal population sizes. Master plans established the number of inhabitants, the borders of cities and their inner zones defined by axial roads, squares, and public buildings. However, these blueprints also reflected the distorted idea of architects about a settlement as an unchangeable entity. Already in 1953, Victor Baburov confirmed the lack of research on the organic powers of cities, arguing that the Academy of Architecture worked a lot on topics related to residential quarters, city centres, parks and highways but did not devote much attention to the idea of the self-developing city: ‘Over the years, we have not released a single monographic book about the city, tracing its development. We do not understand the inherent laws of cities as organisms.’67

THE WHITE SHEET Against this backdrop, the city of Volzhsky emerged on the left shore of the river Akhtuba. Before the war, a village had stood on this place, but in the 1950s, it was a raw, windy plain with only a few buildings remaining, one of which later became Volzhsky’s art gallery.68 Interestingly, the first glimpses of the city appeared in an animated film for children, “Friends–comrades” (1951), when the decree authorising the construction was published.69 In one of the film’s scenes, a boy, Chizhov, described to his friend Zina Zhukova, whom he was helping with subjects at school, the future of the Stalingrad’s land: ‘Dams will stand across the Volga. Turbines will alter the river flow. Wires will cover fields and cities. An electric current will reach every corner…’ At this very moment, a fantastic city with a neogothic skyscraper loomed behind the hydroelectric power station, resembling one of Stalin’s high-rises in Moscow. The real Volzhsky would never have such scale. It did, however, embody the promise of high-quality facilities 66.  Ibid., 37. 67.  RGAE, f. 293, op. 1, d. 500, l. 328–331, in Kosenkova, “Sovetsky gorod 1940-h – pervoy poloviny 1950-h godov. Ot tvorcheskih poiskov k praktike stroitel’stva,” 137.

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68.  Vasily Galaktionov, and Anatoly Agranovsky, Utro Velikoy Stroyki (Moscow: Sovetskiy Pisatel’, 1953), 14. 69.  Volzhskiy acquired administrative status of being a city in 1954.


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Ploshchad’ Stroiteley (Square of Builders), 1954–1955. https://pastvu.com/p/602229.

Friends–Comrades, 1951. Directed by Victor Gromov, written by Lev Kassil. Source Soyuzmultfilm.

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for the builders of the station and later for the workers and employees of other local plants.70 In 1950, a commission of the Russian State Institute of Urban Planning (Giprogor) together with representatives from Stalingrad’s regional committees chose the location for Volzhsky and established an architectural studio.71 In 1951–1952, the architects Benjamin Gugel, R. Torgovnik, Nikolay Baranov, I. Ratko and Vladimir SemyonovProzorovsky elaborated the first master plan. The construction involved two main phases: residential apartments and public facilities for workers and their families and in the second phase, when the dam would have been finished, further industrial

70.  In 1956, the workers of the station comprised 62,3% of the total population of the city, in Vasily Pavlichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 10.

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71.  Giprogor was a part of a hierarchically-structured network of ministries and departments with the centralised control from the Council of Ministers and State Construction Committee (Gosstroy) in Moscow that approved the locations of cities, set basic Construction Norms and Regulations (SNiP), worked on technological innovations, cost minimisation and quality improvement of architecture. Building trusts of the State Committee for Construction (Gosstroy) carried out constructions. The State Institute of Urban Planning (Giprogor), in its turn, developed master plans to be approved by regional executive committees and local Soviets. The State Planning Agency (Gosplan) carried out economic planning and budgeting, coming from Stroybank (Construction Bank). Paul M. White, Soviet Urban and Regional Development (London: Mansell, 1979), 56–61. Jack A. Underhill, “Soviet New Towns, Planning and National Urban Policy: Shaping the Face of Soviet Cities,” The Town Planning Review 61, no. 3 (1990): 266, 270.


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development of the region. The plan allocated 350 hectares for the city, of which 124 hectares were residential quarters for an estimated 50.000 inhabitants with an average space per capita of 8 m2.72 With new settlements such as Volzhsky, architects and local authorities received an opportunity to build from scratch and to turn rural plains into cities that would represent the socialist ideals. One of the main features of the socialist landscape was an intriguing balance between the selective application of Western urban solutions and the political framework, showing the state ownership of the cities. Soviet architects applied the strict zoning of CIAM, segregating from one another industrial, residential, recreational and central areas, and used the optimal size principles of the city as a whole. At the same time, the socialist city had to be an instrument of ‘social transformation in physical space.’73 The task was accomplished through the governmental design and planning institutions that demonstrated the leading role of the party in the daily life of citizens. As the architectural historian, Kimberly Elman Zarecor concluded: ‘Ideology was critical in distinguishing this function of the socialist master plan from large-scale master planning in other political environments. Unlike in a democratic context, designs for socialist cities assumed that the regime’s institutions and functionaries could determine and regulate all variables.’74 This totalitarian vision manifested itself through a particular spatial design. Small cities followed the simplest spatial scheme that included an industrial district and a group of residential quarters arranged around the city centre. Each quarter had lowrise walk-up flats, daily facilities and green belts. A city centre included an axial lay-out lined with a park, a stadium, a transport hub and a set of standard elements such as a square with a monument and slender groups of administrative buildings and cultural institutions (a college, a palace of culture, libraries, museums), to which neoclassical decorative elements were often added.75 According to the average regulations, residential areas had to comprise 50–52% of the entire territory, public spaces 17–18%, streets and squares 19–22% and green zones 13–15%.76 Both residential and industrial zones had to be built simultaneously, although cultural centres were scheduled in accordance with the state’s Five-Year Plans.77 Another remarkable feature was the idea of the city 72.  Collective of authors, Energeticheskoe stroitel’stvo SSSR za 40 let (1917–1957) (Moscow: Gosenergoizdat, 1958), 214. Sergey Novsky, Moy gorod golzhsky (Volgograd: Izdatel’, 2006), 12. 73.  Kimberly Elman Zarecor, “What Was so Socialist about the Socialist City?” Journal of Urban History, no. 44 (2017): 101. 74.  Ibid.: 101. 75.  Collective of authors, Planirovka i zastroyka gorodov (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo Literatury po Stroitel’stvu i Arkhitekture, 1956). 76.  Collective of authors, Pravila i normy planirovki i zastroyki gorodov, 1 (Moscow: Nauchno-Issledovatel’sky Institut Gradostroitel’stva, 1956), 31, 81. 77.  This fact often led to chaotic construction when residential quarters were built faster than public facilities. In Boris Svetlichny, “Neotlozhnye zadachi sovetskogo gradostroitel’stva,” Arkhitektura USSR, no. 11 (1954): 28.

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Fyodor Shevchenko. Loginov Central Stadium, 1954. Archive of Ivan Vdovenko.

Fyodor Shevchenko. Road Construction, 1954. Archive of Ivan Vdovenko.

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V. Petrov. Construction in the 2nd microdistrict of the city of Cherepovets. Cherepovets Museum Complex The example of the periphery.

Georg Oddner. The periphery of Volgograd. 1950s. http://carlotta.malmo.se/carlotta-mmus/web/ object/689360. http://www.kringla.nu/kringla/ objekt?referens=MM%2Ffoto%2F689360.

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‘without peripheries’. At that moment, the periphery was defined as an area with old rickety houses, wooden fences and sandlots. This was an urban curse of Russian cities, signifying urban chaos and the obstacle for the progressive future and, thus, master plans were stuck with an idea to get rid of them. In 1967, a magazine called Smena stressed these exact intentions of Volzhsky: ‘The city is truly devoid of peripheries. There are no wooden one-storey houses that are symbols of the decay of the past. The centre is everywhere. (…) The chimneys of the factories belched out fumes into a blue sky. On the way to the bus station, there are new white buildings lit by the sun…’78

VOLZHSKY MASTER PLAN Volzhsky was erected on a triangular deserted space between the Akhtuba River and the railway from Stalingrad to Astrakhan. Ploshchad’ Stroiteley (The Square of Builders) was the entrée to the city and formed a triangle of three main streets: Prospect Lenina (Lenin Avenue), Ulitsa Karla Marksa (Karl Marx Street) and Ulitsa Chaykovskogo (Chaykovskogo Street). Fontannaya Street ran perpendicularly to Prospect Lenina, creating a composition of the main square with the Palace of Culture, the alley and the park with cultural and sports facilities. The main industrial area occupied the northern part of the city. Special attention was paid to a large number of green areas that had a crucial task to both protect the city from winds and industries and convey a sense of a peaceful living environment. These multiple green spaces, including very special tree nurseries and orchards, remained a matter of pride, even when in the 1960s, Volzhsky’s layout was criticised for being outdated and problematic: ‘The scheme [of Volzhsky] is contrived and formalistic. It reflects the superficial fascination with the planning ideas of the cities of Russian classicism era that were widespread at that time.’79 By 1953, when the population had reached 10.000 people, the city had a school, a few administrative buildings, and the Palace of Culture and parks were under construction.80 The residential areas mostly comprised of apartment and public buildings of standard designs that were prototypes of mass housing projects of the 1960s. According to the master plan, they composed 85% of the housing stock, and the rest were one-storey individual buildings, which also occupied an island named Zelyony that appeared during the construction of the hydroelectric power complex and separated the city from

78.  Pavel Finn, “Gorod bez okrain,” Smena, no. 952 (1967): http://smena-online.ru/stories/gorod-bez-okrain/page/2.

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79.  Vasily Palichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 17. 80.  Novsky, Moy gorod Volzhsky, 22.


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Scheme of Volzhsky. Collective of authors, Planirovka i zastroyka gorodov (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo Literatury po Stroitel’stvu i Arkhitekture, 1956), 108.

River Akhtuba

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the Volga.81 Houses of the common series no. 207 were low to medium rise, from two to four storeys.82 They had 8, 12, 14, 18 or 20 spacious flats with ceilings almost 3 metres high and an average size of 50–60 m2. There were also houses from the series no. 218 with bigger flats and workers’ hostels for a hundred people each.83 Apartments included one to three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom and showed a remarkable similarity to apartments in walk-up flats of the West from that period. This likeness proved the fact that the Iron Curtain was not indeed opaque, and Soviet architecture experienced the worldwide cosmopolitan circulation of concepts and practices that were applied under different political circumstances. The main distinction of these late Stalinist projects from their Western contemporaries was the diversity of architectural and design solutions and a much lower degree of repetition. Residential complexes were lined up around the perimeter of each kvartal (quarter) that was the basic urban element essentially similar to the American neighbourhood schema invented by Clarence Perry and Clarence Stein and implemented for the first time in Radburn, New York. Perry and Stein articulated the main principles of the neighbourhood as a comfortable modern residential space that had within its boundaries all that is needed for everyday life (mostly of young families): houses, schools, community centres, parks, open spaces, churches, recreational and commercial areas. These places had to be accessible without having to cross major arterial streets. The concept enjoyed widespread application in many countries including the Soviet Union. The main differences were the attempt to avoid segregation between higher and lower incomes and the programmatic ‘content’ of the neighbourhood unit. In contrast to the Western counterpart, it did not have, for instance, churches but provided inhabitants with bath houses and many cinemas. The first quarters (no. 1, 2, ‘A’, ‘B’, see map page …) varied from one to five and a half hectares and aimed in the shortest possible time to create an intimate living environment and ‘the architecture of the city’84 as a whole. Each quarter included residential apartments, daily public and cultural services, kindergartens and schools, which were all protected from traffic. The same people who constructed the hydroelectric power station also built the first streets of the city after their main daily duties.85

81.  Collective of authors, Volzhsky. Novye goroda Rossii (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo Literatury po Arkhitekture, Stroitel’stvu i Stroitel’nym Materialam, 1958), 8. 82.  Ibid., 17. 83.  Pavlichenkov, Volhzsky, 97. Employee hostels/dormitories (female, male and mixed) were the common type of the departmental housing provided by enterprises. Inhabitants shared rooms and facilities.

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84.  Iofan Boris, “O printsipial’nykh polozheniyakh planirovki i zastroyki mikrorayonov,” in Mastera sovetskoy arkhitektury ob arkhitekture, 2, ed. Mikhail Barkhin (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1975), 433. 85.  This system was known as the People’s Construction Movement.


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Volzhsky Zoning Scheme. Vasily Palichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 36. 1. The Volga-Akhtuba canal; 2. Residential area; 3. Sports and recreation area; 4. Green protection zone; 5. Urban green spaces; 6. Orchards; 7. Tree nursery.

The First Construction Phase of Volzhsky, 1951–1952 (correction from 1957). Vasily Palichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 55. 1. Kindergartens and crèches; 2. Schools; 3. Canteens; 4. Shops located in separate buildings; 5. Shops located in residential buildings; 6. Bathhouses; 7. Laundry; 8. Hospital; 9. Palace of Culture; 10. Central Park; 11. Central Square; 12. Entrance Square; 13. Club-cinema; 14. Summer cinema; 15. Widescreen cinema; 16. Sport centre; 17. Swimming pool; 18. Market; 19. City Council; 20. Hotel; 21. Central Library; 22. Urban park.

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City Park. Vasily Palichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 38. 1. Sport centre; 2. Swimming pool; 3. Outdoor swimming pool; 4. Boat station; 5. Piers; 6. Outdoor stage; 7. Artificial pond.

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Fyodor Shevchenko. Komsomol’skaya Ploshchad’ (Komsomol Square), 1958–1961. Archive of Ivan Vdovenko.

Fyodor Shevchenko. Park Kul’tury i Otdykha Hydrostroitel’ (Park of Culture and Leisure Hydrostroitel’), 1958– 1960. Archive of Ivan Vdovenko.

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Fyodor Shevchenko. Construction of the Palace of Culture, 1956–1958. Archive of Ivan Vdovenko.

Fyodor Shevchenko. Loginov Central Stadium, 1955– 1956. Archive of Ivan Vdovenko.

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Kvartal ‘A’. Vasily Palichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 63. 1–3. Residential dwellings of the 218 series for 8, 12 and 20 flats; 4. Kindergarten for 100 children (standard design); 5. Dormitory (standard design); 6. Canteen (standard design); 7. Sports and playgrounds.

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Kvartals no. 1 and 2. Vasily Palichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 61. Kvartal no. 1: 1–3. Residential dwellings of 207 series for 8, 12, 14 flats; 4. Kindergarten for 100 children (standard design). 5. Post office. Kvartal no. 2: 1–3. Residential dwellings of 207 for 8, 12 and 14 flats; 4. Crèches for 110 kids (standard design); 5. Night sanatorium (The night sanatorium was intended for daytime workers who could receive treatment during the night); 6. Public service building.

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Layouts of residential dwellings of the 207 series. Vasily Palichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 96.

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Fyodor Shevchenko. Komsomol’skaya Street. Kvartal no. 1, 1956–1957. Archive of Ivan Vdovenko.

Fyodor Shevchenko. Fontannaya Street (1958). Archive of Ivan Vdovenko.

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LIQUIDATION OF EXCESSES AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF VOLZHSKY While Stalingradstroy had an ambitious aim to deliver 20 000 m2 of living space in the first year, it actually made only 10 594 m2.86 In 1952, the city had 11 446 m2 in brick houses, and in 1953 16 319 m2.87 However, there was never enough space to accommodate the workers. The attention remained focused on the hydroelectric power station, and all the city had to offer its inhabitants were overloaded canteens, an insufficient number of public facilities and unfinished houses that were sometimes occupied without permits.88 In the middle of the 1950s, this desperate situation entered a new phase. The reason for that was the Party’s decision to transform Volzhsky into a multi-industrial city, reducing the initial vision of a small ideal city to ashes and introducing a much larger urban scale. In 1956, a factory producing expanded clay aggregates89 started operating, and two years later, the Volga Chemical Complex that included nine different plants. There were also a thermal power plant, an abrasive and a bearing factory as well as a baking factory, industries producing bread and meat. In the 1960s, the Volzhsky Tyre, the Volga Synthetic Rubber and the Volzhsky Pipe factories were launched. All these enterprises required a revision of the master plan of Volzhsky. In 1954, Gugel together with Torgovnik elaborated a project for 120.000 inhabitants, and the master plan of 1959–1960 proposed to construct within the next five years 695.000 m2 of living space for 300.000 inhabitants and to increase per capita from 5.4 m2 to 8 m2 and 15m2 depending on the type of dwellings.90 At that moment, the city had 234.000 m2 of living space as well as schools, kindergartens, canteens91, cinemas, the Palace of Culture and the central sports stadium. The new master plan also designated land for major highways and even for a helicopter pad for the transport connection between Volzhsky and Volgograd. The accelerated industrial growth of Volzhsky coincided with the radical architectural shift under the guidance of Nikita Khrushchev that happened after the death of Stalin in 1953. This shift formed the stereotypical image of Soviet cities as conglomerates of identical districts filled with no less identical mass residential

86.  TSDNIVO, f. 9442, op. 1, d. 78, l. 17, in Glukhova, “Stroitel’stvo stalingradskoy GES: komplektovanie kadrami, organizatsiya truda i byta,” 42. 87.  Collective of authors, Volzhskaya GES im. 22 s’ezda KPSS. Tekhnichesky otchyot o proyektirovanii i stroitel’stve Volzhskoy GES (Moscow, Leningrad: Energiya, 1966), 55. 88.  Glukhova, “Stroitel’stvo Stalingradskoy GES: Komplektovanie Kadrami, Organizatsiya Truda i Byta,” 52. 89.  Expanded clay lightweight aggregate can be used to produce concrete building blocks and panels. 90.  Kosenkova, “Sovetskiy gorod 1940-h–pervoy poloviny 1950-h godov. Ot tvorcheskih poiskov k praktike stroitel’stva,” 265. Pavlichenkov, Volzhsky, 43. 91.  Along with canteens that were parts of factories and schools, there were also city canteens that played a role of cafeterias.

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V. Gugel, A. Romanov. Master Plan of Volzhsky, 1960. Vasily Palichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 50. I. Development completed by 1961; II. Planned four- and five-storey residential blocks (8 m2 per person); III. Planned four- and five-storey residential blocks (15 m2 per person); 1. Public and commercial Areas; 2. Public centres of urban districts; 3. Public centres of residential districts; 4. Mikrorayons; 5. Educational centre; 6. Hospital; 7. Boarding school; 8. Central Park; 9. Recreational zone; 10. Pier; 11. Sport centre; 12. Highway; 13. Stations for cars; 14. Ring road; 15. Main avenue (Lenina Avenue); 16. Main cross street; 17. Embankment; 18. Green protection zone; 19. Helicopter pad.


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Vsevolod Tarasevich. Panorama of the Volga Chemical Complex, 1966. Moscow House of Photography Museum.

Vsevolod Tarasevich. Factory Worker at a Machine. The Volzhsky Tire Plant, 1966. Moscow House of Photography Museum.

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Vsevolod Tarasevich. Workwoman in the workshop. The Volzhsky Synthetic Fibres Plant. 1966. Moscow House of Photography Museum

Vsevolod Tarasevich. Overhead Power Lines, 1966. Moscow House of Photography Museum.

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complexes. The overall goal of Khrushchev’s urban policy was the industrialisation of construction technologies to build faster and cheaper in order to relieve the housing crisis and provide families with separate apartments within twenty years, while simultaneously preserving the socialist idea of the collective life.92 In the mid-1950s, the Party made a stand against the prevalence of ‘artistic vision’ in architecture over urgent needs in the most uncomplicated housing projects. At the National Conference of Builders in December 1954, Khrushchev famously proclaimed: ‘The conference demonstrated that when it comes to planning residential and public buildings, architects took too little account of economic issues or the interior design of buildings and apartments; (…) Many architects and engineers interpreted the task of Soviet urban planning in a onesided manner; paid close attention to the exterior of road infrastructures and squares; worked too little on the planning of residential areas and forgot that in terms of urban planning there is an overriding need in our country to ensure comfort for local residents.’93 This was the end of the emphasis on monumentality and the priority on neoclassical public buildings, serving as monuments to the omnipotence of the Soviet Union and of Stalin himself. From now on, anything besides the minimum was inexcusable extravagance. To launch the mass housing development, the Party published a number of decrees, among which there were the decrees on ‘Liquidation of excesses in design and construction’ (1955) and ‘Measures to further industrialization, improving quality and reducing the cost of construction’ (1955). They aimed not only to encourage new projects but to alter the definition of architecture itself, turning it from marble facades to low-cost housing solutions based on modern construction methods, minimalism and a repeated design to assemble hypermodern districts as fast as possible. Furthermore, the USSR Academy of Construction and Architecture under the State Committee for Construction (Gosstroy) of the USSR replaced the Academy of Architecture. This administrative reform highlighted the fact that from now on, architecture was not anymore a matter

92.  Selim Khan-Magomedov, “Khrushchevsky utilitarizm: plyusy i minusy,” Academia, no. 4 (2006): http://www.niitiag.ru/pub/pub_cat/han_magomedov_hrushhevskij_utilitarizm_pljusy_i_minusy. 93.  Quoted in Dimitry Zadorin, and Filipp Moizer, Towards a Typology of Soviet Mass Housing: Prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1991 (Berlin: DOM, 2015), 149.

Reproduction of the painting by Georgy Satel ‘Komsomol members are the builders of Moscow. Modellers’ (1950) published in Ogonyok, no. 6 (1950). These architectural decorations later will be named as ‘architectural excesses.’

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of art but a mere technology. Architects came to accept these concepts, and released, in their turn, a collection of essays named Soviet Architecture with the editorial article ‘We will justify the trust of the people!’ The issue was dedicated to the future of Soviet architecture and included, for instance, a text by the architect and head of the Central Scientific Research Institute for Educational Buildings, Georgy Gradov, who argued that the task of the professional community was to elaborate standard designs of buildings, yet adapted for different climatic zones and national cultures of the regions. However, after the first wave of joy, the criticism also appeared. Architects of the State design and planning institutes all over the country started complaining about the lack of variety in standard projects that were not suitable for the local climates and the total disregard for the aesthetic component.

TO LIVE HAPPILY TOGETHER If the architecture of buildings had to change, the urban fabric as a whole met the same fate in order to produce appropriate spaces for repetitive groups of houses. The architect Mikhail Dudin noticed: ‘It is necessary to outline the economically feasible organisation of urban or settlement territories that are going to be built with standard projects. This condition obliges us to look for architectural and artistic solutions of streets, quarters, squares, districts not as bizarre configurations of unique buildings, but as spaces with diverse layouts of standard objects…’94 In such a way, the mikrorayon (literally meaning “micro-district”) replaced the neoclassical kvartal and became the main planning unit. In 1958, at the International Union of Architects’ Congress in Moscow, the term officially came into use, but it can be found in earlier sources.95 The historian Mark B. Smith described the initiative of Victor Baburov from the Ministry of City Planning.96 Already in 1945, he asked architects and architectural officials across USSR for ideas on a micro-district’s development in order to satisfy the urban growth. The report summarising the feedback formed the image of mikrorayon as a larger kvartal of rationally organised groups of residential apartments and public buildings to provide inhabitants with different types of facilities on a daily basis.97 However, there was also an obligation to fill in the term with an explicit socialist weight and to combine the individual apartment with collective life. In 1945–1946, 94.  Mikhail Dudin, “Nereshyonnye voprosy gradostroitel’noy praktiki,” Arkhitektura SSSR, no. 6 (1955): 4–8. 95.  Alexey Galaktionov, “Sovremennye zadachi v planirovke i zastroyke novykh zhilykh rayonov bol’shikh gorodov” (PhD diss., Moscow, 1946).

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the Committee of Architecture organised the competition to design an experimental residential mikrorayon, accompanied by a theoretical foundation, arguing that ‘Our Soviet theory has an independent role in the question of the organisation of residential territories. There is no reason for uncritical use of foreign theory of the micro-district.’98 In conclusion, the idea of mikrorayon was presented as an ameliorated version of the kvartal, the main element of Stalinist urban planning. The mikrorayon also included public facilities for different generations, but because of its larger size, their distribution could be more efficient. Furthermore, it aimed to avoid enclosed autonomous inner spaces such as the kvartal had, encouraging social life and neighbourhood relations. The availability of many places to meet was seen as one of the significant points of contrasts with Western micro-districts: ‘The desire of Western European and American planners to organise a district as a self-contained social and territorial organism entails the separation and isolation of its population from social and political activities, from the public life of the city. Such an interpretation of the district should be condemned as contradicting the structure of the socialist city.’99 Thus, the principal goal of the mikrorayon was to provide ‘on a mass scale and with the fierce ideological change, communal structures alongside separate dwellings.’100 Publications with experimental projects of mikrorayons appeared after the International Union of Architects’ Congress in 1958, and in a nutshell, their structures followed three parameters: ‘compass direction101, topography and the economics of the assembly crane.’102 They had to be located outside central areas of cities to create carfree spaces predominantly to live, not to work. Roads delineated their territories, and inside there were residential apartments and public areas. Kindergartens, schools, clubs with red corners, shops, playing fields, sports grounds and green areas occupied the central areas to be equally accessible to inhabitants within a walking distance of 500 metres.103 The size of the whole mikrorayon was estimated to be 15 hectares in big cities and 3–8 hectares in small ones.104 Clubs or houses of culture served as centres, where residents went in their spare time: ‘a visitor spends the whole of his evening relaxing, watching films or stage productions, using the library or the restaurant, or visiting the

98.  RGAE, f. 9432, op. 1, d. 348, 349, in Kosenkova, “Sovetskiy gorod 1940-h–pervoy poloviny 1950-h godov. Ot tvorcheskih poiskov k praktike stroitel’stva,” 68. 99.  Rossiysky Gosudarstvenny Arkhiv Literatury i Iskusstva (hereafter RGALI, Russian State Archive of Literature and Art), f. 674, op. 2, d. 160, in ibid., 70. 100.  Smith, Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev, 117. 101.  Compass direction refers to research on, for instance, the altitude of the sun and the impact of gap widths on the sound insulation efficiency. Their results provided architects with scientifically valid guidelines for the placement of buildings. 102.  Zadorin, Moizer, Towards a Typology of Soviet Mass Housing: Prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1991, 153. 103.  Collective of authors, Planirovka i zastroyka gorodov. 104.  Zadorin, Moizer, Towards a typology of Soviet Mass Housing: Prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1991, 149.

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exhibition.’105 Red corners also played an important role, mobilizing the community and developing a socialist consciousness. As one citizen recalled, this was the place where a ‘meeting can be conducted, residents can listen to talks and lectures, play chess or draughts, read a magazine or newspaper, and share opinions with comrades.’106 The mikrorayon had a few other innovative characteristics. It did not have a perimeter layout of buildings, facing the street, like the kvartals of the 1950s. Instead, it created impressive geometric compositions that gave the most spellbinding view from the plane’s porthole. This ‘composition without grids (…) that sets up the spatial relationships within the ensemble,’107 provided flats with better insolation and ventilation but also reflected the architects’ affinity with a mathematical approach to urban planning, where ‘the individual building no longer plays an independent role but is rather only a component of the overall organic complex, of the ensemble.’108 To create these scientifically-driven spaces, the Central Research and Design Institute of Residential and Public Buildings (TSNIIEP Zhilishcha) carried out calculations of sunlight exposure and of the matrix of inter-district connections for the most comfortable placement of residential complexes and public facilities.109 The Soviet urban theory was also focused on the idea of non-egalitarian space, providing ‘the prerequisites for the formation of the needs and interests, goals and ideals of the communist person of tomorrow.’110 Architects argued that Anglo-Saxon microdistricts were intended primarily for the poor and the working classes, but new Soviet mikrorayons sought for a genuine social mix ‘to accommodate residents from all strata of society.’111 Perhaps the most famous example of the new urban planning took place in Moscow in the 10th experimental mikrorayon of the Cheryomushki district that was the forefather of nearly every subsequent mikrorayon in the Soviet Union. Its sober urban planning created spacious inner yards with benches, places for sport, games and even swimming, and an abundance of public buildings (health centres, creches, schools, cinemas, libraries, theatres and clubs) minimised time spent at home.112 However, many mikrorayons that were developed with this set of rules and concepts quickly revealed

105.  Smith, Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev, 118. 106.  Ibid., 118–119. 107.  Zarecor, “What Was so Socialist about What Was so Socialist about the Socialist City?”: 103. 108.  “Problemy stilya v sovetskoy Arkhitekture,” Arkhitektura SSSR, no. 11 (1963): 26. 109.  Nikolay Erofeev, “Estetika sovetskoy zhiloy arkhitektury,” Archi, August 10, 2015, https://archi.ru/russia/64030/estetika-sovetskoi-zhiloi-arkhitektury. 110.  G. Kravtsov, M. Timyashevskaya, “Konkretno-sotsiologicheskoe issledovanie i formirovanie zhiloy sredy,” Arkhitektura SSSR, no. 10 (1969): 6–9.

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111.  Anna Alekseeva, Everyday Soviet Utopias: Planning, Design and the Aesthetics of Developed Socialism (London, New York: Routledge, 2019). 112.  Georgy Pavlov, Desyaty Eksperimental’ny (Moscow: Moskovsky Rabochy, 1962).


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Master Plan of the 10th Mikrorayon of the Cheryomushki District. G. Pavlov. Desyaty eksperimental’ny (Moscow: Moskovsky Rabochy, 1962).

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Victor Chemeris. Swimming Pool in the 10th Mikrorayon of the Cheryomushki District, 1962.

their weak points. Their idealistic character depended ‘on the flawed assumption that the infrastructure would be ready at the same time that residents arrived.’113 It frequently did not perform as promised due to the lack of financing and of cooperation between different departments responsible for housing units and public services. The completion of apartments outpaced communal facilities, creating a sense of desolation and ‘causing serious setbacks to full success of the mikrorayon.’114 Among its other problems, especially relevant nowadays, were insufficient number of parking places, non-adapted for commercial and public activities ground floors that hampered the development of neighbourhood life, empty shops in the central parts of micro-districts as people preferred to do groceries near bus and metro stops and urban soil dust blowing in from barren ‘green zones.’115 A new master plan for Volzhsky based on the system of mikrorayons was proposed in 1959–1960. It aimed to complete the modernisation of the city, where, at that time, the first mass residential complexes were still built in accordance with the perimeter-

113.  Zarecor, “What Was so Socialist about What Was so Socialist about the Socialist City?”: 99. 114.  Alfred J. DiMaio, Soviet Urban Housing: Problems and Policies (New York: Praeger Publisher, 1974), 57. 115.  Yulia Shishalova, “10 prichin, pochemu my do sikh por tak plokho stroim zhil’yo,” Strelkamag, April 6, 2018, https://strelkamag.com/ru/article/10-reasons-why-construction.

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Kvartal no. 22. Vasily Palichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 68. 1. Four-storey residential building for 48 flats made of large blocks; 2. Crèche for 100 children (standard design 2-04-41); 3. Kindergarten for 100 children (standard design 2-04-40); 4. Parking garage; 5. Transformer booth; 6. Boiler house; 7. Garbage bins; 8. Playgrounds; 9. Leisure zone.


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Experimental Design for the First Mikrorayon of Volzhsky. Vasily Palichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 78. 1. Five-storey residential buildings made of large blocks (design of Stalingradstroy); 2. Kindergartens and crèches; 3. School. 4. Cultural and household blocks; 5. Shops; 6. Garages; 7. Laundry drying blocks. 8. Garden. 9. Sports grounds.

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Lenina Avenue. Mikrorayon no. 36, 1961–1962. https:// pastvu.com/p/482039.

Vsevolod Tarasevich. Queue up to buy milk, 1966. Moscow House of Photography Museum.

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oriented scheme, as in kvartal no. 22.116 Due to the first master plan that by locating the industrial area to the north reduced the likelihood of the city developing as an organic substance, the only direction for its growth was south. The city stretched along the river, and its new districts became more and more distanced from the city centre. According to the plan of the 1960s, they were divided into three administrative parts of 60.000 inhabitants each and further split up into micro-districts for 5.000–10.000 people.117 Within the mikrorayons, there were smaller groups of apartment buildings accompanied by green yards and public facilities: kindergartens, schools, clubs, shops, a cultural services network (set’ kul’turno-bytovogo obsluzhivaniya), sports grounds.118

PUSHING THE BUTTON Khrushchev’s ‘favoured solution of a separate apartment within a collective housing district was (…) a direct legacy of the immediate post-war years’119 and did not appear out of nowhere. In the mid-1940s, there were already calls to focus not on forms of ancient Greece, the Italian Renaissance and Russian Imperial architecture, but on architecture based on functionalism and cost-efficiency. During the war, Andrey Burov mocked what he considered the routine among Soviet architects:

‘Take a piece of paper and, in this order, write down the following: 1) cheerfulness, 2) industriousness, 3) mastery of past heritage, 4) national form, 5) socialist content, 6) synthesis of the arts, etc. When you have drawn your design, lay the paper on a table and look it over. Then take a red pencil and see how you have done. 1. Cheerfulness? Check—the building is white. Make checkmark. 116.  To reduce a sense of monotony, architects tried to use coloured walls and balconies (red and blue). In the kvartal no. 37 walls were coloured golden, yellow, lilac and blue, while the fences of balconies and the flower pots were blue and pink. 117.  Pavlichenkov, Volzhsky, 48. 118.  Ibid., 48. 119.  Smith, Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev, 45.

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2. Industriousness? Check — all 200 flats, all windows, stairs, and doors are exactly the same. Checkmark. 3. Heritage? Check — there is a Renaissance cornice. Checkmark. 4. National form? Check — there are Russian window surrounds (or Azerbaijani if the building is in Baku). Checkmark. 5. Socialist content? Check. For whom is the house intended? For our Soviet people, and thus we have an emblem. Checkmark. 6. Synthesis? Check. The sculptures wear coats or shorts, depending on the climate. Checkmark.’ 120

The constructivist architect Moisey Ginsburg, in his turn, criticised in 1943 the reconstruction of Moscow as inhuman: ‘… we concluded that it [Tverskaya Street] should be cast in gates, pilasters, columns. (...) Is this right? Did we think about people who do not live in communal flats with five–six other families, people who have a garden near their house, children who have a place to play (…) — did we think about the most primitive needs that define the actual humanism of architecture? We thought badly, (…) none of them [the reconstructed streets] solved simple human problems, providing people with a modest, comfortable home for different generations…”121 The same year, also the architect Arkady Mordvinov claimed that the task of mass housing is a joyful one: ‘To create a cosy, warm and beautiful home, giving people the joy of life. This is poetry, not the pathos of the victory. This lyric poetry is born out of love for the people.’122 In 1944, the Party even released a decree on the creation of an industrial base for mass housing, stating that new buildings could be produced by means of prefabricated structures made of wood, gypsum and slag concrete. Khrushchev, who was running

120.  Andrey Burov, “Na putyakh k novoy russkoy arkhitekture,” Arkhitektura SSSR, no. 4 (1943): 32.

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121.  Kosenkova, “Sovetskiy gorod 1940-h–pervoy poloviny 1950-h godov. Ot tvorcheskih poiskov k praktike stroitel’stva,” 56–57. 122.  RGALI, f. 674, op. 2, d. 109, in ibid., 57.


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awaiting permission

Nikita Khrushchev Visits France, 1960.

the Ukrainian Republic at that time, emphasised that standard design and industrial methods of construction ‘have a huge political and economic significance.’123 Poor living conditions could not be a feature of the Soviet state, and he recalled that ‘it was painful for me to remember that as a worker under capitalism I’d had much better conditions than my fellow workers now living under Soviet power.’124 However, the situation did not change significantly until the mid-1950s when the housing crisis was all-encompassing, but systemic imperatives still encouraged architects to view their work as a matter of creativity rather than a vehicle of social transformation.125 Khrushchev’s speech of 1954 was like a bolt from the blue, launching the mass house-building programme of an extensive scale and with the highest per capita construction in Europe.126 It forbade beloved details like the sculpturing of façades as a formalistic perversion and obliged to build rationally and simply.

123.  Smith, Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev, 28. 124.  Ibid., 70. 125.  For instance, the housing stock of Moscow by nine tenths consisted of communal apartments, in Khan-Magomedov, “Khrushchevsky utilitarizm: plyusy i minusy,” http://www.niitiag.ru/pub/pub_cat/ han_magomedov_hrushhevskij_utilitarizm_pljusy_i_minusy. 126.  Smith, Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev, 104.

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The leading scholar of Russian avant-garde architecture, Selim Khan-Magomedov recalled in 2006 the contradictory effect of Khrushchev’s statement on the architectural community: ‘we were walking with a large group, sharing our impressions. No one doubted that it was right to develop mass housing design, introduce large panels, reduce construction costs. But the intervention of the authorities in the domain of style provoked bewilderment and hostility.’127 The decrees indeed acted as the green light for mass housing initiatives, showing at the same time the Party’s interference with almost every aspect of architecture, which was seen as a political task. Government organisations covered all matters of organisation, finance, individualbased construction schemes and construction techniques. They regulated designs and technical specifications of buildings to provide people with small but individual flats that until then were the most luxurious objects of aspiration, only awarded to people for excellent service to the state.128

ANCESTORS OF KHRUSHCHYOVKA These apartments, famously known as khrushchyovkas, gave priority to matters of reduced construction costs and time. They had their roots in early pre-war experiments in mass housing projects as well as in Western post-war achievements. In 1939, the workshop of Mordvinov constructed eleven multi-story buildings on Bolshaya Kaluzhskaya Street (Leninsky Avenue at present) in Moscow that had similar layouts for flats.129 The architects also used a conveyor belt-inspired system to construct the houses: each construction crew had its own specialisation, and after completing tasks at one site, they moved to the next one.130 Another remarkable project also took place in Moscow along Novopeschanaya Street, Kuusinen Street and at Peschanaya Square in the late 1940s. Khrushchev himself supervised the construction of the residential apartments that included prefabricated elements, standard designs and minimalist decorations appeared only on the walls facing the road. The project was later used for one of the first generation of mass housing series I-410 introduced in 1954 and mainly realised in Moscow.131 One of the articles proudly concluded that ‘it is not even possible to say that we actually built these houses. Rather, they are assembled.’132

127.  Khan-Magomedov, “Khrushchevsky utilitarizm: plyusy i minusy,” http://www.niitiag.ru/pub/pub_cat/han_magomedov_hrushhevskij_utilitarizm_pljusy_i_minusy. 128.  Instruktsiya GUKKH pri SNK RSFSR no. 64, April 7, 1931. 129.  Dmitry Goncharuk, “A Clash of Bricks, Blocks and Panels: the Timeline of Soviet Mass Housing Construction,” Strelkamag, August 8, 2017, https://strelkamag.com/en/article/protokhruschevki. 130.  Ibid., https://strelkamag.com/en/article/protokhruschevki.

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131.  Ibid., https://strelkamag.com/en/article/protokhruschevki. 132.  Evgeny Kriger, “Moskva v stroitel’nykh lesah,” Arkhitektura i Stroitel’stvo, no. 11 (1948): 8.


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Housing series no. I-410, the standard project no. IV-9 (fivestorey building for 50 apartments).

To encourage a faster ‘transition from an artisan or semi-artisan processes to industrial processes,’133 the Party initiated the foundation of an astonishing amount of specialised research institutes that were in charge of creating an entirely new way to run architectural practice. Among them, there were the Central Research and Design Institute of Residential and Public Buildings (TsNIIEP zhilischa), the Academy of Construction and Architecture, the Central Research Institute for Standard and Experimental Residential Development, the Special Architecture and Construction Office (later the Moscow Research and Design Institute for Typology and Experimental Design). Together they worked on new materials and technologies, standard designs and layouts collected into serial projects and presented as albums with instruction manuals. They contained schemes and blueprints, stressing once again the priority of mathematical and financial calculations over artistic impulses. An architect of the 133.  Smith, Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev, 65.

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modern country could not ‘have personal aesthetic beliefs and seek clients who shared them but had to offer the professional service of design to fit the needs and express the beliefs of their client, society.’134 Apart from launching their own research, the Soviet authorities legitimised the use of foreign architectural construction methods. It was accepted that standardised residential complexes were mainly a question of specific building techniques and materials and, consequently, the door was opened for Soviet architects to use international findings, especially those of American and British colleagues. They had some, albeit limited, access to western architectural magazines and books and participated in international conferences. In 1955, a Soviet delegation went to the International Union of Architects Congress in the Hague dedicated to housing from 1945 to 1955, where its members proclaimed: ‘We are interested in the solid, systematic multifaceted exchange of experience with progressive architectural forces and organisations from all countries of the world. Activating our work in the IUA, we must do everything to acquaint Soviet architects with the new and progressive phenomena in foreign architecture and, on the other hand, spread information about our own advanced experience abroad.’135 The core of the Soviet shopping list, as the architect and scholar Catherine Cooke named it, were industrial building technologies such as the French Camus and Coignet systems, examples of individual apartment types and flexible planning as well as ‘nonregular planning layouts for residential districts; (…) good solutions to the space within the quarter; and methods for separating the cultural and communal centre from the overall housing area.’136 Architects and authorities used trips abroad to acquire these items. Alexander Vlasov, the chief architect of Moscow, visited the United States, and Vladimir Kucherenko, the deputy of State Committee for Construction, met the British Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden. In 1955, he visited concrete works, industrial sites, housing estates and praised ‘British achievements in housing, particularly in the new towns.’137 At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs started inviting foreign architects from Great Britain, Sweden and Finland to the USSR to help with housing construction.138

134.  Catherine Cooke (with Susan E. Reid), “Modernity and Realism. Architectural Relations in the Cold War,” in Russian Art and the West: A Century of Dialogue in Painting, Architecture, and the Decorative Arts, ed. Rosalind Blakesley, Susan Reid (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2007), 183. 135.  Ibid., 180. 136.  Ibid., 180–181.

141

137.  Smith, Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev, 76. 138.  Ibid., 88–89.


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A Woman Demonstrates a Model Kitchen, Frozen and Prepacked Food. Catalogue of American Exhibition in Moscow, 1959.

In the vein of these exchanges, international exhibitions had significance too, offering examples of the latest solutions that could be adapted to large-scale implementation. The first post-war MoMA sponsored American exhibition ‘Rapid Construction in the USA’ took place in Moscow as early as 1945, showing projects of new types of constructions and low-rise settlements developed within rapid industrial techniques.139 In 1959, the USA showed their own modernist architecture and living standards at their best at the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow. Architectural details of the pavilions were pre-fabricated but assembled together with Soviet workers, for whom it was an opportunity to get first-hand experience with the technologies. One part of exposition had a special ideological value and became the scene for the kitchen debates between Richard Nixon and Khrushchev. An entire pavilion demonstrated the number of consumer goods that anyone in America could afford. The kitchen full of the newest household appliances had to astound Soviet people with the prosperity of the average American family. In contrast, the Soviets were dedicated to technological and scientific research, but their miniature kitchens in new housing complexes could hardly accommodate everything necessary. 139.  The exhibition ‘Rapid Construction in the USA’ took place at the House of the Architects in Moscow. It was a gift from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the exhibition had a practical significance. It demonstrated wartime building technologies such as onsite assembly and ready-made components that could be applied for the post-war reconstruction. In Richard Anderson, “USA/USSR: Architecture and War,” Grey Room, no. 34 (2009): 80–103.

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Välli ngby 23 d e En er o Chap t er 2 Chan g pi n Islam a ba d Tem a Ciud ad G uyan a Arad The 9th Mikrorayon of the Cheryomushki District, 1960. https://pastvu. com/p/94018.

IN A STANDARD MICRO-DISTRICT, IN A STANDARD HOUSE, IN A STANDARD FLAT Mass residential architecture became (and still is) home to millions of people and gave its inhabitants the feeling of a futuristic environment and a better life. Every detail of new dwellings was a sign of the national technical and scientific progress in standardisation, the use of new materials and the shift to constructions based on elementary geometry and mathematics. The 9th district of Novye Cheryomushki in Moscow became a testing ground for new types of housing. The group of architects under the guidance of Natan Osterman elaborated 14 types of buildings with different layouts and features to come up with the most successful standard designs. The microdistrict, where the average speed of construction of some buildings was only 12 days, turned out to be a symbol of the future. It even got the rare honour to have a musical dedicated to the neighbourhood. In 1962, Herbert Rappaport directed Cheryomushki, with music by Shostakovich, telling about people who got a chance to move into a flat of their own and to live in a place, which deserved a museum before its construction was even complete.

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Different Types of Construction Technologies in the 9th Mikrorayon of the Cheryomushki District, 1957. https://pastvu. com/p/15986, https://pastvu. com/p/152925.

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Flexible System of Prefabricated Construction: Standardised Catalogue for Inner Walls and Façade Panels. State Committee for Urban Construction and Architecture in Gosstroy: Flexible System of Prefabricated Construction (Moscow, 1986), 9. Dimitry Zadorin, and Filipp Moizer, Towards a Typology of Soviet Mass Housing: Prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1991 (Berlin: DOM, 2015), 18.

Standartised Filing Cards of Building Types within Soviet Serial Mass Housing. Series 148-07 SP/1.2, Tashkent. Philipp Meuser Collection; Dimitry Zadorin, and Filipp Moizer, Towards a Typology of Soviet Mass Housing: Prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1991 (Berlin: DOM, 2015), 33.

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the state factories as collections of plans and drawings of prefabricated elements for different buildings typologies (mass housing, public buildings, industrial buildings). In 1957, the first SNiP (building regulations) appeared after a nationwide competition for the development of prefabricated residential buildings throughout the USSR. They described in detail all components of buildings that were based on standardised spatialunit systems and established the minimum dimensions of new flats. The living space in a one-room apartment had to be at least 8 m2 and a total area of 16 m2; a four-room apartment could not exceed a total space of 40 m2.140 Building regulations of the 1960s and the 1970s increased these figures. In 1964, a one-room apartment could be 36 m2, and in 1985, a four-room apartment increased to 77 m2. Five different methods were used over the decades to construct khrushchyovkas: ‘brick construction, large-block construction, large-panel construction, frame construction (reinforced concrete frame infilled with precast concrete elements) and spatial-unit construction (pre-fabricated three-dimensional spatial elements).’141 Despite the first impression that Soviet residential buildings were completely identical, there were at least 150 different standard designs.142 The reason for that was the decentralisation to regional and local levels. Alliances of local administrations, architectural and design institutions and factories received only general layouts from the central design institutes located in big cities. They were adapted to climate conditions that varied greatly between the southern and the northern regions, requiring unique engineering solutions, but also allowing for changes. Architects and authorities had opportunities to adjust standard designs, applying slight modifications to balconies, entrances and coloured cornices. Another medium to create variations within monotonous buildings and stretch ‘the limits of what is possible and rational’143 were mosaicked façades depicting a remarkable range of subjects: from representatives of the ideal Soviet society (scientists, workers and cosmonauts) to national ornaments in the southern republics. There were only a few possibilities for creativity, but yet every city acquired khrushchyovkas with unique details, encouraging a closer look at them. In Volzhsky, it was Barokha and Gennady Chernoskutov who made several reliefs and mosaic compositions on walls of residential dwellings and in the interiors of public institutions.

140.  Zadorin, Moizer, Towards a Typology of Soviet Mass Housing: Prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1991, 21–23. 141.  Ibid., 49. 142.  Ibid., 24. 143.  Nikita Khrushchev, Auf dem Weg zum Kommunismus. Reden und Schriften zur Entwicklung der Sowjetunion 1962/1963 (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1964).

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FROM KHRUSHCHEVKA TO BREZHNEVKA The first experiments to apply mass housing technologies in Volzhsky took place in 1956, when a new factory opened in the industrial district in the north-eastern part of the city, producing large-scale elements. Using them, Stalingradstroy built the café Molodost’ (Youth, also named Molodyoznoe), which demonstrated the middle ground between technical innovations and neoclassical elements. Stalingradstroy further started building residential apartments. In 1958, its representatives concluded that thanks to the new technology, the initial annual construction plan had been exceeded and approximately 60% of both dwellings and public buildings were built of largescale panels and blocks.144 They enabled builders to reduce construction time from 165 days for three buildings to 100 days. However, genuine mass architecture only came with the first series of prefabricated houses and particularly the series 1-447, which was elaborated in the late 1950s and got a monopoly in this field. The emerging urban landscape was seen as a sign of the victory of construction technology and modern architecture with its honest geometrical forms and visual asceticism over the previous socialist-realist architecture overloaded with national and historical references as well as over ‘grave consequences owing to the cult of personality.’145 The series 1-447 was developed by the State Institute of Urban Planning (Giprogor) and recommended by Gosstroy for a universal roll-out to ‘provide for economical, comfortable apartments for housing one family.’146 The majority of buildings of this series were built between 1958–1963. Housing blocks had a rectangular configuration in a plan and repeating sections; they varied from three to five floors and did not have elevators. There were one- (so-called hotel type), two-, three- and four-room apartments of 16, 22, 30, 40 m2 with ceilings of 2.2–2.5 m, and each type was intended for a particular family status (single or family one).147 Inside, the apartments had rooms to be used differently during day and night, and some layouts included communicating or walk-through rooms that had two entrances and could invade the dwellers’ privacy. Tiny bathrooms had both a lavatory and a shower in one space. They were called Havana in spoken language, and in its Cuban reference there was a slight critical hint of the residents about the Party’s priority to support Cuba rather than the national

144.  RGAE, f. 7854, op. 2, d. 1548, l. 54–59 in Glukhova, “Stroitel’stvo Stalingradskoy GES: komplektovanie kadrami, organizatsiya truda i byta,” 151. 145.  “Problemy stilya v sovetskoy arkhitekture,” Arkhitektura SSSR, no. 11 (1963): 40–52.

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146.  Zadorin, Moizer, Towards a Typology of Soviet Mass Housing: Prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1991,167. 147.  Ibid., 158.


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Fyodor Shevchenko. Café Molodost’, 1956. Archive of Ivan Vdovenko.

Vsevolod Tarasevich. Café Molodost’ (Molodyoznoe), 1966. Moscow House of Photography Museum.

Use of Large Blocks and Panels and other Prefabricated Elements by Stalingradstroy, 1955–1960. Vasily Pavlichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 34.

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mass housing development.148 The minimum permitted area of kitchens were 4.5 m2.149 In order to justify their small sizes, a short promotional movie appeared.150 The speaker stressed the attempts of architects and scientists to create ergonomic spaces where everything was at hand and criticised kitchens of the past where a housewife had to walk around 500 meters just to cook borsch. In Volzhsky, the construction of this first generation of mass residential architecture was also characterised by the city growth and the appearance of modernist public buildings. The city’s second generation of dwellings was mainly built between 1963 and 1971. These buildings consisted of numerous sections that were placed at different angles to each other, creating serpentine structures. The new SNiP of 1962 aimed to improve their general quality as well as to give more privacy to family members: the number of walk-through rooms was reduced, and shower and toilet facilities became separated. There was also the third generation of houses that was mainly assembled between 1971 and 1985. Analogically to khrushchevka, these buildings got nicknamed brezhnevka after President Leonid Brezhnev who took over from Khrushchev in 1964. These were the highest apartment blocks, ranging from 9 to 16 storeys, and they had better sound and thermal insulation and more diverse layouts.151 Another important feature of the mass housing period was the return of the house construction cooperative (ZhSK) allowing citizens to obtain flats faster.152 The results of the housing program that Khrushchev ran remained mixed. On the one hand, individual flats allowed many people to leave the crowded communal flats with their daily discomfort and neighbour hassles. The reform of the housing stock was not all-encompassing, and even nowadays one may find in cities like Volzhsky disintegrating and still inhabited post-war barracks, originally meant for temporary use. Yet, for those who had an opportunity to experience the new housing, it was the long-awaited fulfilment of their desires to have ‘a tiny, one-room apartment, but with its own kitchen and stove’153 instead of forced communal living. The new flats were not 148.  Natalia Lebina, Passazhiry kolbasnogo poezda. Etyudy k kartine byta rossiyskogo goroda: 1917–1991 (Moscow: NLO, 2019), 394. 149.  Ibid., 168. 150.  The movie was found on the Internet, and it was impossible to trace its origins and purposes. The movie was mentioned among additional materials for the documentary ‘Nikita Khrushchev. Voice from the Past’ (2010) directed by Artyom Chaschikhin-Toidze. 151.  Zadorin, Moizer, Towards a typology of Soviet mass housing: prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1991.

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152.  Early experience in cooperative housing as a means to solve an intensifying housing crisis dated back to the 1920s. There were the House Leasing Cooperative Associations (ZhAKT), the Workers’ House Construction Cooperative Associations (RZhSKT) for workers or employees of the state and the General House Construction Cooperative Associations (OZhSKT) for all citizens including NEPmen (men and women who took advantage of the New Economic Policy in the 1920s and were private entrepreneurs). People could enter these associations with down payments (10 or 30 %) and with the choice of building a private house or municipalised apartment building. In 1937, the cooperatives were abolished for both their inefficiency and ideological reasons, and the local Soviets, state institutions and industrial enterprises started controlling the state housing fund. The 1962 resolution revived the cooperative housing organisations that could ‘receive state credits for up to 60% of the estimated cost of construction for a period o from 10 to 15 years.’ The cooperative housing organisations allowed citizens to obtain flats faster and facilitated the transition from individual single-unit construction in urban areas to residential apartments. In DiMaio, Soviet Urban Housing: Problems and Policies. 153.  Gerasimova, “Zhil’yo v sovetskom gorode: istoriko-sotsiologicheskoe issledovaniye (Leningrad, 1918–1991),” http://ecsocman.hse.ru/rubezh/msg/16298294.html#.


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Promotional movie about new kitchens

Arhitektura SSSR, https:// www.colta.ru/articles/ art/9784-printsip-ekonomiibyl-opredelyayuschim. The scheme illustrates the possible settlements of families based on their compositions and sizes of apartments.

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First generation: The building's basic design cannot be varied. Residential buildings have a fixed number of sections. I-118

Chessboard

A single-unit detached building with three sections

A single-unit detached building with five sections Second generation: The basic module of a residential building is the block section. This can be altered at defined angles to each other.

Three-section building

Curved five-section building

Dominoes

TDSK 71 / 77

Third generation: The basic module of a residential building is the apartment. It offers a vast range of variants. E-148 P

Compact structure Open structure Tetris blocks

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Ten Parameters for a Typology of Mass Housing

Three Generations of Mass Housing. Dimitry Zadorin, and Filipp Moizer, Towards a Typology of Soviet Mass Housing: Prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1991 (Berlin: DOM, 2015), 136.


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First Generation. Left: 1-605 in Moscow, 1960. Right: 1-464, Regular five-storey meridional section, 1958.

Second Generation. Left: 1-464 D in Novopolotsk, 1974. Right: I-464 A, Regular five-storey latitudinal section 2-2-2, 1963.

Third Generation. Left: Series 137 in Leningrad, 1978. Right: Series 90, Regular five-storey latitudinal section 1B-2B-3B, 1971.

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The Development of Soviet Housing Construction between 1958 and 1982. In total, the average living space per person increased from 10 m2 to 18 m2 and the total area from 40 m2 to 65 m2. N. Rozanov, Krupnopanel’noe domostroenie (Moscow: Stroyizdat, 1982), 45; Dimitry Zadorin, and Filipp Moizer, Towards a Typology of Soviet Mass Housing: Prefabrication in the USSR 1955–1991 (Berlin: DOM, 2015), 22.

Dmitry Boyko. Pace of Residential Buildings Construction in Volzhsky, 1950–2015. https:// geoclever.ru/articles/vozrast_zdaniy/.

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Standard design based on the series no. 1-447 in Volzhsky. The residential dwelling is made of large-scale panels and includes 48 flats: 42 % of one-room apartments (16–18 m2), 25 % of two-room apartment (27–28 m2), 33 % of three-room apartment (38 m2). Vasily Pavlichenkov, Volzhsky (Moscow: Gosstroyizdat, 1961), 107.

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Fyodor Shevchenko. Mikrorayon no. 40, 1963.

Fyodor Shevchenko. New Residential Blocks, Mikrorayon no. 42, 1976.

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Lenina Square, 1976–1980. Brochure of the Volga Plant of Rubber Technical Products.

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Different Generations of Mass Housing, 1998– 2000. https://pastvu. com/p/482170.

Cinema “Sputnik,” 1966–1971. https://pastvu.com/p/602224.

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Vsevolod Tarasevich. In the city of Volzhsky. 1966. Moscow House of Photography Museum.

Vsevolod Tarasevich. Kids in the Room. Volzhsky. 1967. Moscow House of Photography Museum.

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of the best quality but still brought true happiness. In the 1960s, it became consensus that a small separate flat is better than a communal one. An article from the book Problems of Modern Housing concluded: ‘If we interviewed families living in communal apartments about their preferences to have a six-meter kitchen for one family or a nine-meter kitchen for two or three families, an eight-meter corridor in the apartment, where three families live, or a three-meter corridor for one family, it would be evident that the majority prefers smaller rooms but separate apartments.’154 Another positive outcome was the integration of the Soviet professional architectural community into the international discourse. On the other hand, the emphasis on cheaper buildings and faster construction periods resulted in a new sin: the deformation of the profession and the anonymisation of cities. Architects became dependent on the construction industry, and even when they did come up with more experimental designs, they often faced the resistance of engineers and the demand for cheaper and simpler projects.155 The loss of the distinctive artistic value of standardised architecture triggered a general contemptuous attitude to both public and residential buildings of the 1960s–1980s, only intensified over the years by the cracks and traces of dirt on their façades. Another shortcoming shared by the new flats was the ignorance of the dynamics of families’ growth as well as their constitution in terms of age and sex. Studies showed that in the 1960s, most of the single family Khrushchevka’s were occupied by several generations, and on average, there were two persons per room.156 On the eve of the 1970 All-Union Census architects, urban planners and demographers claimed that in order to elaborate better layouts and designs for comfortable living of different families, they had to carry out more studies on the families’ demographic composition.157 Popular culture reflected exactly this duality. Magazines published all kinds of caricatures about the poor quality of buildings and their uniformity. They demonstrated the critical attitude of citizens and the architectural community towards the new urban landscapes, where buildings acted as small screws of a bigger system. The word khrushchevka itself that appeared after Gorbachev’s perestroyka showed the rather disparaging perception of the dwellings. The most famous example of the national mockery of the modern architectural monotony appeared in the film “The Irony of Fate,

154.  Katerina Gerasimova, “Zhil’yo v sovetskom gorode: istoriko-sotsiologicheskoe issledovaniye (Leningrad, 1918–1991),” Centre for Independent Social Research, European University in St. Petersburg: http:// ecsocman.hse.ru/rubezh/msg/16298294.html#. 155.  Khan-Magomedov, “Khrushchevsky utilitarizm: plyusy i minusy,” http://www.niitiag.ru/pub/pub_cat/han_magomedov_hrushhevskij_utilitarizm_pljusy_i_minusy.

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156.  DiMaio, Soviet Urban Housing: Problems and Policies, 77. 157.  Ibid., 76.


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or Enjoy Your Bath!” (1976) with a sharp eye for the curiosity of the mikrorayons. A voiceover reported at the beginning of the film: ‘Now almost every Soviet city has its own Cheryomushki. A person gets into any unfamiliar city and feels at home. Typical stairwells are painted in a typical pleasant colour, typical apartments are furnished with standard furniture.’ However, the same houses and mikrorayons were also sources of admiration. Newcomers recalled, for instance, ‘Our family of four people used to live in a room of 9 m2. So, when we got a two-room flat, we were in seventh heaven. (…) We had a kitchen of 5.5 m2, but it was our kitchen. We also could forget about the shared toilet in the yard and have a shower every day!’158 Later on, spacious yards and minimalist architecture forms served as an example of the humanist design ideally suited for daily life. Writer and artist Dmitry Prigov remembered that when living in a mikrorayon Belyavo in Moscow, he once decided to show his five-year-old son ‘the true beauty of urban construction and architecture. That is, the historical centre of Saint Moscow.’159 After a while, the son asked to go home, saying: ‘It is crowded and scary here. And we [in Belyavo] have so much light and space…’160 Thus, ‘a darker interpretation of Khrushchev’s modernising agenda holds that it was a hierarchical and hegemonic imposition of architects and other specialists,’161 who aspired to fit lives of citizens into rational schemes and small standardised apartments. Yet, this interpretation exists in combination with a tender affection for mass architecture. Exteriors and interiors were more or less similar, but inside there was the sacrosanct intimacy of private life. New houses became informal clubs, where, with a small amount of food and space, the most enthralling conversations in kitchens and parties took place.

THE PRESENT CITY Volzhsky escaped the fate of many industrial cities that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the emergence of market economics and privatisation of factories, quickly turned into ghosts of the past. That had to with the positive vicinity of Volgograd and the fact that Volzhsky was not dependent on just one factory, like many other industrial cities from the Soviet period. So, when this one factory would close, the whole city would be unemployed. In 2018, its population was 325.224 people, and the 158.  Lebina, Passazhiry kolbasnogo poezda. Etyudy k kartine byta rossiyskogo goroda: 1917–1991, 390–391. 159.  Dmitry Prigov, Raznoobrazie vsego (Moscow: OGI, 2007), 125. 160.  Ibid., 125. 161.  Alekseeva, Everyday Soviet Utopias: Planning, Design and the Aesthetics of Developed Socialism.

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The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath!, 1976. Directed by Eldar Ryazanov, written by Emil Braginsky,

awaiting permission

Satirical magazine Krokodil 1681, no. 31 (1962). E. Vedernikova. One of the Advantages of Block Houses. I do not want to live with these neighbours anymore!

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Vsevolod Tarasevich. Mother with her Daughter at the Door of the Apartment. Volzhsky. 1967. Moscow House of Photography Museum.

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city continues to develop its own industrial complex. The hydroelectric power station was the heart of the city, and it still works to this day, producing electricity but also provoking debates about its harmful influence on the migration of fish. One of the latest articles claimed that the dam has become a barrier for the sturgeon species that attempts to migrate from the Caspian Sea to reproduce in the upper reaches of the Volga. Sturgeons have to pass the dam, but the efficacy of the initially planned hydraulic fish-lift is questioned.162 Hannah Dickinson, a PhD researcher in wildlife trafficking, concludes that ‘the dam is said to have directly reduced the spawning grounds of sturgeon from 3600 hectares to only 430 hectares.’163 Some industrial sites of the city were closed, but others stayed afloat. Among them are the chemical complex that comprises 11% of the total volume of products shipped from Volzhsky, and factories for metallurgy, machine-building and food industries. Metallurgical production plays one of the most crucial roles. It comprises 60% of the total volume of the city’s production, and the Volzhsky Pipe Plant, for instance, manufactures pipes for the oil and gas, chemical, automotive and thermal energy sectors. The company named Volgabus produces buses adapted for wheels chairs. Volzhsky also aims to attract foreign investors, and several Chinese companies already manufacture medical supplies.164 In sum, 665 industrial organisations provide about 50% of all labourers of the city with work.165 At the same time, the industry is also the source of intense air pollution, dangerous to citizens’ health, and Volzhsky is regularly listed among the most polluted cities in the country. The city is also a transport hub. The Volzhsky station of the Privolzhsky railway and bus lanes lead to Volgograd and also to the southern outposts of the country, including the Astrakhan and Rostov regions, cities of Vladikavkaz and Makhachkala. There is also a river port with the southernmost fleet maintenance base of the Volga Shipping Company, giving access to the Caspian Sea. At the same time, passenger river traffic has been terminated, and the river terminal built in the 1960s full of light and air sinks into ruins. When looking at the daily life of the city, Volzhsky gives the impression of a rather conventional contemporary Russian settlement that swings, like a pendulum, between historical pride being transformed into products with market values and attempts to follow a global post-industrial postmodern development. Local websites suggest

162.  Hannah Dickinson, “Volgograd: How a Dam on the Mighty Volga Almost Killed Off the Caviar Fish,” The Conversation, June 17, 2018, https://theconversation.com/volgograd-how-a-dam-on-the-mighty-volgaalmost-killed-off-the-caviar-fish-98195. 163.  Ibid., https://theconversation.com/volgograd-how-a-dam-on-the-mighty-volga-almost-killed-off-the-caviar-fish-98195.

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164.  “Report of the head of the city district,” Gorod Volzhsky Volgogradskoy oblasti, April 30, 2019, http://admvol.ru/Economika/docs/doc.pdf. 165.  “Prognoz sotsial’no-ekonomicheskogo razvitiya gorodskogo okruga — gorod Volzhsky Volgogradskoy oblasti na 2019, 2020 i 2021,” 2018, http://admvol.ru/Soc-Econom_Razvitie/docs/6089.pdf.


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Zoning Map. The City Administration of Volzhsky, http://admvol.ru/ Gradostroitelstvo/docs/dtp/ doc-3.jpg.

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tourists to visit the centre of the city with its idealistic architecture and the park that retains its historical image and is advertised as a source of nostalgia. This part of the city has the status of a regional heritage object and is used for social, cultural and trade activities. Museums and art galleries (Volzhsky Local History Museum, Volzhsky Art Gallery) tell the history of the city and exhibit works of Russian and local artists. There are also the Palace of Culture, theatres, libraries and municipal sports organisations. The city is a multiple laureate of the title of the most well-maintained city in Russia with a population of 100.000 inhabitants and more. On the eve of the 65th anniversary of Volzhsky, the local authorities initiated a raft of new initiatives on urban development. They included restorations and aimed to involve inhabitants in the process of modernisation. There was, for instance, a competition for the best courtyard that showed a very specific attitude to the legacy of mass housing development and became an example of self-organisation not controlled by professional planners. While flats are private, inner yards are still envisioned as a means to unite people and encourage communication between neighbours. The competition included the proposals “Yards for Children,” “And in our Courtyard” (for the best design for the yard with apartment buildings that used to be workers’ hostels), “Volzhsky Dvor — the Sports Ground,” “Super Porch,” “Flower Fantasy,” and “Cosy Courtyard.” At the same time, the city demonstrates the general poor state of urban development. The absence of advanced planning and design projects creates a feeling of frigidness of streets and squares, which are barren and lacking definition and details. Many buildings that were present in the city at its start have become derelict or shabby nowadays. Their state shows the unlucky fate of the post-war architecture all over the country and in Volzhsky in particular. The beautiful 1950s cinema named Sputnik was renovated by using a horrific glass structure, hiding its Sputnik-relief, and the building of the Central Stadium burned down in 2018. Other examples of the disregard for the Soviet architecture are the café Molodost’ and the railway station. A canteen, Svoi Ludy, replaced the café and nowadays offends visitors its tasteless interior. The glass façade of the railway station was, in its turn, covered with a crude plastic siding. In the eyes of many authorities and private owners, these buildings do not have any historical value and can be changed radically. Among other urban problems, there are a largely undeveloped territory between the city centre and the river with private houses, and the island Zelyony that is mostly deprived of public infrastructure. The new micro-districts of the city that were built after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 have become its true burden. They are based on building regulations that have not significantly improved since the 1970s,

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creating depressing landscapes of low quality and design. These micro-districts with vast empty spaces between buildings and non-functional ground floors are, perhaps, one of the reasons why an odd sense of fondness for both the neoclassical city centre and khrushchyovkas has emerged. They were the result of totalitarian ideological narratives and often were not of the best quality either. Yet, they created the urban fabric that was unique because of ‘its effect on everyone’s lives, not just the poorest,’166 and thus it is to be valued and studied but not destroyed indiscriminately.

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166.  Smith, Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev, 121.


Too Good to be True or too Bad to be Credible – a Tale of Two Towns

Signe Sophie Bøggild

VÄLLINGBY, SWEDEN

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Against a sky with cumulus clouds, the Swedish New Town Vällingby’s logo is watching over you as a giant blue eye visible from every angle. Bent in neon the turning V-sign is striving after a utopia, however, reminding you that you are close to Sweden’s capital Stockholm. Although the community centre Vällingby Centrum has acquired the Anglicism of Vällingby City, the similarity with the famous images that toured architectural journals worldwide five decades ago is striking: the same characteristic lampposts, the same typography snaking on signs, the same fountain with pigeons and locals, resting on benches. Yet, like an Indian saying, it is ‘same same, but different’. While new cobblestones immaculately re-enact a 1950s geometrical pattern, the lower floor of the Edward Hopper-like restaurant Vällingehus is converted into a multi-ethnic food hall ranging from Lebanese to Thai. Between these contrasts, Vällingby’s intimate and nationally listed community centre appears as a geological plate, rubbing between the Sweden of yesterday and the Sweden of tomorrow. Old New Town pioneers pulling suitcases on wheels, veiled women, playing children and busy shoppers, many of whom are carriers of traditional Swedish names such as Svensson, Jönsson and Andersson, mix moderately with counterparts with names like Khan, Osman and Hossein. Smallscale shops, the popular MacDonald’s and the classic cinema Fontänen blend with public service anchors such as the assembly hall Trappan, the youth club Tegelhögen, the library, and the Saint Thomas Church. Below, underground tunnels provide shops with goods while the public transport line Tunnelbanan connects Vällingby to Stockholm and other satellite towns. As a recently landed spaceship, Gert Wingård’s lacquer-red fashion flagship Kfem claims space and attention as a new landmark. Embracing this core area, dwellings cluster in different tempi according to the natural topography – high-rise towers, followed by low apartment blocks and occasional single-family houses. Few kilometres away, but on another Tunnelbana line, you have to remind yourself that you are only 25 minutes from Stockholm as a Babylonian crowd of people and products overflows the ‘Siamese twin’ New Town Tensta-Rinkeby. Like a beehive, the square in Rinkeby Centrum is attracting an intense form of life: A Somali ‘chief ’ giving audience


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Vällingby’s iconic logo the V-sign – a successful marketing trick, visible from all angles. At the back you can see some of the point blocks in Vällingby Centrum, sticking up.

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Small town idyll, urbanity, consumerism and welfare come together in Vällingby’s listed shopping-cum-community centre. To the left the retro cinema Fontänen, to the right the assembly hall Trappan.

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In many respects Vällingby Centrum resemble its 1950’s image: the same lampposts, the same pigeons, the same circular paving, if not the same people resting on benches.

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for gesticulating listeners, grey-haired Arabic men hanging out on regular cafés, darkskinned women consulting stalls crammed with yam and okra, a dyed blond sipping cowberry juice in a tight outfit …You could probably spend hours contemplating this multiplicity squeezed into the narrow proportions of the grid-patterned district centre, encircled by symmetrical belts of dense concrete slabs and tall lamella houses. Looking closer, however, the rigidity is not a corset. Within the tight planning scheme appropriations of spaces and self-organised activities are left a room for manoeuvre. Take the shop becoming bazaar and saree outlet, or the rental apartments becoming schools and mosques. Ten years ago Rinkeby was known as Turk City due to a big percentage of residents with Turkish background. Now, most of them have moved out just like the ethnic Swedes for whom Tensta-Rinkeby were originally built. Meanwhile, new inhabitants of Somali, Iranian and Iraqi origins have replaced them. This (im) migration process has created a new geographical frontier: On the one hand, the Vällingby-like fountain, the blue-white Tunnelbana sign, the assembly hall Folkets Hus (The People’s House) joining clubs and social services, an insular Swedish flag in a forest of satellite dishes, and the hotdog stand offering sausage with mash and shrimp salad, unmistakably localise Tensta-Rinkeby to the Stockholm region. On the other hand, all the juxtapositions, described above, seem to question where and what urban living in Stockholm and Sweden might be in the globalised and multicultural welfare society of today.

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In front of us we have two different and particular New Towns. Within a small radius, both are situated at the land area of Spånga, 12 -15 km northwest of downtown Stockholm. As a rare coming together of form and content, Vällingby of 1954 was part and parcel with the expansionist political program of Folkshemmet (literally The People’s Home). Over a long period of Social Democratic hegemony, housing policies manifested as a ‘social engineering’, associating urban planning and the design of dwellings with the creation of ‘the good life’ and the ‘just society’. Deep into the 1960s, architects and planners from near and far studied Vällingby as a pioneer New Town congenial to the Swedish Model of a Social Democratic welfare state with a prosperous economy. Embodying a political system, internationally known as The Middle Way, the individually designed New Town was even used as propaganda showcase during the Cold War, promoting the interests of the neutral country in a global society divided in two. Experiments with novel design solutions produced a new planning paradigm, the ‘ABC-Town’, innovatively integrating public welfare and private initiave with work,


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Rinkeby Centrum.

People from over 100 nations meet on the square of Rinkeby Centrum’s Babylonian beehive with intimate fixtures of Swedish Million Programme urbanism.

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Tensta Centrum.

The diversity of the crowd, occupying Tensta Centrum strikes the visitor, arriving with Tunnelbana from central Stockholm.

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Early impressions of Vällingby Centrum. Courtesy of Royal Swedish Library: images of Gentili, Giorgio: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958.

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housing and community centre (Arbeta = work, Bostad = housing, Centrum = centre). For all these reasons Vällingby was appointed patrimony at the young age of 33 (1987). A generation after the inauguration of Vällingby, Rinkeby and Tensta in the same plan became debated territory. As a product of the grand-scale housing scheme Miljonprogrammet (the Million Program), the general plan for the southern part of the former military area Järvafältet came as much out of need and pragmatics as the quest for visionary ideology and design. Vaguely echoing 5-year plans of the East Block, the Million program was presented as the magic potion that would finally cure the housing problem, plaguing Swedish cities in general and Stockholm in particular for decades. Following the tracks of building cranes, more than a million new dwellings (largely walk-up flats) were constructed in the period of 1965 – 1974. In its titanic scale, trust in universal standards and rationalised building methods, the program was a showpiece of the welfare state’s efficiency and egalitarianism. Yet, the Social Democratic utopia quickly turned into a knotty odyssey. Due to its extent and pace the project might have been so rational that considerations of quality was swallowed up by quantity. Even before their completion, the Million Program New Towns scattered around Sweden’s biggest cities (Stockholm, Malmö, Gothenburg, etc.) were criticised as grim and unliveable living environments. Shortly after Tensta-Rinkeby’s slabs and walk-up flats were in place, they were voided of ethnic Swedish fleeing to the new option, offered by a boom of affordable single-family houses in the late 1970s. Parallel to a wave of immigration, the empty flats were haphazardly converted into homes for people on welfare and of other ethnicities than Swedish.1 Suddenly, unemployed and immigrants inhabited the Million Program dwellings, intended for working families. Crime rates and social problems grew while the architecture decayed and everybody refused to take the final responsibility. Thus, the reputation of Tensta-Rinkeby literally blackened in the media and socio-economical reports as ‘prefabricated parking places’ for a growing immigrant population and the least ‘resourceful’ among ethnic Swedes. The book Rapport Tensta (1970), published by three journalists of the tabloid newspaper Expressen, is a classic example.2 Many of the urban imaginaries and ghosts surrounding the two New Towns continue to linger: Over the years, Stockholm’s first New Town Vällingby has largely been depicted as an urban success - as cutting-edge design and a monument of the Swedish Model. Meanwhile, Tensta-Rinkeby, one of the last satellite towns to be realised

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1.  Thus Svensson – one of the most common ’old Swedish’ names – has become slang for ’ethnic Swedish’, while Miljonsvensker (Million Swede) is a synonym for ‘Swedish of other ethnicities’, many of whom live in the walk-up flats of the Million Program. Christopher Caldwell: ”Islam on the Outskirts of the Welfare State”, in The New York Times, February 5, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/05/magazine/05muslims.html?_ r=1&pagewanted=2&oref=slogin. 2.  See Olle Bengtzon, Jan Delden & Jan Lundgren: Rapport Tensta. Stockholm: Pan Express, 1970.


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The journalist Jan Delden’s photo of a child on a bicycle in the middle of a building site in Tensta became the cover of the critical book Rapport Tensta (1970), starting an outcry towards the brand new New Town. (Arnstberg, Karl-Olov & Björn Erdal (ed.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998.)

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around Sweden’s capital, has continuously been considered an urban fiasco. It became an image and a container of a Social Democratic welfare state in crisis, coinciding with Modernism turning into a Dying Swan. Although Vällingby has faced some problems, it is still frequently presented and officially listed as a national pride and treasure of the Swedish welfare state. As Owe Swansson from White, the architectural office in charge of the redevelopment of Vällingby’s community centre since 2002, states in an interview:

‘Vällingby has been a major professional challenge. It deals with one of the crown jewels of Swedish architecture and finding the right balance between the old and the new.’ 3

In an article, “Vällingby regerar!” (“Vällingby rules!”), about the ‘re-premiere’ of Vällingby Centrum a.k.a. Vällingby City, March 27, 2008, the architecture critic of the newspaper Aftonbladet, Lars Mikael Raattamaa, echoes Swansson’s appraisal of Vällingby: ‘Sweden’s most internationally well-known work of architecture in all categories (Asplund and the City Library are just a nice little Mumintroll figure in the margins).’4 Meanwhile, Tensta-Rinkeby is still repeatedly portrayed as the ‘Other’ of Swedish society where it is easy to locate problems such as segregation and Multiculturalism that are also imminent in other parts of Stockholm/Sweden. As argued in a report of 2002 about the media representation of the Million Program New Towns:

Already in the planning phase, before they were built, Tensta and Rinkeby were chosen by the mass media as places for the failed project of modernisation. Thirtyfive years later these places were chosen to represent non-Swedishness, with everything this might imply. If Swedishness is defined as cultural liberation and 183

3.  Owe Swansson in Peter Nilsson: ”Vällingby is still at the Front Line of Architecture”, March 31, 2008, http://www.en.white.se 4.  Lars Mikael Raattamaa: ”Vällingby regerar!”, in Aftonbladet, March 29, 2008, http://www.aftonbladet.se/kultur/article2149021.ab (author’s translation)


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After the heyday of the Million Programme the architects Sture Ljungqvist, Jon Höjer, Ingvar Thörnblom, and Jack Poom juxtaposed Vällingby as icon of 1950s urbanism and Tensta, representing the 1960s, as two systems and values. Writing in 1977 they wished for future urbanists to realise the ABC-Town’s potential. Courtesy of Höjer, Jon; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby ï Tensta ï Kista ï Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977.

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modernity, these areas are seen as rich in culture and unmodern; if the self image of Sweden is of a secular and egalitarian society, these areas stand for the exception and the antithesis with their religiosity and so-called murders of honour.’ 5

In the logics underpinning such media representations, myths and stereotypes, Tensta-Rinkeby appears as the ‘evil twin’ of Vällingby. According to ‘common view’ and mainstream writing of the history of architecture, there is a tendency to distinguish between a good, early and innovative Modernism and a bad, late and bureaucratic Modernism. In our case, such a historical narrative manifests as a binary opposition, juxtaposing the older New Town as the ‘white sheep’ and the younger New Town as the ‘black sheep’ of Stockholmian urbanism after World War II. In the following, we will reconsider this relation and historical narrative that has shaped the general image and identity of Vällingby and Tensta-Rinkeby respectively. As we revisit the two sites, we might reach a broader perspective on some of the aspects and potentials that often remain hidden, forgotten, overlooked or are in the process of becoming.

SCANDINAVIAN TIGER Curiously, there are certain similarities between Sweden of the late 19th and early 20th century and the Asian Tigers of the late 20th and early 21st century. Not only did Sweden carry out vast building projects similar to the ones in East Asia at present. Like Far Eastern economies, the Scandinavian nation state developed from a poor and peripheral agricultural country to one of the fastest economies in Europe. With a growth rate of national income per capita of 2.1 percent per year between 1870 and 1970, Sweden outpaced the European average by some 40 percent.6 Following an exodus to the United States, creating a Diaspora of 1¼ million Swedes (approx. 20 percent of the population) between 1820 and 1930, Industrialisation spurred by innovators like

5.  Urban Ericsson, Irena Molina & Per-Markku Ristilammi: Miljonprogram och media: föreställningar om människor och förorter. Stockholm: Riksantikvarieämbetet and Integrationsverket, 2002, p. 19 (author’s translation).

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6.  Factors to push this development include: ’pre-take-off’ development in agriculture, education and public administration, Industrialisation elsewhere in Europe, creating a high demand for Swedish assets such as timber and iron, immigration coupled with capital imports leading to a system of large, highly capitalised corporations, and a rather laissez-faire economic regime. Peter Hall: ”The Social Democratic Utopia: Stockholm 1945-1980”, in Cities in Civilization: Culture, Innovation, and Urban Order. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1998, p. 845.


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Alfred Nobel (dynamite) and Lars Magnus Ericsson (the table telephone) got its grip in Sweden. With the growing mechanisation of agriculture and primary industries, farmers and miners migrated from rural parts of the country to offer their labour force in the urban centres. Like moths attracted to a flame, a desperate housing problem emerged in the Swedish cities, not least in the capital city of Stockholm. Before World War II Stockholm faced some of the worst housing conditions in Europe. The density of the city was twice that of London and rent was the double of Copenhagen-level. The Stockholm County’s initiatives to counteract this crisis included the Ebenezer Howard-inspired garden cities Enskede (1908) and Äppelviken (1913) as well as a self-build housing program of 1926. The former ones were built according to what the historian Bosse Sundin terms a ’red-green way’ of progressive Social Democrats and Liberal radicals, fusing Swedish vernaculars with Rousseau’s ’back to nature’ credo and National Romanticism.7 This attitude was in line with the antiurban movement of the late 19th century and Howard’s social critique, presented in a rational diagram for a decentralised and hierarchical garden city. Divided into different functions, Howard’s utopia combined the best of the city and the best of the countryside into a self-sufficient unity, providing all the necessities for a modern everyday life, sheltered from the chaos of the un-planned cities of Industrialism.8 Yet, applied to a Swedish context, the program proved less harmonious. Due to property speculation the Stockholmian garden cities failed to cater for low-income groups in need of housing as they developed into pure white-collar communities. As a countermove, the City initiated a more affordable self-build housing program in the areas of Olovssund, Norra Ängby and Tallkrogen. The City of Stockholm organised materials in standard dimensions, building directions, and specialised labour – the rest was left to the coming inhabitants. By 1939, 3500 cottages accomodated 12.500 self-builders; 60 percent of the inhabitants were manual labourers and factory workers, 20 percent service workers, and 20 percent white-collar. In the interim, the number of city-dwellers grew from 49 percent of the population in 1930 to 81 percent in 1970 as the Swedish capital underwent one of the most rapid urbanisation processes on a European scale. While the suburbs along the railways exceeded working-class income, the majority of Stockholmers squeezed together like sardines in a can in tenement blocks of the 19th century - public transport was practically non-existent.9 As suggested by a warning poster of 1931, it was almost

7.  Ulrika Sax: Vällingby: ett levande drama. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 1998, p. 22. 8.  See Ebenezer Howard: Garden Cities of To-Morrow. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1965 (1902). 9.  In the 1930s, waiting lists for a young couple in Stockholm were exceeding ten years. Thus, an anecdote goes that a young man announced that he and his fiancée would have to postpone their wedding because they couldn’t find a place to live together. Why not move at his parents? They were still living at his grandparents! Peter Hall: Op. cit., p. 857.

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‘Social democratic’ propaganda-esque mural in Akalla in the northern part of Järvafältet.

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Poster of 1946 warning ruralurban migrants against trying their luck in Stockholm, suffering from the housing shortage in the years after World War. Source: City of Stockholm/Stockholm’s Office of Urban Planning.


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impossible for newcomers to settle - 21,000 were already searching in vain for a place to live. Inquiries of the late 1930s and early 1940s put things in perspective: 32 percent of apartments in Stockholm consisted of one room and a kitchen, 20 percent had one or two rooms without kitchen, while the rest was composed of two rooms and a kitchen. On top of this, the majority of housing units was characterised by congestion and lack of basic facilities: for every 100 rooms - counting kitchen and living room - there were 101 residents; half of them had access to bath or shower and central heating.10 In this precarious situation, the political focus on housing and urban planning increased in tandem with the dawn of Social Democratic hegemony in Sweden. From 1932 to 1976 the Social Democratic Party was governing either alone or in coalitions, however, almost continuously heading the government. From 1942 – 1975, 2,5 million apartments, redefining housing types and modern life, were built in the thinly populated country.11 Hence, it is hardly a mere coincidence that the punch line of the new political program, defining the common project of the country, was Folkhemmet. Based on the assumption that a safe home has no privileged members, the idea was that socio-economic equality and economic efficiency should reinforce each other. As the architectural historian Peter Hall writes:

1930s election poster of the Social Democrats, positioning themselves between the poles of Hitler and Stalin. (From the website http://svarten.blogspot. dk/search/label/valaffisch)

‘Just as a family would take care of its members in misfortune, so the Folkhemmet would look after the unemployed, the sick and the old…essentially, the Social Democrats intended to use housing policy as the means to building the kind of economy and society they 10.  Ibid. 11.  Familjebostäder: Tensta: En stadsvandring i Familjebostäders kvarter. Stockholm: Familjebostäder, 2002.

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wanted...the largest state-controlled, more or less selfcontained economic sector in any Western country.’ 12

Like a concerned pater familias, the governing Social Democratic Party sought to please and protect as many as possible. Satisfied voters would guarantee the sustainability of the plans and policies that would create a new welfare society. An important event to spur this development was the so-called Saltsöbaden Agreement - a compromise between the two main parties of the industry, the labour union LO and the Swedish Employers’ Federation. In return for government tax breaks and subsidies, workers approved on unrestricted expansion of private enterprise, while employers accepted the principle of full employment. With the formation of a mutually reinforcing system, the two parties practically divided Sweden between themselves. Industrial peace became a national institution: On the one hand, Swedish economy relied on private corporations who were encouraged to manage themselves for maximum efficiency. On the other hand, a cradle-to-grave welfare state was instigated as consumption became increasingly collectivised. Sandwiched between these two positions, the Social Democratic Party was certified to ‘keep track’ with the Swedish population (potential voters) through a ramified system of monopolised public services. Based on new norms of improved and universalised living standards for the working-class, this system created an all-encompassing Clientilism. Meanwhile, consensus in the welfare state was obtained through the wage bargain described above - soon to be known as the Swedish Model - allowing the capitalist machinery to run in top gear.

SWEDEN: THE MIDDLE WAY AND THE FIGURE OF SVEN MARKELIUS Early on, Sweden obtained an international reputation as a Social Democratic Utopia, a model society where Capitalism and Socialism were working hand in hand. Foreign onlookers were impressed by the Swedish welfare state, at once looking after its citizens and allowing private enterprises to prosper. Abroad, the Swedish Model was often associated with Marquis S. Childs’ bestseller of 1936 Sweden: The Middle Way. At a press conference in June 1936, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a copy of Childs’ book lying next to him, told reporters about: ‘an especially interesting situation in Sweden’ where ‘a royal family, a Socialist government and a capitalist system are 189

12.  Ibid., p. 847 and 855.


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Sweden forms a neutral alternative between the superpowers’ absolute truths on the cover of the revised post-war edition of Marquis Childs’ neoclassic Sweden the Middle Way (1936).

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working together carefully side by side.’13 The New Deal President was so enthusiastic that he sent a group of investigating experts to the Northern country that seemed to have found the Philosopher’s Stone. (A quarter of a century later, in 1960, a delegation of another famous Democrat John F. Kennedy would repeat the mission.) One might wonder if the inspiration also went the other way: Certain similarities can be pointed out between the gradually collectivised Swedish housing policy and the cooperative way of the Tennessee Valley Authority Project (TVA) of May 1933.14 Similar to the agenda, governing the American TVA project, some of the ideologists behind the Swedish Model argued for social reforms and the state’s involvement in the development of public services as a way of transforming poverty into prosperity. Nonetheless, the public engagement and service level took a more radical form in Sweden. The economists Gunnar and Alva Myrdal formulated the thesis that expenditure on education, health and housing equalled investment in human capital. Yet, such new ideas about the common goods of ‘the people’ needed time to absorb in the population: Just like the appreciation of the modernist architecture, imagnied for the new welfare society, the new political project of solidarity and collectivism was something the citizens needed to learn to appreciate. Although Folkhemmet’s public housing programs stressed equality and democracy, urban (re)development took place in a top-down direction. Architecture and planning were left to politicians, architects and other experts who knew what was best for the laypeople. In the publication Arkitektur och Samhälle (Architecture and Society) of the early 1930s, architect Uno Åhrén and Gunar Myrdal compared this learning process of the new welfare architecture and planning with internalisation of the habit of brushing one’s teeth:

‘Construction of public housing could...support rational solutions and gradually prepare itself to getting people used to live practically, raise them to a properly arranged housing requirement from their own point of view. Actually, consumption needs to be directed in the

13.  Franklin D. Roosevelt in Per. T. Ohlson: ”Still the Middle Way?”, a talk presented at Columbia University in New York, September 28, 2006, http://www.columbia.edu/cu/swedish/events/fall06/ PTOChilds92806Web.doc, p. 1.

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14.  In the beginning of Roosevelt’s presidency TVA, a federally owned corporation, was created by a congressional charter to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly plagued by the Great Depression after 1929. The TVA was regarded as a regional economic development agency, specifically aiming at a modernisation of the region’s economy and society. Thus, Roosevelt’s delegation to Sweden was part of a longer European study trip, researching similar cases of cooperative initiatives. For further discussion of the Tennessee Valley Authority see Richard A. Colignon: Power Plays: Critical Events in the Institutionalization of the Tennessee Valley Authority. New York: State University of New York Press, 1996.


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consumer’s own interest. People must get habituated to brush their teeth and to eat tomatoes, before they come to appreciate this sort of consumption, and it is the same thing with rationally ordered dwellings.’ 15

While progressive modernist architects in most other countries worked from the margins during the pre-war period, Sweden made an exception. This was probably due to a rare ideological and aesthetical overlap between the Social Democratic Party in power and the socially engaged architects of Swedish Modernism. Sharing faith in progress and modernisation, architects sat at the negotiation table with politicians and vice versa at the drawing table. These parties became different limbs of the same bureaucratic system when avant-garde architects of the 1920s and 1930s were appointed city planners and functionaries of the large public building task of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, eventually materialising a new society. To give a few examples: In 1935, the CIAM member Uno Åhrén, who had co-authored the seminal Bostadsfrågan såsom socialt planningsproblem (The housing question as a social planning problem) with Gunnar Myrdal in 1934, was appointed head of the city planning office in Gothenburg. In 1939, another CIAM member and glowing Social Democrat, Sven Markelius, became chief of the Royal Board of Planning and in 1944, he was made director of Stockholm’s urban planning office. Anticipating the zenith of the major building programs, implemented under Social Democratic rule, two congenial writings of the 1930s associated the acute housing problem in Sweden’s cities with a radical change of society: In 1931, Acceptera (Accept – both infinitive and imperative), the manifesto of Swedish Functionalism, was published. It was deeply influenced by social, modernist housing schemes by the international avant-garde and was signed by the Swedish CIAM group Uno Åhrén, Sven Markelius, and Eskil Sundahl as well as by Erik Gunnar Asplund, Gregor Paulsson, and Wolter Gan. In the manifesto they declared their goal ‘to accept the existing reality – only if we do this will we be able to control it, to master it because we want to change it and realize a culture which is life’s supple instrument.’16 Acceptera was inspired by international contacts made by Vällingby’s key planner Sven Markelius - a bridge figure between Swedish and international architects as well as between the modernist avant-garde

15.  Gunnar Myrdal and Uno Åhrén: ”Kosta sociala reformer pengar?”, in Sven Markelius (edit.): Arkitektur och Samhälle. Stockholm: Spektrum, 1932, p. 43 (author’s translation). 16.  Gregor Paulson et. al in Nils-Ole Lund: ”Three Times the Reuse of Modernism in a Lifetime: How Modernism Relates to Modernity”, in Hubert-Jan Henket & Hilde Heynen (edit.) Back From Utopia: the Challenge of the Modern Movement. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2002, p. 102.

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The Stockholm Exhibition of 1930, organised by Gunnar Asplund, the Swedish CIAM-group, and architects, signing the functionalist manifest Accept, resonated among Sweden’s designers as well as foreign onlookers like Siegfried Gideon and Marquis Childs, author of Sweden: the Middle Way (1936).

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Markelius Swedish Pavillion at the New York World Fair (1939) impressed critics and coined Swedish design’s international reputation as humanist and civilised. Courtesy of Markelius, Sven and Göran Sidenbladh: ”Town Planning in Stockholm: Housing and Traffic”, in Th. Plaenge Jacobson and Sven Silow (eds.): Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949.

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and the Social Democrat establishment. In 1927, he visited the Bauhaus in Dessau and admired the workers’ housing project Törten by the director Walter Gropius. Discussions with Gropius about social housing, based on sociological studies of minimum requirements for workers’ apartments, left a lasting impression on Markelius. Continuing to Stuttgart, he was taken by the Werkbund Exhibition where Mies van der Rohe’s formalism and Le Corbusier’s ‘living machines’ were exhibited.17 The foreign impressions showed at the Swedish counterpart, The Stockholm Exhibition of 1930, around the theme of functional and affordable housing. Organised by the grand old man of Swedish architecture Erik Gunnar Asplund and the art historian Gregor Paulson, the exhibition echoed internationally, e.g. in the appraisal of Siegfried Gideon in the magazine Stein Holz Eisen of the same year. Markelius miraculously fitted living room, eating room, kitchen stove, two bedrooms, workroom and bathroom into a 55 m2 flat in two levels with multifunctional furniture and built-in flexibility in the plan. As the first Scandinavian CIAM member, Markelius invited his foreign heroes Gropius and Le Corbusier to lecture in Stockholm in the beginning of the 1930s. In 1938, the Hungarian Fred Forbat, Gropius’ former associate at Siemensstadt in Berlin, joined the Swedish CIAM group for some time after having gone to the Soviet Union with Ernst May in 1932 and then to Hungary in 1933.18 Although, Swedish architects were greatly inspired by Neues Bauen, they softened it into a Modernism of their own. Rather than Le Corbusier’s monumentality and heroic materials in parallel slabs, Swedish architects stressed the varied and picturesque – brick, wood and stone in a mixture of high-rise and low-rise with coloured facades.19 In 1947, the director of the Stockholm Exhibition, Gregor Paulson, did a preface to the book New Swedish Architecture. Looking back on the 1930s idealism, pulling the strings of a class-less welfare society, he wrote:

‘These two motives (the attempt to achieve a new style and the social struggle to reach a better standard of housing) were in their turn based on the development of democratic ideals. The new shapes in architecture denoted a style of liberty, their social functions were to express equality;

17.  Eva Rudberg: ”Sven Markelius – 100 År”, in Arkitektur, Vol. 7, September, 1989, p. 26.

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18.  Eric Mumford: The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928 – 1960. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, UK: MIT Press, 2000, p. 166. 19.  Eric Mumford: The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928 – 1960. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, UK: MIT Press, 2000, p. 165.


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the idea bring to remove class contrasts and differences also where the community’s outward appearance was concerned, and to raise the standard of the surroundings in which the neglected strata of the population lived.’ 20

An advocate of the Social Democrat cause, Markelius edited the journal Arkitektur och Samhälle (Architecture and Society), worked for the Social Democratic newspaper Fönstret (the Window), prapared a debate series about architecture and urban planning for the Swedish Radio, wrote several articles, lectured frequently, and collaborated with radical sociologists and economists like Alf Johansson and the Myrdals, authors of another key text of the 1930s: the heavily debated Krise i Befolkningsfrågan (Crisis in the Question of Population) of 1934. Inspired by societal theories of Malthus, Keynes and Piaget, the book proposed concrete solutions of the problems presented such as low rent for families with children and municipal take over of the responsibility for construction and administration of housing in exchange of beneficial loans. The models were further explored in Alva Myrdal and Sven Markelius’ Kollektivhuset (The Collective Housing Unit), 1931, an experimental dwelling type for families with working mothers where social facilities like laundrettes and childcare were integrated as natural extensions of the design. In 1935, a moderated prototype was realised in the Stockholm street John Ericssonsgatan 6.21 Later, such cutting-edge architecture for radicals and feminists became fixtures in the housing policies of Folkhemmet, particulary in Vällingby where public services included daycare, collective housework, recreation and meeting facilities. Thus, an international public associated Swedish architecture and planning with such collective and egalitarian ideals long before Vällingby was a reality. This was partly due to the aforementioned bestseller of Marquis Childs, Sweden: The Middle Way, partly to the person of Sven Markelius, designer of the Swedish pavilion for the New York World Fair in 1939.22 From this event onwards, Sweden became closely linked to

20.  Gregor Paulson in Nils-Ole Lund: ”Three Times the Reuse of Modernism in a Lifetime: How Modernism Relates to Modernity”, in Hubert-Jan Henket & Hilde Heynen (edit.) Back From Utopia: the Challenge of the Modern Movement. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2002, p. 102. 21.  It was mostly leftist intellectuals and artists, resembling Markelius and Alva Myrdal, who moved into this progressive experiment house. In the article ”Kollektivhuset ett centralt samhällsproblem” (“The collective housing unit a central problem of society”) Markelius argued for shift from the traditional focus on individual housing to collective housing: ’Families…where both spouses have – simply put – a work, are not satisfactorily serviced with the now prevailing dwelling types…especially if they can’t afford a nanny.’ In his opinion, untimely planning allowed one to fall back to the conventional view on the ’natural’ work division between the sexes; working women was often seen as asocial individuals - also in view of the 1930s unemployment. Yet, reverberating Alva Myrdal, Markelius reformulated the question: ’the lack of workplaces is an effect of lacking organisation, lacking regularity.’ Sven Markelius: ”Kollektivhuset ett centralt samhällsproblem” in Arkitektur och Samhälle. Stockholm: Spektrum, 1932, p. 54 – 55 (author’s translation). 22.  For more information about the successful reception of the Swedish Pavilion at the New York World Fair of 1939 see for instance Talbot Hamlin: ”Sven Markelius” in Pencil Points, 20, June, 1939, p. 357 – 366. The American hype of Scandinavian architecture was further accentuated by the Finnish Pavilion by Alvar Aalto at the New York World Fair of 1939 and the Aalto exhibition at MOMA, New York, taking place in the same year.

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a certain ‘democratic’ and ‘humanistic’ approach to architecture and urban planning, while Markelius worked as an avid lecturer at Ivy League universities such as Yale University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, and Berkeley University well into the 1960s. As a critic of the American newspaper The Nation wrote about his Swedish pavilion: ’The happy little Swedish pavilion is civilization.’23 In line with this argument, the pavilion’s theme was the progress of democracy and welfare in Sweden on levels such as work, health, and motherhood. Hence, a model of Markelius’ and Alva Myrdal’s Collective Housing Unit was exhibited in addition to paraphernalia of industry and crafts.24 Happy and Swedish in one sentence – that is still how Sweden is often perceived from the outside. In a lecture given in Britain, 1949, Alva Myrdal came up with the following explanation of the unique case of the Swedish Model where happiness signified equilibrium between the security of the welfare state, the freedom of the trades and industries and a unique tradition of culture and education:

‘If you had come to this country a hundred years ago you would have found it very different from now. In all the things that you now believe to be worthy of study – production methods, housing, industrial development etc. – you would have found us a very backward country rather than an advanced one…It may be that we avoided modern civilization and industrialism for so long that when it came, we were ready for it, perhaps more so than other countries had been. But I would like to stress my own explanation: that we improved our culture and education before we improved our industrial methods.’ 25

23.  Ibid.

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24.  Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Sven Markelius, a Swedish architect, was appointed to design the ECO-SOC Hall for economic and social questions at the UN headquarter, New York in 1947. Markelius worked in a heterogeneous team of star-architects such as Le Corbusier and Brasilia’s architect Oscar Niemeyer. 25.  Alva Myrdal: ”Development of Population and Social Reform in Sweden”, in Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949, p. 17 and 19.


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Social democrat Prime Minister 1946 – 1969 Tage Erlander (right) and Sven Markelius (left) at the inauguration of Vällingby. Ulrika Sax: “Vällingby - ett levande drama”. Stockholm: Stockholmia, 1998.

Stockholm’s satellites were planned along the Tunnelbana like pearls on a string. Models of two different districts. Stockholm’s City Planning Administration: Generalplan för Stockholm 1952. Stockholm: Stockholms stads stadsplanekontor, 1952.

Vällingby became a monument of this modernisation process involving a transformation on a physical level via architecture and planning as well as on a mental level through education and culture.

FROM UGLY DUCKLING TO GARBO From 1904 to 1945 the City of Stockholm acquired and appropriated land from the municipalities bordering it. The goal was to keep control with the urban sprawl of the city where urbanisation was freewheeling and housing severe.26 Parallel to the consolidation of the Social Democratic Party’s hegemony over Stockholm and Sweden, the City wished to decide over its own destiny. Rather than leaving urban regeneration and development to profit-seeking entrepreneurs with little interest in affordable housing for ‘common people’, the public authorities preferred to have the last say in building matters. In a situation characterised by lack of space, high rent, low technical and hygienic standards, it was Stockholm’s ambition to repeat the social ascent of a famous townswoman - the Ugly Duckling Greta Lovisa Gustafson. Against all odds, she grew up in slummy Södermalm (now a fashionable neighbourhood), but was revamped into the Hollywood icon Greta Garbo. In a similar vein, Stockholm underwent a makeover into a modern and spotless, however egalitarian, European capital with a 26.  In 1949, prior to the ramified regeneration of Stockholm, Sven Markelius and the urban planner Göran Sidenbladh, his right-hand man at Stockholm’s urban planning office, describes some of the reasons causing the grave housing situation: ’Just now, Stockholm’s town-planners are wrestling with several problems. A rapid increase in population has taken place simultaneously with a shortage of both labour and materials. A great deal of our present difficulties are due to the fact that during the early part of World War II, domestic building dropped to about one-tenth of the level reached during the late thirties. But there was no corresponding decrease in migration into the city. Further, there was a sharp rise in the number of marriages, followed by a great increase in the number of births, which reached its peak in 1944.’ Sven Markelius and Göran Sidenbladh: ”Town Planning in Stockholm”, in Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949, p. 62 - 63.

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strong identity in the decade when Sven Markelius was director of the City’s urban planning office from 1944 - 1954. A report of 1946 by the Royal Commission on Housing and Redevelopment made the vision concrete. Emulating on ideas, presented by the Myrdals in the 1930s, toppriorities included elimination of dwelling shortage, raising of housing standards via construction of units with two or three rooms and a kitchen, rent levels under 20 percent of industrial wages, encouragement of non-speculative building through favourable loans, and priority of public finance and construction by local authorities.27 Triggering this agenda, the parliament Riksdagen decided to grant public housing companies loans up to 100 percent of the making costs, cooperative companies up to 95 percent and private companies up to 85 percent.28 Another important event was the developer Baltzar Lundström’s foundation of AB Svenska Bostäder (the Swedish Housing Organisation), February 16, 1944. In 1947, the company was bought by the City of Stockholm and from then on it was decided to build independently with own

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27.  Peter Hall: Op. cit., p. 854. 28.  Thomas Millroth & Per Skoglund,: Vällingby en Tidsbild av Vikt. Stockholm: Almlöfs Förlag, 2004, p. 31.


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personnel.29 Later, Svenska Bostäder became the most important non-profit housing organisation in the Stockholm region, simultaneously undertaking construction and administration of large parts of Vällingby. A key concern in Stockholm’s expansion was to develop an efficient public transport. Thus, the story of the hen and the egg seems relevant in the integral planning of housing in satellite towns, located along the metro line Tunnelbanan, so unique for the Swedish capital. Recollecting Howard’s garden city utopia, Markelius and Sidenbladh sums up these considerations in a lecture in Britain (1949), shortly after the incorporation of the southern part of the land area of Spånga (approx. 200 hectares), where the pioneer New Town Vällingby was to be built, following lengthy negotiations with the municipalities of Solna and Sundbyberg:

‘It ought to be considered an axiom that the maximum travelling time from suburb to centre, from door to door, must not be more than 45 minutes. If for any reason the city has to expand still farther, such growth ought to take the form of satellite towns. These self-contained units should be located on the main railway lines, well away from the parts that are served by suburban railways and busses. The main idea of the satellite town is not new – it is older than Howard’s book “Tomorrow”. A settlement of precisely that kind – Sundbyberg – was in fact established in 1876 on the then new railway line to Västerås at a distance of nearly 7 miles from the centre of Stockholm.’ 30

Although Stockholm’s urban planning office was conscious of the explosive expansion of car traffic in the United States and Western countries, priority of collective

29.  Svenska Bostäder’s website: http://www.svenskabostader.se/PageTwoCols____1136.aspx 30.  Sven Markelius and Göran Sidenbladh: ”Town Planning in Stockholm: Housing and Traffic”, in Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949, p. 74 – 75.

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transport fitted the ethos of Social Democratism.31 The Stockholm County pulled the strings for the Tunnelbana as early as 1941. Nonetheless, Stockholm‘s general plan (1952), Generalplan för Stockholm 1952, was particularly influenced by Copenhagen’s Fingerplan (1947), intending to distribute a bunch of satellite towns along ‘fingers’ with public transport. As primary landowner of much land outside the City’s borders, Stockholm had practically free hands to carry out a similar, yet, much more widespread, plan. Moreover, the market value increase of land in Sweden contributed to the funding of the Tunnelbana’s construction costs.32 Meanwhile, Copenhagen found itself rather restricted; the Fingerplan remained an unfinished torso because of the plurality of land ownerships. Copenhagen was not in control of much of its periphery; it was forced to negotiate itself to the land area required for the planned New Towns – often in vain. Thus, Sweden’s capital outdid the Danish capital by far since Stockholm disposed over vast land resources that allowed it to think big.33 Stockholm had another initial advantage. Unlike most of the countries surrounding the neutral Sweden (like the occupied Denmark, Norway and Finland) Swedish infrastructure and industry had not suffered severely from the demise of World War II.34 Yet, inspired by the tabula rasa planning of the neighbouring countries in its aftermath, the solution of the Swedish housing problem was not the only ruling agenda in the post-war period. Like other revolutionary movements, the Social Democratic Party agreed with the modernist idea that destruction is necessary to pave the way for something new. In short, the policy of Folkhemmet requested a tabula rasa to realise its ambition of a new society from the root. More consensus-seeking than revolutionary, Social Democratic politicians like their architect supporters were attracted by the drastic-optimistic urban transformations in the era of the Marshall Plan, signed June 5, 1947 and operating well into the 1950s. This attitude is already underlining the text of Stockholm’s preliminary general plan Det fremtida Stockholm – Riktlinjer för Stockholms generalplan (Stockholm in the Future – principles of the Outline Plan of Stockholm Det Fremtida Stockholm) of February 1945. It was written few months after Markelius became director of the City’s urban planning office, shortly before the war was cooling:

31.  Car-dependent American suburbs are presented as ‘fear scenarios’ in Stockholm’s preliminary general plan Det fremtida Stockholm – Riktlinjer för Stockholms generalplan (Stockholm in the Future – principles of the Outline Plan of Stockholm) of 1945. Still, the number of cars in Sweden grew three times between 1940 and 1960. See (Stockholms stads stadsplanekontor: Det fremtida Stockholm – Riktlinjer för Stockholms generalplan. Stadskollegiets utlåtanden och memorial – bihang, 1945, No 9. The report was reprinted in 1946 as Stockholm in the Future – principles of the Outline Plan of Stockholm with English captions and summary) and Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 27. 32.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 28. 33.  For a comparative study of the different urban development patterns around the Scandinavian capitals see Pierre Merlin: “The planning and new towns in the Scandinavian capitals”, in New Towns. London: Methuen & Co, 1971.

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34.  Some argue that Sweden in fact prospered on the war as German trains crossed through the neutral country to the annexed territories of Denmark, Finland and Norway, while Swedish steel were melted into German arms. Christopher Caldwell: Op. cit., http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/05/magazine/05muslims.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&oref=slogin.


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The V채llingby area in 1951 before the New Town was realised. (Svenska Bost채der: V채llingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bost채der, 1966)

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‘In question of the many European cities that were fully or partially destroyed by bomb attacks, and under influence of the general radicalisation that followed the war, reform projects that would otherwise have been executed only slowly or not at all have suddenly become relevant. To the degree, that it will be possible to build New Towns successfully without the disadvantages of the existing towns, this will surely influence us. Even radical proposals about a rearrangement of the built-up area in Stockholm should therefore be taken up to discussion at this point.’ 35

Hence, planning the development of the inner city and its periphery simultaneously, the undertaking of a comprehensive general plan for Greater Stockholm (1952) went two-ways: Not only would there be dramatic changes of Stockholm’s dense historical core. A series of economically independent, however, politically dependent New Towns would be distributed in the periphery, reachable through an optimised public transport system. Parallel to the expansive reconstruction programs in the war-torn Europe and Japan assisted by the Marshall Plan and modernist planners, the City of Stockholm decided to erase and redefine the historical neighbourhood of Nedre Norrmalm in the city centre, frequently labelled as the ‘Stone Desert’.36 Moreover, a series of generic satellite towns were to rise on what was mostly farmland and forest around the ‘mother-city’ like pearls on a string defined by the arteries of the underground railway Tunnelbanan. By the same token, Markelius stressed that it was just as important for the new satellite towns to obtain a sufficient number of workplaces and other facilities as to prevent the growth of workplaces within the city core, furthering housing and traffic congestion, etc.37 (The ABC-Town Vällingby led the way.)

35.  Stockholms stads stadsplanekontor: Det Framtida Stockholm: Riktlinjer för Stockholms generalplan. Stadskollegiets utlåtanden och memorial – bihang, 1945, No 9, p. 31 (author’s translation). 36.  For a detailed discussion on the redevelopment of Nedre Norrmalm see Sven Markelius and Göran Sidenbladh: ”Town Planning in Stockholm: Housing and Traffic”, in Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949 and Sven Markelius: ”Stockholms struktur”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3. 37.  In an 1956 article Markelius states that it could have been possible to expand the inner core concentrically, if serious efforts had been launched before: ‘Theoretically, it would have been possible – if one had started in time – to expand the inner city concentrically to a million city of the compact kind of which so many older cities around the globe can serve as examples.’ Sven Markelius: ”Stockholms struktur”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3, p. 50 (author’s translation).

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LEARNING THE NEW TOWN ALPHABET As a token of strong reliance on sociological research of Swedish architects and planners, neighbourhood planning was an essential feature of the pioneer New Town Vällingby. The concept was introduced in the early 1920s by the American sociologist Clarence A. Perry in the book The Neighbourhood Unit. A Scheme for the Argument for the Family Life Community. Via Perry the planning principle wandered into the New York regional plan of 1929. With the publication of Lewis Mumford’s classic of 1938 The Culture of Cities, translated into Swedish as Stadskultur (1940), it reached a greater, international public. In 1944, the newly appointed director of Stockholm’s urban planning office Sven Markelius contacted the Danish architect Otto DanneskioldSamsøe, active in Sweden from 1937 to 1953 and a connoisseur of contemporary English planning. Eager to translate the principles of forty years of garden city activity by Frederick J. Osborn and others as well as the neighbourhood planning, applied in London’s M.A.R.S. plan (1933 – 1942) and the Abercrombie plan (1943), into a Swedish context, he persuaded Danneskiold-Samsøe to write a book. The publication was to present the ideas of neighbourhood unit, community centre, zoning of built-up areas in enclaves without trespassing traffic, and the laws regulating urban development in and around London. When finished in 1945, Nutida engelsk samhällsplanering (Contemporary English Society Planning), with foreword by Markelius, became a ‘bible’ 205


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Stockholm’s preliminary general plan Stockholm in the Future – principles of the Outline Plan of Stockholm (1945) presents an example on this type of zoned planning scheme, divided into different functions and neighbourhood units, used as a guideline for the outline of Vällingby. Linked to the city via a Tunnelbana connection, the model proposes rental housing in apartments for 10,200 people (62 percent of the inhabitants), while row houses and single-family houses comprise 6,300 persons (38 percent of the inhabitants). There would be 220 inhabitants per hectare for rental apartments and 80 inhabitants per hectare for row houses and single-family houses. Maximum distance to the district centre (stadsdelscentrum) would be 450 metres for the former and 900 metres for the latter; 600 metres for industry as well as for allotment gardens. Intersected by a Tunnelbana line, a post office, a cultural centre, craftsmen’s workshops, a school, a sports ground, a tennis court, two big playgrounds, and a large laundrette around a bigger district centre, would constitute the core area with rental apartments. Meanwhile, smaller neighbourhood centres (grannskapscentrum), kindergartens, playgrounds, and laundrettes were to be spread out in three surrounding neighbourhood units with row houses and single-family houses. Special zones would contain allotment gardens and industrial areas plus another school and a service station for cars. (See Stockholms stads stadsplanekontor: Det fremtida Stockholm – Riktlinjer för Stockholms generalplan. Stadskollegiets utlåtanden och memorial – bihang, 1945, No 9. The report was reprinted in 1946 as Stockholm in the Future – principles of the Outline Plan of Stockholm with English captions and summary.) (Stockholm’s City Planning Administration: Generalplan för Stockholm 1952. Stockholm: Stockholms stads stadsplanekontor, 1952.)

for new municipal laws on urban planning in Stockholm.38 From 1944, a key contact was established with Patrick Abercrombie, the planner of the Abercrombie Plan of 1943, the Greater London Plan of 1944, and the County of London Plan, co-authored with Forshaw in 1944. While the war was still hot, Abercrombie sent these plans and other documents on English planning to Stockholm’s urban planning office via coal ships. Göran Sidenbladh, Markelius’ collaborator and successor at Stockholm’s urban planning office from 1954 and co-planner of Vällingby, describes the visionary post-war period:

‘Sweden did not avoid to get smitten by the eagerness and the seriousness by which the war-torn Europe tackled the problem of the building of New Towns. Early on, we tried to find literature on this topic, in particular from the United Kingdom. Some of these books came as returns on the fast boats transporting coal from Lysekil to England… (T)he radical city builders – waited on tearing down old ruined mess and really build new and rational, regardless of earlier real estate divisions and ownerships...In their workings, the new ideas were not so new. However, we

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38.  In a lecture given to a British audience in 1949, Markelius and Sidenbladh acknowledge the impact of British and American urbanism in Stockholm/Sweden: ‘Contemporary planning in Stockholm – and in Sweden as a whole – is greatly influenced by the ideas and work of British and American planners. Lewis Mumford’s The Culture of Cities has been translated and published here, and the ideas contained in it have been widely circulated. During the war, contacts with England were rare and difficult, but we were able to acquaint ourselves with many of the plans for the reconstruction of Britain’s blitzed cities, and our new Building Law of June 11th 1947 was much influenced by Britain’s “Town and Country Planning Bill of the same year.’ Sven Markelius and Göran Sidenbladh: ”Town Planning in Stockholm: Housing and Traffic”, in Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949, p. 62.


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were eagerly susceptible and they fitted to the existing problems of 1945. They provided a programmatic foundation of both the commissioned general plan and the plans for Stockholm’s new suburbs. The key word was ‘neighbourhood planning’, grannskapsplanering.’ 39

In January 1946, the English New Town Committee finished its first report, giving directions for the construction of Stevenage, the first New Town north of London. According to Sidenbladh, Stevenage became a kind of ‘older brother’ that Vällingby looked up to while finding its own identity - the English New Town became a standard reference to its Swedish ‘baby brother’.40 By the same token, social reforms in Sweden were influenced by the case of Britain. As Alva Myrdal argues at a conference in Britain in 1949:

‘Social reforms have to create good surroundings for people to live in and secure economies to live on. With particular regard to the last mentioned phase – social security – we started by looking towards Great Britain as the model country…There are, however, two further developments with regard to social reform which have no counterparts in your country. One is that in line with Swedish traditions we have much less private benevolence – just as we have less private enterprise – and much more social responsibility…The second difference has to do with the new phase of the social family policy, as we have definitely moved from the therapeutic, reparational outlook on social reform to what might be called an 39.  Göran Sidenbladh: Planering för Stockholm 1923 – 1958. Stockholm: Liber Förlag, 1981, p. 236 - 237 (author’s translation). 40.  Ibid., p. 237.

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investment attitude. The nation as such is willing to invest in health, efficiency and happiness of the next generation.’

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As collective happiness became a state investment in Sweden, the influence also went the other way. The impressive number of articles on Scandinavia and Sweden in the British architectural journal Architectural Review testifies to the great interest in modernist architecture of the northern country. Not least the case of Stockholm had an effect on post-war Britain’s effort to resurrect as a modern welfare state after war wounds and a traumatic process of decolonisation.42 ‘Swedish Modern’ was seen as the logical architectural expression of the resurrecting British welfare state.43 In the article “The New Empericism: Sweden’s Latest Style”, Architectural Review, 1947, J.M. Richards salute Sven Backström and Markelius as ‘more objective than functionalists’ and as architects who ‘bring back another science, that of psychology, into the picture.’44 In April 1946, the New Town Committee visited Stockholm’s urban planning office in order to discuss mutual challenges and tie personal bonds. Peers like Lord Reith, the spokesperson of the New Town Committee, Lewis Silkin, the Labour Minister of Town and Country Planning in the United Kingdom, and an entourage of experts escorted Patrick Abercrombie. The foreign interest in Stockholm remained a trump card Markelius and his staff could play in most situations of the political game with decision makers.45 In the summer of the same year, the visit was reciprocated: Arne S. Lundberg, the state secretary in the communication department, and members of the City of Stockholm’s urban planning office accompanied Markelius to the urban planning congress in Hastings arranged by The International Federation of Housing and Planning. Planners from across the world presented their visions for a new paradigm, discussing the English planning models in relation to the age of reconstruction and renewal. In this forum daring tabula rasa plan of Nedre Norrmalm as well as preliminary sketches of a general plan and some detailed plans for Vällingby caught the attention of an international public.46

41.  Alva Myrdal: ”Development of Population and Social Reform in Sweden”, in Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949, p. 22. 42.  See Lionel Esher: A Broken Wave: The Rebuilding of England 1940 – 1980. London: Viking, 1981 and the Architectural Association student J. Millar: ”Visit to Sweden”, Plan 3, 1946, p. 4 – 7. 43.  The architectural historian Eric Mumford estimates the ’Swedish Modern’ as an inspiration of the English New Towns: ’Many housing and planning initiatives similar to those in Sweden were begun, such as the implementation of the New Towns program after 1946...’ Eric Mumford: Op. cit., p. 167. 44.  J.M. Richards: “The New Empericism: Sweden’s Latest Style”, in Architectural Review, 101, June 1947, p. 199.

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45.  Eva Rudberg: Op.cit. Sven Markelius, arkitekt. Stockholm: Arkitektur Förlag, 1989, p. 156. 46.  Ibid., p. 156.


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Planning scheme for a suburb with a population of 10,000. (Stockholm’s City Planning Administration: Det fremtida Stockholm – Riktlinjer för Stockholms generalplan. Stadskollegiets utlåtanden och memorial – bihang, 1945, No 9. The report was reprinted in 1946 as Stockholm in the Future – principles of the Outline Plan of Stockholm with English captions and summary.)

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23 d e Vällingby was built on old farmland.

According to Sidenbladh, later a co-planner of Tensta-Rinkeby, the Hastings experience ‘had fundamental impact on the layout of the suburbs in Stockholm during the 1950s and 1960s.’47 The impression manifested as planning around a main community centre and the distribution of smaller district centres.48 Although Stockholm’s urban planning office was particularly inspired by the New Towns of London, the English model was adjusted in significant ways: Whilst the British capital chose to expand via independent and self-governed New Towns, the Swedish capital designed a series of satellite towns managed by the City of Stockholm. Until this day, Vällingby and other New Towns have remained satellites towns governed from the town hall of Stockholm. Concomitantly, the Swedish New Towns would keep their ‘umbilical cord’ to the ‘mother-city’ through the construction of a ramified public transport network of the Tunnelbana, the underground railway.49 The difference between the independent English New Towns and the semi-independent Swedish New Towns become evident in the scepticism towards the Tunnelbana expressed by British consultants. According to Vällingby Centrum’s first director Albert Aronsson, they mistrusted the easy access, created by this public transport line, linking Vällingby to

47.  Göran Sidenbladh: Op.cit., p. 238 (author’s translation). 48.  Thus, Sidenbladh also mentions the publication Community Centres by the Ministry of Education in London of 1946 as an important source in the planning of Swedish New Towns. Other key texts debated at Stockholm’s urban planning office were books such as Bygg Bättre Samhällen (Build Better Societies) by C.F. Ahlberg et al. and Uno Åhrén’s Ett planmässigt samhällsbyggande (A Society Building According to the Plan), 1945, in addition to sociological studies like Gunnar Boalt et al.’s Sociologi (Sociology), 1951, where Edmund Dahlström and Roland von Euler discuss the concept ‘to plan to the benefit of the majority.’ Ibid., p. 238.

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49.  Sven Markelius recognised that Stockholm’s satellite towns would differ from their British counterparts: ‘I studied the New Towns, of course, with great interest, but the solution in Stockholm had to satisfy the special conditions of Stockholm... I have no feeling that Vällingby is copied from the New Towns, even though they were planned at about the same time and there are some general ideas they have in common.’ Sven Markelius in David Pass: Vällingby and Farsta – from Idea to Reality: The New Community Development Process in Stockholm. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, UK: MIT Press, 1969, p. 116.


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Plan from 1956 indicating Stockholm’s planned expansion with satellite towns, here referred to as ‘group of suburbs’ that can form the basis for main centres. (Byggmästaren, A4, 1956.)

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the big attractor, the capital city of Stockholm. In their view, this would mean that the urban centre would overshadow Vällingby’s main centre. In spite of such arguments, the Swedish New Town experiment seemed to work.50

RE-WRITING THE ABC IN VÄLLINGBY Stockholm’s virgin New Town was made possible when the City bought the land districts of Råcksta Gård in 1927 and Hässelby with belonging farms in 1931. In January 1, 1949, the land area officially became a part of Stockholm County when most of the poor farmer municipality Spånga was merged with the City, while smaller portions of the area were merged with the municipalities of Solna, Sollentuna and Sundbyberg after years of negotiations. Prior to the planning of Vällingby, other plans had been proposed for the land area, formally named Södra Spånga (Southern Spånga). In 1940, one suggestion was to fill up the entire site with dense housing – including the recreational area of Grimsta Woods. At the time, the Tunnelbana was not yet in the ladle, so this plan depended on a costly and complex system of pick-up busses to transport more than half of the estimated population in the area.51 Relying on the Tunnelbana as a structuring ‘spine’ and main transport artery, later plan versions of 1946, 1948, 1949 and 1950 were more sustainable on an economical and infrastructural level. By 1950, the planning work reached a stage where it was accepted as the general plan of Södra Spånga, and in 1952 changes and additions were added, largely constituting the final layout of Vällingby. Prior to Vällingby there were some historical cases of ‘satellite town-like’ developments in Stockholm’s periphery, connected to the city via a public transport line. One case is Sundbyberg, established along the new train line to Västerås in 1876, by 1920 merged with ordinary, neighbouring suburbs. Another case is Nynäshamn (1900) at the south coast of Stockholm, a self-governing community for industrial workers, erected and controlled by a private corporation together with the train line, linking Nynäshamn to Stockholm (1901).52 Yet, when Sven Markelius, assisted by his ‘righthand man’ and successor Göran Sidenbladh, and his supporting team at Stockholm’s

50.  Thus, Aronsson recalls intense discussions with English experts: ‘There were no previous examples. Neither in this country nor on the Continent. Nor over there, in the USA. Britain completed its expansion of its satellite towns decisively. It was true and interesting. USA built its shopping centres without social life or cultural elements. Vällingby was different with its cultural and social content. The English New Towns are satellites, deliberately isolated from the city. In 1951 I visited some of these New Towns in order to share some of the experiences and preferably also some viewpoints on Vällingby, exisiting as a plan at the time. – The plan of Vällingby has failed, was the blunt message given to me by the chief architect of one of these New Towns. Why? Because it will be linked to Stockholm via a first-class Tunnelbana. Those living in Vällingby will turn their back on their own centre, take the T-bana to City. It was a black day. It wasn’t only about Vällingby’s reputation, however, the entire new program with a network of town areas around Stockholm, infrastructurally connected to City. Yet, after some years of excitement it turned out that our planners had judged the social organisation of our country, the people’s wishes and needs correctly. The New Town principles persevered.’ Albert Aronsson: ”Från Bondby till Stor-Vällingby”, in Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 1 (author’s translation). 51.  Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 6. 52.  Both are examples are mentioned by Markelius in Sven Markelius: ”Stockholm’ s struktur”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3.

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Masterplan for Stockholm (1950) with future satellites and indication of their planned population. Järvafältet north of Vällingby where TenstaRinkeby would later locate is still a white blank.

Revised masterplan for Södra Spånga alias Vällingby. (Ulrika Sax: “Vällingby - ett levande drama”. Stockholm: Stockholmia, 1998.)

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Masterplan of Vällingby, scale 1:10,000. The red areas represent Vällingby Centrum and adjacent district centres, distributed like pearls on a string along the blue Tunnelbana line. From east at Tunnelbana stations Blackeberg, Råcksta, Vällingby (with Grimsta), Hässelby Gård, and Hässelby Strand. The brown stains mark working areas. The green-yellow areas indicate areas for cultural and leisure activities. (Byggmästaren, A4, 1956.)

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urban planning office, initiated the planning of Vällingby there were few contemporary examples of urban experiments in a comparable scale and scope. Although the planners were acquainted with the New Towns of London, there were only rare cases such as Le Corbusier’s Chandigharh, the double governmental town of the Indian states Punjab and Haryana, and Kitimat, an industrial town built by the Aluminium Company of Canada (Alcan) in British Columbia. Regardless of the limited reference material there was one thing that Markelius knew instantly: He stressed the importance of avoiding to foster yet another ‘sleeping town’ (sovstad) like the car-dependent American suburbs with the shopping mall as the only public space, mentioned by Albert Aronsson, or the modern peripheral districts built around Stockholm during the 1930s. Based on functionalistic ideas they were situated far away from traffic and industry with flats in 3 to 4-storey freestanding houses where air and light could easily flow through. In the late 1940s, sociological reports described such outer districts like Hägerstensåsen and Hökmossen as ‘sleeping towns’ because of their lack of local ties: Short of adequate workplaces and services the inhabitants were forced to commute to the City in order to work, have a good time or shop. As a result, there was no common ground for a community to evolve between the residents.53 Learning from this experience, Vällingby was envisioned as a complete town section in extension to Stockholm inspired by the principles of neighbourhood planning (grannskapsplanering), thought to create community, well-being, and, as it were, good, democratic citizens.54 As mentioned, the neighbourhood unit was a bounded housing environment with service devices, school and other common arrangements. Together, clusters of neighbourhood units (a district) constituted the basis for a larger centre. In 1947, an important step was taken when the ‘pre-New Town’ Årsta, based on neighbourhood planning, was initiated by Uno Åhrén and projected by the architect brothers Erik and Tore Ahlsén. Årsta Centrum was the first community centre in Sweden, combining the now classic New Town facilities: health care, childcare, medical care, dental surgeries, shops, a chemist and a post office. Yet, without the Tunnelbana, and with only a small amount of private enterprises and local workplaces, Årsta Centrum had focused too biased on public services. Instead of becoming a prototype for Vällingby Centrum, it became a living proof of the argument that future community centres would have to be

53.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 25. 54.  Alternative strategies to plan Stockholm’s expansion had been suggested: In the publication En planmäsig samhällsbygganda (Systematically planned society building) (1945), Uno Åhrén shared Gropius’ preference for planned, village-like communities, presumably creating social and collaborative individuals and workers: ‘If one wanted the opposite characteristic one would recommend urban sprawl, which offers neither a natural collective context nor social interests in common.’ Meanwhile, staff members at Stockholm’s urban planning office had considered an expansion of existing urban hubs in the region such as Södertälje (18,000 inhabitants in 1949) in tandem with the development of satellite towns, built from a tabula rasa condition. Uno Åhrén: En planmäsig samhällsbygganda, Stockholm 1945, quoted and translated in Jim Kemeny: ”The Political Construction of Collective Residence: The Case of Sweden”, in Housing and Social Theory. London: Routledge, 1992, p. 145 and Sven Markelius and Göran Sidenbladh: ”Town Planning in Stockholm: Housing and Traffic”, in Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949, p. 76.

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backed by large commercial developments. After this experience, Vällingby’s planners collaborated consciously with Stockholm Retail Federation. Thus, a lesson taught by Årsta was the rule-of-thumb that the success of a new satellite town relied on certain aspects, defined by Markelius and Sidenbladh in the following:

‘One of the most important conditions for the successful establishment of a satellite town is that it should attract a fairly large population within a reasonably short time. The general view is that such a town should have not less than 20,000 inhabitants, and that the initial rapid growth should not slowdown before it has reached 10,000. Local industries should be able to provide jobs for both men and women.’ 55

Still, compared to previous experience of neighbourhood planning, in particular Årsta’s attempt at satellite town planning guided by these principles, Vällingby was unique in its scope. Exceeding the range of most urban developments in the world and by far those in Scandinavia, the ambition was to transform a tabula rasa - old farmland at the southern part of the land area Spånga - into a real town with all the service devices, required for a happy, modern life of the average Swede. Joining five main districts plus one, developed separately a few years earlier, the so-called ‘Vällingby Group’ (Vällingbygruppen) was planned to work as a partially independent town, inventing its own life, while physically connected to the capital city via the Tunnelbana. Whilst Årsta had merely been a district centre for a cluster of neighbourhood units, Vällingby ambitiously aimed at becoming a storcentrum (literally large centre), integrating home, work, shopping and leisure on different scales: at the one hand a local ‘anchor’, providing for a local population, and at the other hand a regional attractor, servicing a population spread over several districts in an area of approx. 20 square kilometres: Disposing over an almost uninterrupted area of farmland of approx. 10,36 square kilometres some 14 kilometres northwest of downtown Stockholm, the ‘Vällingby core area’ - a.k.a. inner the districts Vällingby, Råcksta and Grimsta - was planned for a population of approx. 23,000. Although Vällingby is usually associated

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55.  Sven Markelius and Göran Sidenbladh: ”Town Planning in Stockholm: Housing and Traffic”, in Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949, p. 75 and 78.


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Sketch of Vällingby where you can see the distribution of different typologies: C = centre, H = multifamily houses, R = terrace houses, LC = local centres, V = villas, I = industries. (Markelius, Sven: “Stockholms Struktur. Synspunkter på ett storstadsproblem”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3.)

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23 d e Plan of Vällingby Centrum where you can see how the Tunnelbana runs below the main shopping building. The market square between the station and the central shopping building is kept pedestrian and is linked to the whole footpath network within the district. Festivities take place in the green belt to the north east. Scale 1:2000. Courtesy Byggmästaren 1956. (Markelius, Sven: “Stockholms Struktur. Synspunkter på ett storstadsproblem”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3.)


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with this core area, the storcentrum community centre, Vällingby Centrum, was designed as a shopping, leisure and work centre for 60,000 more people, accommodated in a series of interacting districts plus hinterland: First, the Vällingby Group constituted by the districts of Råcksta, Grimsta, Vällingby, Hässelby Gård and Hässelby Strand (in the beginning named Loviselund), planned for approx. 44,000 inhabitants. Second, the district Blackeberg, planned for 9,000 people parallel to but independently of Vällingby in 1946. Third, the hinterland with a population of around 20,000, inhabiting older residential areas in Hässelbyköping, Norra Spånga and Ängby.56

Beautiful nature intersects the pathways between the Vällingby Group’s districts.

Like a giant croissant, the different districts of the Vällingby Group plus Blackeberg encloses the Grimsta Woods recreational area with its 2 kilometres shore towards the Lake of Mälar, marking their southern border. Detailed planning took place within each district, equipped with a smaller district centre close to the Tunnelbana station, and subdivided into neighbourhood units for 2,000 – 4,000 inhabitants.57 Protected from vehicles via traffic separation, each neighbourhood constitutes a functional unity around a small neighbourhood centre with park and playground, schools and childcare.58 Integration between the main districts is obtained via the Tunnelbana, linking them together as well as to the ‘mother city’ of Stockholm. Thus, the Tunnelbana line run by tunnel under Blackeberg, viaduct over the central traffic artery Bergslagsvägen, under Vällingby Centrum and terminates at Hässelby Strand with view over the lake. At a conference in Lisbon (1952), Markelius described the key aspects of this broadening of the neighbourhood planning principles, constituting the socalled ‘ABC-Town’ concept, applied to Vällingby:

‘In the planning of residential quarters, the main goal, as I see it, should be to create plans that provide possibilities for building a townscape, or a milieu, with all its components, that satisfy the demands we have on life to-day…A residential quarter should,

56.  Sven Markelius: ”Stockholm’ s struktur”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3, p. 53.

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57.  Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 6. 58.  Already 12 years after the inauguration of Vällingby, many of the local shops had to close due to growing competition of the larger centres. Ibid.


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as far as possible, meet the required dwelling standard of to-day from the sociological point of view, taking into account not only building technique and the layout of the different dwelling groups, but the layout of the residential quarters as a whole and the provision of shops, communal premises, public buildings, playgrounds and sports fields and other open spaces. Within reasonable limits, the wishes of the population concerning types of dwellings, houses and buildings should be met. The proximity of residence to the workplace must be considered as one of the most vital problems requiring solution and an important point is, therefore, to strive for a suitable balance between dwelling and workplace within a limited area.’ 59

Pioneering the ‘ABC-Town’ concept, Vällingby was planned as an integral, sustainable whole of public services, local workplaces, private enterprises, a varied architecture, and careful landscaping. Thus, ABC was short for Arbeta = work, Bostad = housing and Centrum = centre, an ensemble that would make Vällingby famous. Intending to create a higher number of local workplaces compared to other parts of the Stockholm region, new jobs were to be generated by local industries, offices, services and institutions, estimated to employ around half of the local work force. In line with this ideal of ‘co-planning’ and linkage of different functions and aspects of life, ‘integration’ (as opposed to segregation), indicating harmony and synthesis, became a key word in Vällingby. In Markelius’ opinion it was of utter importance for successful New Town planning from a tabula condition to create a modern and diverse housing environment in pact with a rich natural landscape.60 Harmony was also planned in accordance with new ideals of happiness, envisioning life as a balance between work

59.  Sven Markelius: “Relation of dwelling type and plan to layout of residential quarter”, in The relation between dwelling type and plan and the layout of residential quarter, Lissabon: International Congress for Housing and Planning XXI, 1952, p. 36. 60.  In an article in Byggmästaren Markelius argues: ’Only where nature has been generous is it possible to establish right from the beginning that co-operation between architecture and landscaping which, in the opennes of the modern milieu, is an essential factor to comfort and happiness and which has to wait when, as so often happens, one builds on open fields.’ Sven Markelius: ”Stockholm’ s struktur”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3, p. 64.

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and leisure time, the urban and the rural. Thus, the ABC-Town concept resonated with the welfare ideals forwarded by Markelius’ old collaborator of the Collective Housing Unit Alva Myrdal at a British housing conference (1949):

‘[W]e must look forward to the time when we shall not plan life for production activities as the utmost aim, but instead for recreation, personal life and private happiness…it is my personal belief that we have not given the architects a real foundation for their construction and planning if we have not given them an idea of how to live, not merely how to build.’ 61

On the basis of this visionary and wishful ‘welfare planning’, linking life and architecture, the first 6 families of New Town pioneers moved into the street Jämtlandsgatan 70, July 1, 1952. October 1, 1952 the first shop opened at Jämtlandsgatan 120, and in October 26 of the same year, the first Tunnelbana line Hötorget-Vällingby was on full tracks - 12 times per hour and 24 minutes journey to downtown Stockholm.

WELFARE PLANNING While the general plan for the land area Södra Spånga (a.k.a Vällingby) was accepted in 1950, some adjustments and changes were added in 1952. In parallel, detailed plans for the different districts and neighbourhood units were produced by the architects Carl-Frederik Ahlberg, Hans Uddenberg, Per Holmgren and the traffic engineer CarlHenrik af Klercker. Similar to the planning scheme, presented by Markelius in the architectural journal Byggmästaren in 1945, the general plan for Södra Spånga (1950) intended row houses and villas to become principal housing types in the New Town:

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61.  Alva Myrdal: ”Development of Population and Social Reform in Sweden”, in Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949, p. 29.


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‘Relatively concentrated rental house dwellings should be suitably connected to a main centre of shops, social services and community spaces for leisure and entertainment. A park belt around this central area should leave space for schools, kindergartens and day care for children, playgrounds, and sport stadiums. Outside this park belt row houses with minor shops, garages, crafts and small industry companies, kindergartens, etc. Villa and single-family house areas are directed to the more peripheral spaces.’ 62

This procedure was in line with surveys, indicating that a majority of Swedes – social and economical background notwithstanding - preferred to live in single-family houses, situated in a green environment.63 In spite of his Social Democratic ideals, Markelius largely agreed on this viewpoint: the general plan for Södra Spånga of 1950 suggested a higher percentage of single-family houses than what was habitual at the time.64 A considerable part of these single-family houses were to be built in the Grimsta Woods. Yet, other considerations became decisive. Although, Vällingby was a ‘love child’ conceived at a moment of innovation, pragmatic concerns like time schedule, economy, and optimal land use also shaped the outcome of the New Town experiment. In the revised plan of 1952, the number of inhabitants, living within the districts of the Vällingby Group, was raised from 42,000 to 44,000. At the same time the planned construction of single-family houses in the Grimsta Woods was put on a halt, so the green space could be used as a recreational area with playgrounds, riding clubs, small marinas, and a swimming pool. As a result, the level of density was raised in Hässelby Gård and Hässelby Strand, while more apartment blocks and lamella houses were built

62.  FIND??? Sven Markelius: Byggmästeran, p. ??? (author’s translation). 63.  Peter Hall: Op. cit., p. 879. 64.  In 1952, Markelius advocated for the single-family house as ‘ideal housing’ and thus a significant part of a New Town: ‘The one family house (detached, semidetached or row house) is obviously the best answer to families with several children and sociologically represents ideal housing. Although it requires considerably more ground per family that any collective housing, it should be found in at least limited numbers in all suburban developments…Even if strictly economical use of the land based on higher densities ought to be planned, it should not be carried so far that the quality and social standards of the newly developed residential areas are imperilled. A sufficiently extensive programme of one-family house building must always be maintained.’ Sven Markelius: “Relation of dwelling type and plan to layout of residential quarter”, in The relation between dwelling type and plan and the layout of residential quarter, Lissabon: International Congress for Housing and Planning XXI, 1952, p. 37 - 38.

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High-rises are numerous in the outer, younger districts Hässelby Gård and – in this case – Hässelby Strand where houses rise gradually in terraces from Lake Mälar.

Many houses in Hässelby Strand have lake view.

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in the two outer districts.65 Most urgent, yet, was the guarantee of an adequate population, accommodated within an acceptable radius of the storcentrum or community centre of Vällingby Centrum, concentrating the majority of the public services offered. After protracted discussions at the City of Stockholm’s urban planning office, with many protests in favour of the proposed ‘single-family house solution’ by the director of Stockholm’s real estate office Axel Dahlberg, it was also decided to increase the level of density in the core area (Vällingby, Grimsta and Råcksta).66 As it was formulated in an official document of Markelius and his close staff member C.F. Ahlberg:

‘One condition for a main centre to evolve with progress and to claim itself as a suburban city seems to be that the local population in its close surroundings is already of a sufficient size for a commercial service beyond the standard that a normal district centre in a peripheral area can provide. In this regard, the urban planning office has strived after giving the neighbourhood Råcksta-Vällingby the most ramified built-up area and the highest number of inhabitants as possible.’ 67

From these considerations the final layout emerged: A compact belt of walk-up flats in eight to ten-storey ‘elevator apartments’ in high-rise blocks with different kinds of collective housework service, intended for ‘bachelors, spinsters and families with no or few children’, encircles Vällingby Centrum. Presumably, these verticals would provide ‘a not unwelcome emphasis on the centre from the viewpoints of orientation and advertising.’68 By the same token, multi-family three-storey houses substituted many Hässelby Strand towards Lake Mälar.

65.  As Markelius commented: ‘To counterbalance the expansion of land coverage caused by the inclusion of single-family houses, it may be justifiable to give the central apartment house nucleus around the station and cultural centre a stronger concentration and higher density. The building of concentrated eight to ten storey apartment houses ought to replace to a great extent the perhaps too exclusively adopted three-storey types.’ Ibid. 66.  For details about this controversy between Stockholm’s urban planning office and Axel Dahlberg see C.F. Ahlberg: ”Tjänstutlåtande rörande förslag till stadsplan för del av Spånga (bostadsområde norr om Råcksta station, s. 5: 192”. Document to Stockholm’s urban planning office, December 9, 1949.

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67.  Sven Markelius and C.F. Ahlberg: ”Tjänstutlåtande angående förslag till stadsplan för del av Spånga (Vällingby Centrum, Vällingby II), s 6:399 och s 6:402”. Document to Stockholm’s urban planning office, November 14, 1950, p. 3 (author’s translation). 68.  Sven Markelius: “Relation of dwelling type and plan to layout of residential quarter”, in The relation between dwelling type and plan and the layout of residential quarter, Lissabon: International Congress for Housing and Planning XXI, 1952, p. 38.


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of the planned single-family houses. Since detached or terraced houses require more labour and material than walk-up flats, the compromise between the single-family house and the high-rise block, the three-storey house (often lamella-houses), became the most common building type in Vällingby.69 Such collective, rental housing were also more in agreement with the Social Democratic ethos of egalitarianism and collectivism. Single-family houses were often presented as ‘asocial’ dwelling types.70 Markelius diplomatically remarked that apartments offer: ‘a good, as well as inexpensive, family dwelling. It is denied, moreover, that the high apartment house is less suitable for family dwellings.’ Still, he mentioned certain inconveniences of such collective dwelling types: ‘e.g. the inconvenience of the lift for children in certain ages and the lack of contact between the housewife working in the home and the small children in the minor playground.’71 Because people’s needs vary, there would still be some single-family houses in the Vällingby Group. As argued by Markelius multiplicity and flexibility of housing types was crucial in the New Town, whereas housing sections were planned individually and experimentally:

‘The use of different types of dwellings is dependent on many factors. A suburb should be composed of a variety of buildings so constructed that the consequent mixing of inhabitants results in the formation, in a natural way, of a complete and rather independent community. There should, therefore, be made available dwellings suitable for all ages and types of household.’ 72

Hence, the suite from Vällingby Centrum, surrounded by an inner ring of tall high-rise blocks in walking distance of the Tunnelbana, followed by environments of three-storey (lamella) houses with inner courtyards no more than 500 meters from the Tunnelbana station and Vällingby Centrum or the local district centre. Further out, an 69.  Popenoe: Op.cit, p. 44. The journalist Olle Bengtzon of the tabloid newspaper Expressen sarcastically called the three-storey houses for ‘bastards’, neither house, nor high-rise - neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 46. 70.  See Peter Hall: Op.cit. 71.  Sven Markelius: “Relation of dwelling type and plan to layout of residential quarter”, in The relation between dwelling type and plan and the layout of residential quarter, Lissabon: International Congress for Housing and Planning XXI, 1952, p. 37. 72.  Sven Markelius: “Relation of dwelling type and plan to layout of residential quarter”, in The relation between dwelling type and plan and the layout of residential quarter, Lissabon: International Congress for Housing and Planning XXI, 1952, p. 36.

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23 d e View over Vällingby Centrum in 1956 with Hjalmar Klemming’s the tall point blocks surrounding Vällingbyplan Square, Reinius and Backström’s low shopping architecture with the restaurant Vällingehus sticking up. Car-ownership quickly accelerated after the picture was taken, so the centre had to expand. Markelius, Sven: “Stockholms Struktur. Synspunkter på ett storstadsproblem”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3.


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Impressions from Vällingby Centrum where you could stroll as a flaneur in the shopping street. Markelius, Sven: “Stockholms Struktur. Synspunkter på ett storstadsproblem”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3.

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outer ring of single-family houses (row-houses, terrace houses and villas) are located at a maximum distance of 900 meters from the Tunnelbana station and Vällingby Centrum or the local district centre. This radius largely determines the total size of the New Town.73 Favouring interaction between green spaces and architecture, a new ‘minimum rule’ of the distance between the individual structures equalled the double height of the building. Because of the ‘undesirability of looking from one house into the window of another’, it was agreed to set this minimum to twenty metres, while the distance between high-rise housing was allowed to be the height of the block.74 For the naturelover and dedicated walker Markelius it was essential to preserve un-built areas of ‘genuine nature’ close to, however, detached from the neighbourhood units.75 Moreover, the planning scheme considered the change of seasons; snowy winter Stockholm differed considerably from hot summer Stockholm. School holidays lasted two – three months and every seventh family led an altogether different life in their summerhouses in Stockholm’s archipelago during the summer.76 Like a micro cosmos of the equally democratic and nursing Swedish Model, adventure playgrounds where children could construct their own unplanned playing houses, were popular at the time and distributed around the green areas of Vällingby. As written in the General Plan for Stockholm 1952:

‘For children over 5 or 6 years the adventure playground is a right form and it should be found in every part of the town. Here they can actively produce something themselves, unbound of the adults’ idea about what ought to be fun.’ 77

Allowing for variation in the layout of the plan, directions and sections differ according to the topography of the site and in respect for the recreational and aesthetical qualities of the natural greenery. (One wonders if it is possible to collect

73.  Sven Markelius: “Relation of dwelling type and plan to layout of residential quarter”, p. 37, in The relation between dwelling type and plan and the layout of residential quarter, Lissabon: International Congress for Housing and Planning XXI, 1952, 74.  Sven Markelius: “Relation of dwelling type and plan to layout of residential quarter”, in The relation between dwelling type and plan and the layout of residential quarter, Lissabon: International Congress for Housing and Planning XXI, 1952, p. 39 - 40. 75.  See Eva Rudberg: Sven Markelius, arkitekt. Stockholm: Arkitektur Förlag, 1989.

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76.  Sven Markelius and Göran Sidenbladh: ”Town Planning in Stockholm: Housing and Traffic”, in Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949, p. 77. 77.  Stockholms stads stadsplanekontor: Generalplan för Stockholm 1952. Stockholm: Stockholms stads stadsplanekontor, 1952, p. 205 (author’s translation).


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wild blueberries in other New Towns?) Softening the right-angled planning schemes of the 1930s, orientation of the dwellings became more elastic and adjusted to optimal fulfilment of the inhabitants’ need of sunlight, view towards greeneries or shore, quietness, etc. As argued by Markelius:

‘The conditions on which the orientation of the dwellings are dependent have thus been of a very changing nature. The experience gained in this respect during the continuous studying of the modern housing problem has therefore led to a relaxation of the rules regarding orientation. It is now accepted that it is no longer possible to generalise and that other considerations – the terrain, vegetation, view, shelter from prevailing winds, landscape planting, total aesthetic effect, etc. – must be more than before allowed to influence planning.’ 78

Intending to scatter and situate the institutions and social services of the New Town according to the demands of their everyday users, Vällingby’s inner structure is zoned into different sections. Like a modernist variation of a Chinese box, the layout resembles the aforementioned neighbourhood principle: A series of buildings, flanking a playground with space for baby carriages and a sandpit, easily observable from the windows, constitutes the smallest unit of the New Town (this was only realised to some degree). Such clusters of housing forms a larger unit of a size supporting a shopping centre, a nursery, a kindergarten and a large playground. Significantly, the layout of this greater unit protects pedestrian traffic from highways as well as normal roads or feeder streets. Two or more of such units (5 in Vällingby’s case plus Blackeberg) make a satellite town with a centre linked to a Tunnelbana and adequate car communications.79 Working areas with industries are located north, service industries and Tunnelbana station are situated south of the main centre, power plants are kept in the west, and hospitals lie towards the east and south.

78.  Sven Markelius: “Relation of dwelling type and plan to layout of residential quarter”, in The relation between dwelling type and plan and the layout of residential quarter, Lissabon: International Congress for Housing and Planning XXI, 1952, p. 38. 79.  Sven Markelius: “Relation of dwelling type and plan to layout of residential quarter”, in The relation between dwelling type and plan and the layout of residential quarter, Lissabon: International Congress for Housing and Planning XXI, 1952, p. 39.

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Early photos of the kindergarten Gudmundrågatan. Such new institutions became part of the modern lifestyle in Vällingby. Ulrika Sax: “Vällingby - ett levande drama”. Stockholm: Stockholmia, 1998.

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Plan of the district Råcksta close to Vällingby Centrum. Here traffic separation is complete. Traffic streets with parking facilities in the periphery of the area, central green belt on ground unsuitable for building laid out with central foot and bicycle paths, crossing motor traffic streets on different levels, connected to local shops, crèche, and other services and leading to schools, Vällingby Centrum and Tunnelbana station. Playgrounds for small children are situated just next to the dwellings and are visible from windows of the flats. The plan aimed at an effective contact between dwellings and playgrounds, but this was only realised partially. Markelius, Sven: “Stockholms Struktur. Synspunkter på ett storstadsproblem”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3.

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Plan of the traffic net in Vällingby. Byggmästaren, A4, 1956

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Pedestrian or bicycle traffic was given priority over car traffic, since public transport was not planned within the different districts and neighbourhood units of the New Town. Supplied with a ramified path system, largely undisturbed by motor traffic, Vällingby’s planning scheme resembles that of Radburn, New Jersey, by Clarence S. Stein and Henry Wright (1929). Similar to the infrastructural structure of the American town, there is traffic separation between ‘soft’ pedestrian traffic and ‘hard’ motor traffic, usually with tunnels designated for pedestrians, while vehicles are channelled over bridges.80 According to the scale of the child, schools, playgrounds, shops and the Tunnelbana station are planned strictly for pedestrians. Meanwhile, park areas with playing fields and sports facilities are interconnected; parkways and feeder streets run either towards or away from the centre. As far as possible, greeneries with pedestrian and bicycle paths run through the different neighbourhood units like an unbroken chain. For instance, walk-up flats in the district Råcksta are facing parking lots and streets as well as the central park way and playgrounds. Bicycle and pedestrian paths lead towards the shops in the southern end and towards the school in the north end of the district.81 In order to increase traffic safety, the street network is subdivided into three different categories: First, main thoroughfares for rapid, heavy traffic with few intersections and without side streets. Second, local main streets and feeder streets, distributing traffic from the thoroughfares, without access from dwelling groups. Third, various kinds of side streets, canalising the traffic from the feeder streets to each dwelling. Arriving with the Tunnelbana from Stockholm, the visitor moves from the inner older to the outer younger parts of the New Town, mirroring their number in the production process from 1952 – 56: The district Råcksta (planned for a population of 5,000) consists of two principal neighbourhood units: One with terrace houses situated on a hill and one consisting of a long meandering formation of straight flat-blocks along the feeder street to Vällingby Centrum. The buildings are linked together as a single unit, forming a ring around an inner park, a recreational area of grass and woods with footpaths. There is also a footpath crossing the long meander via a portico. Parking places occupy the spaces within the meander externally facing the street, while those inwardly facing the park play-lots are visible from the windows of the inhabitants. Beyond the two neighbourhood units there is a main traffic artery outside of the housing area with bays for parking.

80.  Clarence S. Stein visited Markelius’ villa in the Stockholmian suburb Kevinge. Here they discussed how Vällingby could learn from Radburn that had always been among Markelius’ favourite references, for instance in Generalplan för Stockholm 1952. 81.  Stockholms stads stadsplanekontor: Generalplan för Stockholm 1952. Stockholm: Stockholms stads stadsplanekontor, 1952, p. 328.

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The main typology in the Vällingby core area is three-storey houses, while point blocks (punkthus) of different heights accentuate the overall cityscape. Neighbourhood playgrounds, crèches, and laundrettes are part of the ensemble. Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966.

With a diverse architecture and landscaping, complexity is higher in Vällingby and the adjacent district Grimsta (planned for a population of 18,000) where the proximity to Vällingby Centrum generates variation and activation. Vällingby’s unique townscape is constituted by clusters of lower lighter buildings between more massive ‘point blocks’ (punkthus). A differentiated street network cares for the needs of motor traffic and parking, while a system of pedestrian arteries links the different neighbourhood units of the district. Each of these neighbourhood units is tight together by community services such as collective laundrettes, smaller shops, childcare, and playgrounds. (As an example of the multiplicity of the district, the three-storey houses are not only designed like ‘narrow blocks’ according to the custom, but in daring designs like ‘star houses’, low point blocks, terrace blocks with maisonettes, and circular blocks.82) Stressing density, average building height is considerable taller in Hässelby Gård (planned for a population of 14,000) and in Hässelby Strand (planned for a population 239

82.  Giorgio Gentili: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958, p. 9.


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of 13,000), than in the other districts of the Vällingby Group. With denser and smaller apartments designed for small families and bachelors, focus has shifted from square meters to concentration and proximity to the local centre, the Tunnelbana station, shops, and day care. Compared to the usual planning principles of 1945 – 1950, playground space in relation to floor space has decreased.83 Point-blocks are many in Hässelby Gård – both along the lengthy walking street of the district centre and in the remaining neighbourhood units of the district, although there are also some lower three-storey houses. A green belt with schools and playgrounds indicates an organic border between Hässelby Gård and Hässelby Strand. In the central area of Hässelby Strand, rocks and trees intersect with numerous specimens of a new building type slab blocks with six or more storeys, piling up like a wall. Much more intimate, smaller groups of terrace houses picturesquely face the Lake Mälar, the natural limit of the New Town. Following the natural topography of hills and slopes, buildings rise from the water in terraces, so all the dwellings have an optimal lake view, ringed by slim birch 83.  Giorgio Gentili: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958, p. 12

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The district centre of the slightly older district Blackeberg where Tomas Alfredsson’s social realistic vampire movie Let the Right One In (2008), based on a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, takes place.

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trees. From the district centre and the exit of the Tunnelbana station there is a view over Lake Mäler with a park area, encircled by ancient oak trees. Situated on two plateaus intersected by a valley, Vällingby’s ‘adopted son’ Blackeberg (planned for a population of 9,000) is a quiet residential area between Grimsta Woods’ southern slopes and the main road to Stockholm. Facing calm streets, the dominant housing type is apartment houses of straight flats with inner courtyards and playgrounds. Care has been taken to provide secure and intimate surroundings for playing children as well as an environment with trees, rocks and lawns. The valley, separating the two main neighbourhood units, has been transformed into a park, containing the only four high-rise blocks in Blackeberg plus schools, outdoor facilities and sports activities. (The square in the middle of the district centre, Blackeberg Centrum, is surrounded by inwardly facing shop buildings.) The biggest industrial area Johannelund with own Tunnelbana station is located within the core area of Vällingby-Råcksta-Grimsta. Detailed plans for different parts of the area were drawn up in 1953, 1954, 1956 and 1962. As mentioned earlier, Vällingby was planned according to an ideal of equal influx to dwellings and workplaces with


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plans striving after creating local employment for 50 percent of the adult workforce. In addition to services and craftsmen’s workshops in Vällingby Centrum it was planned to locate new industries in Johannelund. Alas, this was a most difficult undertaking, seizing many obstacles from vision to reality. One thing was the initial problems of persuading corporations and factories to move to the industrial zone occupying 200,000 square metres or 23,5 hectares, directly west of Vällingby and north of the main artery Bergslagsvägan – in 1958, only 13 hectares of the area were developed.84 In the 1952 brochure Vällingby: företagens framtidsstad (Vällingby: the Future Town of Companies) by the City of Stockholm’s real estate office the future scenario was depicted beautifully:

‘Vällingby has been planned so that workplaces and dwellings can expand in parallel; the employees shall have their dwelling within walk or bicycle distance. Thus, a local workforce is at the Vällingby companies’ disposition. In regard to workforce these companies will have unusually favourable conditions.’ 85

Regardless of such sales campaigns it was difficult for company owners to imagine a thriving business community in what appeared as a clay pit, 15 kilometres from downtown Stockholm where the workers’ dwellings were still under construction. Moreover, the infrastructure was not habitual; there was no traditional railway line, but it was planned to erect a Tunnelbana station between Vällingby and Hässelby Gård. For these reasons, it was only after dwellings and organisation of the surrounding districts were in place that most of the industries had the courage to settle in Johannelund or the other industrial area Vagnhallen at the main traffic artery Berglagsvägan, near the entrance to Vällingby Centrum, consisting of five three-storey buildings for smaller industries in a park area with parking spaces. As a result, many of the employees of the companies that did in fact settle in Vällingby from an early date faced difficulties with getting a home close to their workplace.86 Thus, in 1953 the sociologist Lennart Holm predicted that in spite of an ‘inverted migration’ from the

84.  Giorgio Gentili: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958, p. 5. 85.  Stockholms Stads Fastighetsnämd/The City of Stockholm’s Real Estate Office: Vällingby: företagens framtidsstad. Stockholm: Hera/Ivar Hæggströms, 1952, p. 4 – 5 (author’s translation). 86.  Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 22.

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overcrowded city to the new satellite towns, Stockholm’s central business district would grow and comprise 120,000 to 180,000 jobs, ‘at least ¼ of those living in the outlying areas cannot find work there’, creating an intense public commuter transport.87 280,000 of the population in satellite towns were expected to take the Tunnelbana; 75,000 would use bus connections and 40,000 existing railway lines.88 Moreover, in 1956 Markelius estimated that central Stockholm would have ‘at least 290,000 workplaces, whereas the outlying areas together will have 160,000 maximum.’89 While industrialists were sceptic about the profitable of moving out of the city centre, the national government were sceptic about the prospect of these new industries. In their view, there was a danger of an over-expansion of emerging industry around the capital, possibly counteracting the planned decentralisation of industries to provincial areas.90 Yet, Johannelund never became a threat to such plans. Whereas industries developed on private initiative, Vällingby also became part of the government’s plan of decentralising the state administration from the capital city, e.g. the relocating of the headquarter of the National Power Board Vattenfallstyrelsen to Råcksta. There has never been any heavy industry in Vällingby, however various smaller industries, some demanding skilled labour and high education, others manual labour, some providing service, and yet others utilising the female work force. In 1960, there were 9000 jobs (for 36 percent of the population) within the Vällingby Group and Johannelund; by 1966 the number had grown to 13,000 (3,000 in Johannelund and 7,000 in the other districts).91 One of the biggest employers was the headquarter of the power plant Vattenfallstyrelsen in Råcksta with approx. 1,900 employees, while the finemechanical workshop AB Arenco with 600 employees was one of the first to move to Johannelund. Thus, a number of larger and smaller plants for industry and workshops were established between 1960 and 1980 when companies such as IBM, Standard Radio, Arenco, Liber and Konsumentverket settled in Johannelund. In the year 2000, there were 160 companies in the area with a total number of 2500 employees.92 Still, one of the main sources to workplaces was of course Vällingby Centrum.

87.  Thus, after the maximum limit of 900,000 was reached, Holm expected the population of regional Stockholm to decrease within a decade ‘so that the outlying areas will house 500,000 inhabitants as against 400,000 in the central areas’. Lennart Holm (ed.): ”The Master Plan for Stockholm and Master Plans for Some Other Swedish Towns”, in Att Bo, Special issue (1953), p. 6. 88.  Ibid., p. 8. 89.  Ibid. Even though Markelius acknowledges the difficulty of most people changing their jobs more often and easier than they move to another dwelling, he gives the example of L. M. Ericsson AB in Midsommerkransen where 70 percent of the workers settled locally. Sven Markelius: ”Stockholms struktur”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3, p. 53. 90.  Giorgio Gentili: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958, p. 5.

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VÄLLINGBY CENTRUM Contrary to the pessimistic prospects expressed by British New Town consultants, Vällingby’s community centre or storcentrum (literally ‘large centre’), Vällingby Centrum, was planned with great optimism, comprising commercial, social, leisure and cultural services for 80,000 people. It is here that the integral approach of the ABCTown planning is most visible: As a crossbreed between a traditional city centre of old towns and an American shopping mall, Vällingby Centrum is both closely connected to the local dwellings and serving several districts. Planned for different scales, future scenarios boldly predicted that the Tunnelbana would carry as many consuming and entertainment-seeking Stockholmers to Vällingby Centrum as vice versa. Remarkably, this was indeed the case back in the happy pioneer days.93 Surely, this ‘inverted’ influx from what was traditionally considered ‘centre’ to what was usually designated as ‘periphery’ was reinforced by the intensive marketing campaigns, launched in brochures, newspapers, exhibitions, etc., attracting settlers, customers, enterprises, and investors.94 Vällingby’s curiosity was further backed up by new shopping typologies such as the retail stores Kvickly and Tempo, both names indicating the faster lifestyle and consumerism of the 1950s. Shopping, a dentist visit or other errands were made an easier and more intimate experience in the design of the centre: More intimate and manageable than the city centre, shoppers could stroll in lanes, flanked by low and dense buildings with shops in street level (the bigger ones spread over two floors) à la Rotterdam’s Lijnbaan. Via a long tunnel penetrating the hill on which Vällingby Centrum rises like an acropolis, the Tunnelbana delivered continuous flows of people. Escalators carried them up to the Vällingbyplan’s ‘piazza’, and from there, bright neon signs easily guided them to the desired shops and public buildings. In between bustling activity, calm gaps of public space were provided by the main square as the core area of the walking street, connected to the surrounding dwellings. As the eyewitness, the American architecture critic G. E. Kidder Smith, remarks in 1957: ‘There is a vitality here which is almost fair-like, with a general atmosphere that is highly conducive to spending.’95 Emerging from tabula rasa 33 years earlier, Vällingby Centrum’s unique ensemble was made listed patrimony in 1987.

93.  Siv Bernhardsson & Göran Söderström: Stockholm utanför tullarna: Nittiosju Stadsdelar i ytterstaden Grimsta, Hässelby Gård, Hässelby Strand, Hässelby Villastrand, Kälvesta, Nälsta, Råcksta, Vinsta, Vällingby. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag: 2003, p. 42. 94.  Thus, it took some persuasion for shop owners to leave the city centre behind for Vällingby. Axel Wennerholm, former managing director of the Stockholm Retail Federation, highly influential on the planning of Vällingby Centrum, later recalled: ’Shopkeepers felt they would be taking a great risk and said: ”My business had been in the downtown area since my gradfather’s time. What the hell, who is going to live out in Vällingby? In mean, just think of the name off it – Porrridge Town.” But retailers did accept shops there, and those visionary – or lucky – ones made a fortune.’ To be precise välling actually means gruel and not porridge in Swedish. David Pass: Vällingby and Farsta – from Idea to Reality: The New Community Development Process in Stockholm. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, UK: MIT Press, 1969, p.123. 95.  G. E. Kidder-Smith: p. 100.

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During the planning process, Sven Markelius advocated for an integration of various functions according to the ABC-Town concept: ’Thus, it is suggested to draw up the urban planning provisions so that the borders between public rooms, business, crafts, offices and dwellings become elastic under certain circumstances and within certain limits.’96 As a storcentrum, Vällingby Centrum was planned to satisfy the needs of locals in the close vicinity as well as for the entire Vällingby Group and bordering suburbs. Similar to the smaller district centres in other parts of the New Town, Stockholm’s

The library represented one of the bastions of welfare and enlightenment.

urban planning office proposed the following kinds of shops for the 6,000 inhabitants, estimated to live in a radius of 300 meters from Vällingby Centrum: 2 groceries (in three parts), 2 supermarkets, 3 fruit and sweets, 2 sowing kit and stockings, 3 tobacco and newspapers, 2 sports and bicycle, and 2 bakeries. Meanwhile, other shop types were planned to serve the greater regional public: 2 flower, 2 dry cleaners, 2 bookshops, 2 radio, photo, gramophone and electricity, 2 ironmongers, 2 furniture, 2 shoe shops, 1

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96.  Sven Markelius and C.F. Ahlberg: ”Tjänstutlåtande angående förslag till stadsplan för del av Spånga (Vällingby Centrum, Vällingby II), s 6:399 och s 6:402”. Document to Stockholm’s urban planning office, November 14, 1950, p. 4 -5 (author’s translation).


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Underground distribution tunnels, running parallel to the Tunnelbana - one north, one south – made it possible to keep Vällingby Centrum free of vehicles. Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966.

Vällingby Centrum, designed by Leif Reinius and Sven Backström, with the Tunnelbana tracks and underground distribution tunnels underneath. Gentili, Giorgio: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958.

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fabric and clothes, 1 milliner, 2 health and perfume, 1 clocks and optician, 1 glazier and picture framer, 2 banks, 1 AB Stockholmssystemet (a liquor store administered by the Swedish state), and 1 pharmacy in addition to a central post office, a social care office, a district medicinal consultation, a childcare central, a central sick-benefit association, and a home help office. In addition, the Folkets Hus was to contain 2 assembly halls, 4 smaller collective rooms, a library with reading room, 10 smaller rooms for study circles etc., 5 rooms for scout activities, 20 smaller rooms for different societies and clubs. Sports facilities encompassed a handball hall, rooms for boxing and wrestling, table tennis, sauna, and a selection of clubs.97 Markelius specified that he wanted skilled and experimental architects to do the signature buildings in Vällingby Centrum and engaged the architects Sven Backström and Leif Reinius to design the cinema Fontänen, the assembly hall Trappan, the youth club Tegelhögen, and the public library along with some shops and the main centre building. Hjalmar Klemming designed the headquarter of the housing organisation Svenska Bostäder. At the more spiritual end of the spectre, two churches are situated in the centre: Peter Celsing’s Saint Tomas Church (1959) and Carl Nyrén’s Västerortskyrkan (1956). Meanwhile, Svenska Bostäder was the responsible developer of the centre. The plan of Vällingby Centrum was deliberately gentle and broad in its formulation of building restrictions, considering future expansions and renovations. Encouraging variation, it only determined the main grouping, the degree of exploitation, and the principal architectonic design in dialogue with the principles of an ‘illustration plan’, drawn up in collaboration with Sven Backström and Lars Reinius.98 Yet, Backström and Reinius were strictly bound by the infrastructural complexity of the site when they projected the architecture of Vällingby Centrum as was decided to let the Tunnelbana run directly under the main shopping building.99. Two to three floors over street level, the main shopping building is a 70 by 80 meters rectangle in carved concrete where the support is partly determined by the placement of the Tunnelbana tracks. Originally, two department stores Tempo and Konsum, occupied the lower floor of this core centre building, encircled by a square, streets and the remaining centre buildings. One floor up there was a restaurant, the second floor contained shops, offices, and at the top floor there was a larger office. Under street level, there was storage, deliverance of goods, a garage, and Tunnelbana localities. Much emphasis was put on bigger volumes such as the canteens, the banquet hall, the winter garden, Tempo and Konsum’s light courts

97.  Göran Sidenbladh: ”PM angående utbyggnad av Vällingby Centrum”. Document to Stockholm’s urban planning office, ?????, p. 2 - 3. 98.  Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 8. Ibid. 99.  In 1951, the main developer, the housing organisation Svenska Bostäder pushed Reinius and Backström to project and built the main shopping building in tandem. Sven Backström and Leif Reinius: ”Centrumbyggnaden i Vällingby”, in Byggmästaran, 1956, A4, p. 80.

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Glemme’s spherical lampposts adorn Vällingby Centrum. Kidder Smith, G. E.: Sweden Builds, New York: Albert Bonnier, 1950/57.

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and the upper exhibition space of the furniture shop. The underground ‘distribution street’ with one southern street and one northern street, running parallel to the Tunnelbana, made it possible to keep Vällingby Centrum as a pedestrian centre. Divided into two underground floors, the storage area consists of a lower part with warehouses, loading bays and the traffic ramps, while the upper part contains service premises and storerooms for shops. Dimensions in Vällingby Centrum are kept in a relatively small scale so visitors can ‘fill squares and shopping streets with life and action’.100 Thus, activities like festivities and public meetings are designated to take place in the green belt towards the northwest. Although it is possible to drive relatively close to the shops, vehicles are not allowed on the market place between the Tunnelbana station and the main shopping building, connected to the local pedestrian path system. A number of parking spaces surround the centre. In accordance with this kind of ‘flaneur traffic’, one of the curiosities of Vällingby Centrum is the abundance of delectable 1950s details such as circular fountains, Stig Åke Möller’s neon signs and Erik Glemme’s balloon-like lampposts with white globes of glass. Glemme also designed the circular paving pattern, covering the square and the streets of the main centre in different types of stone. As a daring experiment wavy eternit plates adorn the facades and the waiting hall of the Tunnelbana building, designed by the architect Magnus Ahlgren with a plan disposed according to the distribution of the ticket office, a square hall in two floors surrounded by shops and various offices.101 Next to it there is a terminal for regional busses. Extravagant panels of teak wood decorate the former restaurant Vällingehus while the cinema Fontänen is fifties-fashionable with a façade of yellow and black mosaic. Heading the main shopping building, the majority of buildings for non-commercial functions are situated parallel to a hillside, so they are in close contact with the surrounding dwellings and the Tunnelbana station. At the assembly hall Trappan the four meeting rooms are stepped down the grade, so they benefit fully from natural light. With a capacity of 65 and 209 persons, each room are equipped with individual cloakroom, toilet and pantry. The four rooms are connected internally and with the main square via an enclosed glass stair. Only months after the inauguration of Vällingby Centrum, it became clear that the centre was not geared to all the visitors in cars. As a result, some planned shop and office buildings were sacrificed in addition to the envisioned environment of craftsmen’s workshops favoured by Markelius.102 Probably, this was also due to the pace of the

100.  Sven Markelius: ”Stockholm’ s struktur”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3, p. 60 (author’s translation). 101.  For further details see Magnus Ahlgren: ”Tunnelbanastationen Vällingby Centrum”, in Byggmästaran, 1956, No A4. 102.  Albert Aronson: ”Vällingby Centrum från idé til verklikhet”, in Byggmästaran, 1956, No A4, p. 79.

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View towards the assembly hall Trappan. Kidder Smith, G. E.: Sweden Builds, New York: Albert Bonnier, 1950/57.

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Interior from the restaurant Vällingehus. The first floor remains intact, while the lower floor has transformed into multiethnic food hall. Markelius, Sven: “Stockholms Struktur. Synspunkter på ett storstadsproblem”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3.

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Ticket office of the Tunnelbana, street view and corridor in Vällingby Centrum. Markelius, Sven: “Stockholms Struktur. Synspunkter på ett storstadsproblem”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3.

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building process, motivated by different interests: During the construction phase, the first director of Vällingby Centrum Albert Aronsson stressed the necessity of a tight time schedule and coordination. All facilities had to be in place when the first inhabitants moved in to avoid a ‘total and psychological failure’.103 Instead of the originally scheduled 6 -7 years, it took 3 – 4 years to finish Vällingby Centrum. As Aronsson pragmatically remarked in 1956:

‘[T]he result could have been better from a technical viewpoint…much of what has been added are improvisations…Time for afterthought hasn’t been found. Neither long negotiations or natural maturing processes. However, does people thrive in perfection? Perhaps the time trouble has been the best designer’ 104

Collective, efficient and modern: Cooperative laundrettes and women buying groceries in modern supermarkets. Holm, Lennart (ed.): ”The Master Plan for Stockholm and Master Plans for Some Other Swedish Towns”, in Att Bo, Special issue (1953).

103.  According to Aronsson, young urbanites, waiting in the queues of Stockholm’s housing organisations, would: ‘not accept to wait for the ideal society while planners, projectors and builders thought about what could be the best. They wanted a centre corresponding to what they wanted to spend their money on, not just satisfying a basic need but enjoying the possibilities of choosing what they want under festive conditions...’ Albert Aronson: ”Vällingby Centrum från idé til verklikhet”, in Byggmästaran, 1956, No A4, p. 78 (author’s translation). 104.  Albert Aronson: ”Vällingby Centrum från idé til verklikhet”, in Byggmästaran, 1956, No A4, pp 78 (author’s translation).

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Neighbourhood centre shops in Grimsta.

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While districts of the core area (Vällingby and Grimsta) were located in walking distance of Vällingby Centrum, the more peripheral districts of the Vällingby Group were given their own district centres. Located close to the Tunnelbana stations, district centres include Blackeberg, Råcksta, Hässelby Gård, and Hässelby Strand. Concentrating several shops and some public services, the inhabitants were still dependent on those provided by Vällingby Centrum. In addition, there were small businesses within local neighbourhood centres, providing basic utensils, e.g. the grocery-shop Snappköb (Quick Buy) and a hairdresser. As the car became a common means of transport, many of these shops closed or changed their character according to contemporary demands - pizzerias, kiosks, etc.

VÄLLINGBY ARCHITECTURE From the above, it becomes clear that Vällingby was a prestige project in the history of urban planning in Sweden. The cost of Vällingby amounted to the – at the time astronomical sum of half a billion SEK of which 40 million were spent on Vällingby Centrum.105 Accordingly, the planners of the New Town requested high architectural quality. Developers were not allowed to appoint architects before Markelius had accepted them.106 Even so, dwelling design was not considered a prestigious occupation for a Swedish architect in the 1950s. As a result, many younger architects, interested in innovation and social aspects of architecture, became designers of Vällingby’s builtup area. In accordance with the principles of the 1952 general plan, walk-up flats are placed within a radius of 500 metres from the Tunnelbana station, while singlefamily houses are positioned at a maximum distance of 900 meters from there. One of the strong features in Vällingby is the sequence of ‘point houses’ or ‘point blocks’ (punkthus) of various designs, constructed by Svenska Bostäder or HSB: freestanding high-rise housing, centralising several (usually four) units on each floor around an elevator core or staircase similar to urban apartment houses, but here situated in a park-like environment à la CIAM. Similar to their predecessor ‘broad houses’, the point houses only supply ventilation at corner locations and sometimes they were planned as ‘collective houses’, concentrating various services for families with two working parents (dumbwaiter, janitorial work, baby sitting, etc.) Not least, the garland of 15 tall monoliths with smaller rental apartments, surrounding the main square of Vällingby Centrum, caught the eye of the contemporary public. Following the hilly topography,

105.  Albert Aronson: ”Vällingby Centrum från idé til verklikhet”, in Byggmästaran, 1956, No A4, p. 79. 106.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 44.

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heights vary from eight to ten storeys, although the architects had probably opted for more decks if the neighbouring Bromma Airport had not been a hindrance.107 (As mentioned, the objective was to locate a large percentage of inhabitants in the vicinity of the Tunnelbana and the shopping centre.) Among the most noticeable of these dwelling towers are Gunnar Jacobsson’s flexible, cylindrical towers at the street Kirunagatan 98 – 100 that can be subdivided into one- or multiple roomed apartments and Hjalmar Klemming’s ‘cross-shaped’ houses in a park landscape. Yet, the dominant housing type in the core area Vällingby-Råcksta-Grimsta is the three-storey walk-up flats in different cross patterns, broken units and long attenuated buildings; primarily thin, long slabs (skivhus) or lamella houses, varying in colour schemes, roofing, façade material, entryways, etc. (Thus for Markelius, one of the significant Swedish inventions of the 1930s and 1940s, was the transition from ‘broad houses’ of 14 – 16 metres wide to lamella houses, 8-10 metres wide. This was due to the idea that an ‘hygienic’ and liveable apartment must cut across the building from wall to wall in order to receive light and air from both sides.108) Open to experimentation they are constructed in daring designs like ‘star houses’, low point blocks, terrace blocks with maisonettes, and circular blocks.109 Adjacent porticos assure that children can run safely from one inner courtyard with plants and playgrounds to another without trespassing trafficked streets. Worth mentioning in this category of low multi-family housing are Paul Hedquist’s cross-shaped houses, surrounded by greenery. Allowing for maximum natural light, the standard size of the then spacious apartments is 3.8 rooms (including the kitchen), distributed over 60 square metres.110 On a general level, 36 percent of the flats consists of two rooms plus kitchen and bath, 27 percent has three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, 11 percent has four rooms, 5 percent is larger than four, whilst 21 percent are of miscellaneous sizes, e.g. special flats for elderly. Other dwelling types include terrace houses with maisonettes adapted to the terrain such as Jon Höjer and Sture Ljungqvist’s ‘accordion-like’ houses at Mörsilgatan (1953 – 54), east of the Solursparken (the Solar Clock Park), but also curvy ‘Y houses’ or ‘star houses’ (stjärnhus), ‘chain houses’ (kedjehus) and round houses. Adding to the general impression of variation, construction methods vary from brick wall, over in situ carved concrete to prefabricated elements. In 1953 – 54, Svenska Bostäder executed the first ‘experiment houses’ in Grimsta, one point block and three lamella houses:

107.  Sweden’s first point blocks at Danvisklippan (1944 – 45), designed by Reinius and Backström, became internationally famous and worked as a model for the early high-rise blocks in Britain. Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 45. 108.  Sven Markelius: “Relation of dwelling type and plan to layout of residential quarter”, in The relation between dwelling type and plan and the layout of residential quarter, Lissabon: International Congress for Housing and Planning XXI, 1952, p. 38. 109.  Giorgio Gentili: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958, p. 9. 110.  In the pioneer years the average rent in Vällingby was $ 430 per year – 95 percent was rental housing while 5 percent was cooperative housing in 1957. Kidder Smith: Op. cit., p. 110.

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Domino-like terrace houses were able to follow the site’s topography in an organic way.

This so-called ‘experiment house’ in Grimsta integrated new industrialised building methods as one of the first. Ulrika Sax: “Vällingby - ett levande drama”. Stockholm: Stockholmia, 1998.

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the outer wall is a traditional brick wall, while the inner wall is of concrete, allowing for an experimental floor plan with direct access to the bathroom from the kitchen. Thus, the minutely designed Vällingby experimented with the industrialised methods, later associated with the Million Program New Towns. In 1956, Svenska Bostäder implemented full prefab construction in the ‘experiment houses’ of the neighbourhoods Silvret and Uranet. 24,000 elements (inner walls, bathroom floor, joists, beams, etc.) for 432 flats were transported to Grimsta on special truck devices from the company’s enterprise in Edsberg, Sollentuna.111 New production methods were also used in Hjalmar Klemming’s apartment houses, made of prefabricated concrete panels: By means of a travelling crane, the two-storey industrialised units were dry-erected in situ. All the apartments have two balconies, facing each side, a utility core in the centre, separate toilet and bathroom; access to the bedrooms goes through the combined kitchen-dining room that was cutting-edge at the time.112 Next to Vällingby Centrum, the new row house typologies were among the architecture, most frequently visited in the New Town. Although row houses were not a widespread dwelling type in Sweden, the young architects of Stockholm’s urban planning office Sture Ljungqvist, Jon Höjer and Josef Stäck considered them to be a pragmatic and ‘sufficiently egalitarian’ solution for families: Contrary to freestanding single-family houses they occupied a smaller part of the total land area and they could

Row houses in Vällingby that also contains classical single-family houses, previously nicknamed public functionary villas.

111.  Ulrika Sax, p. 45 -46. 112.  Kidder Smith: Op. cit. p. 113.

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23 d e Images of Jon Höjer and Sture Ljungqvist’s celebrated Atlantis row houses with kitchen-living room, housing Prime Minister Olof Palme and many architects. Gentili, Giorgio: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958.


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The row house neighbourhood Atlantis was one of the most celebrated in the 1950s with ultramodern kitchen-living room.

Palme-Nyhets Legendary Social Democratic Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme posing à la Kennedy with his family in front of his 102 square row house on Tornedalsgatan 18 located in the housing association Ateljén in the villa and row house area Vällingbyhöjden. They lived here since the area was built in the 1950s until they moved to another row house in the housing association Atlantis in 1968. In the beginning of the 1980s Lisbet and Olof moved to a flat in the inner city of Stockholm where they lived until the unresolved murder on Palme in 1986. The prominent citizen underlines the importance of Vällingby in the narrative of the post-war Swedish welfare state. (photo: Jan Deldén).

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easily be located within walking distance from Vällingby Centrum.113 Skilled landscape architects worked carefully to situate the row houses optimally, so each household has a tiny garden plus access to a large collective green space, nurtured by the inhabitants. In addition, most row house neighbourhoods include a collective building with a laundrette, sauna and playschool for children. Situated in attractive car-free park environments with playgrounds, many of the architects chose to settle in these row houses themselves.114 Moreover, they were relatively cheap and could be administered as rental, co-operative or own homes. Some of the row houses that made Vällingby famous, such as Ragnar Uppman’s Omega or Sture Ljungqvist and Jon Höjer’s Atlantis, are located further away next to residential villa neighbourhoods. Integrated into the solid granite rocks of their site on the outside, the interior centre of Atlantis is the ‘everyday room’ (dagligrummet), a combined kitchen and living room. From the beginning, these attached row houses were administered as a housing co-operative under a multi-ownership scheme, a so-called borättsförening. Initially, Stockholm’s real estate office and politicians demanded that households in Atlantis had minimum two children or one expecting and that they gave up their former dwelling to the City’s accommodation bureau.115 After the abandonment of the original plans of single-family houses in the Grimsta Woods, such dwellings were only built north of the Tunnelbana line. Many of the freestanding 70 – 80 m2 single-family houses on 500 m2 plots were a product of the single-family housing bureau of Stockholm’s real estate office, SMÅA. There was a long queue of people waiting for constructing their own house with 3 – 4 rooms, kitchen and an excavated basement, financed with a loan of 90 percent of the value - the rest relied on the coming inhabitants’ own effort.116 Nicknamed ‘public servant villas’, single-family houses (row houses and chain houses) were also constructed on contract where the owner paid an investment instead of contributing with his own labour.117 While young families were the typical Vällingby segment, there were some attempts on designing for a more mixed population. Svenska Bostäder built some integrated dwellings for elderly in Vittangigatan with one room and kichenette, constructed in a way so they could easily be fused with the neighbouring apartment. Another category of desired inhabitants for the modern and culturally ‘progressive’ New Town were artists. Svenska Bostäder’s architects designed special studio dwellings like the row

113.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 46. 114.  Ibid., p. 48. 115.  Ibid., p. 47.

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116.  According to the brochure Vällingby: företagens framtidsstad (Vällingby: the Future Town of Companies), 1952, many single-family houses were ‘to be built by the house owner himself.’ Stockholms Stads Fastighetsnämd/The City of Stockholm’s Real Estate Office: Vällingby: företagens framtidsstad. Stockholm: Hera/Ivar Hæggströms, 1952, p. 7. 117.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 49.


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house area Ateljén for the bohèmes of Stockholm’s artist enclave Klara, transformed into a tabula rasa during the urban development of Nedra Norrmalm. In many cases, the studio dwellings proved too expensive for an artist’s economy - yet, they also projected as part of the architecture in the younger districts of Hässelby Gård and Hässelby Strand with Jöran Curman and Nils Gunnartz’s artists’ houses at Strandliden, close to the lake Mäleren (1956 – 1957).118 While different designs of three-storey houses dominate in Vällingby core area, ‘point houses’ and elongated slabs (skivhus) came to play a more important in these later districts. In Hässelby Gård and Hässelby Strand apartments are generally smaller, while density is higher than in other districts of the Vällingby Group. (As the Italian architect Giorgio Gentili remarks: ‘Despite the preservation of the woodland character, a dramatic impression of the surrounding massive building can be experienced here and there.’119) Yet, some variation is obtained through juxtaposition between taller multi-storey blocks and lower three-storey buildings. In the central area of Hässelby Strand, rocks and trees intersect with numerous specimens of a new building type - slab blocks with six or more storeys, piling up like a wall. Following the hilly terrain, smaller groups of terrace houses picturesquely face the Lake Mälar, the natural limit of the New Town.

ADDED VALUE TO THE CROWN JEWEL Although most architecture in Vällingby was constructed prior to 1960, some additions and refurbishments have taken place in the subsequent decades. Only twelve years after the inauguration in 1954, Vällingby Centrum underwent a redevelopment, encouraged by a growth of users with new habits and living standards. Thus, one of the fault lines of Vällingby’s planning scheme, relying on the Tunnelbana as main traffic artery, was the underestimation of the attraction for families to own a Volvo or Saab as a flexible means of conveyance – especially if they were not among the lucky ones working locally. If a driving visitor could find a free parking space in Vällingby Centrum, short parking permissions granted little time to stroll, shop, browse, hang out, attend a meeting or a dentist appointment in the centre: just 24 minutes for shoppers and 33 minutes for people, frequenting offices, shops or restaurants in the debut years.120 Hence, 40 millions SEK were invested in the expansion of the centre with a new parking house, extending the total number of parking spaces from 600 to 1250. According to

118.  Ibid., p. 52. 119.  Giorgio Gentili: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958, p. 12. 120.  Giorgio Gentili: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958, p. 6.

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23 d e Collective housing in the outer districts Hässelby Gård and Hässelby Strand where housing is generally taller and denser. Gentili, Giorgio: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958.


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Vällingby Centrum’s first director, Albert Aronsson another planning blunder was that shopping areas were not planned flexible enough for the expansions, urgently needed for practically all the shops within a decade. Furthermore, there was a huge problem with the indoor climate, caused by the frequent use of artificial light sources inside the shops, demanding a rethinking of the ventilation system.121 At the re-inauguration of Vällingby Centrum in 1966, a new building next to the cinema Fontänen with a hotel, primarily serving employees of the medical centre, a police headquarter and shops had been added. In addition, a building by VIAK with a department store, shops and offices and a special shopping building, upgraded the centre to the lifestyle of the 1960s. Located between the streets Pajalagatan and Ångermannagatan, the latter one actually consisted of two interconnected volumes. Known as the cobber houses (kopparhusen), they mixed many functions: a ballet school, a dentist, a systembolag (an liquor store owned by the state), Bredenberg’s fashion store and an insurance company. In 1967, a swimming bath and a sports hall were opened. After the expansion, the size of Vällingby Centrum had increased to 100,000 square meters, of which Svenska Bostäder constructed and managed 87 percent. Within a decade the total shopping area had almost doubled, office space had expanded by 45 percent and storages grown considerately. The two department stores Tempo and Konsum were now twice as big, while 20 new shops had opened.122 In the mid-1960s, Svenska Bostäder also installed a series of public art works, including sculptures and the solar clock at the green park area Hellikopterfältet, directly north of Vällingby Centrum. The rebuilding and growth of Vällingby Centrum in 1966 mirror the development of building methods over 15 years: While the original part of the early 1950s were constructed almost entirely with traditional building methods, the later parts of the 1960s preferred prefabricated elements.123 In 1972, another extension of Vällingby Centrum happened towards the west with two new office buildings, e.g. the social services department. Vällingby’s ‘silverwedding’ (1979) was an occasion to reflect upon the future of the New Town. From the following debates an idea competition about further expansions was launched in 1984. At the same time, some of the small apartments in a punkthus at the main square were converted into offices for the regional police. In 1987, the National Heritage Foundation (Riksantikvarieämbetet) listed Vällingby Centrum as patrimony of ‘kingdom interest’, while a health centre was added to the medical centre. After new debates about the potentials of the now listed New Town and an idea competition for customers and

121.  See Albert Aronsson: ”Centrum”, in Byggforum, nr. 7, 1963, p. 9 - 15. 122.  Albert Aronsson: ”Från Bondby till Stor-Vällingby”, in Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 2 – 3. 123.  Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 11.

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inhabitants, organised by the Business Association (Företagereföreningen) in 1988, Vällingby’s 35th birthday was celebrated with an exhibition and other discussion fora. Suggestions included new office and apartment spaces for elderly and young people, expansion of parking areas, extension of the bus terminal, a new culture house and additional park areas. During the 1990s some of these ideas were put into practice: In 1990, 80 new flats, a day care and a garage were built by Svenska Bostäder in Arkivbläcket, in 1993, a new glassed shopping arcade in the main centre building opened with various new shops, and in 1994 the library was rebuilt. While blocks of walk-up flats were built on empty plots along the streets Kirunagatan 24 and Lyckselevägen 31 in the early 1990s, the police headquarter in Vällingby Centrum was redesigned into flats for elderly in 1996. In spite of all these renewals and occasional change of functionalities, the original features of the listed patrimony of Vällingby Centrum are cherished and many details have been renovated into their 1950s appearance. For instance, Svenska Bostäder has restored the façade of the cinema Fontänen (1956) with the characteristic mosaic and aluminium gutters. Yet, the iconic cinema has been completely transformed: The architectural office Scheiwiller Svensson has redesigned it into a Filmstad (Film City) with several screens and the newest technology in underground level, so the alterations are invisible from the outside. Thus, the recent refurbishments are of different degrees of visibility. In 2006, a new master plan for Vällingby by the City of Stockholm, Svenska Bostäder and the architectural office White won a prestigious planning award and in March 27, 2008, Vällingby Centrum was re-inaugurated.124 Re-baptised into Vällingby City, Gert Wingård’s blood-red retail store Kfem became Vällingby’s new landmark. The idea is to keep the centre open and welcoming although a rainproof glass roof, sheltering the customers, is now covering it. Combining the local and the global, the paving in the walking street, traversing the main square, has been reconstructed as a replica of the 1950s geometrical pattern, while the lower floor of the ‘authentic’ restaurant Vällingehus has been converted into a multi-ethnic food hall. In the coming years, the regeneration process initiated in the centre is meant to generate further conversions, renovations and construction of new dwellings with a mix of ownerships in other districts of the Vällingby Group. Thus, new plans are in the ladle for the district centre of Hässelby Strand. The old centre by Stig Ancker, Bengt Gate and Sten Lindegren with low and dense buildings, recalling Rotterdam’s shopping area, is to be torn down and replaced by new centre buildings with more dwellings.125 In an interview made during the research for this article, an employee of Svenska

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124.  White Architects’ website: white.se 125.  The website of the City of Stockholm: www.stockholm.se/Fristaende-webbplatser/Fackforvaltningssajter/Exploateringskontoret/Ovriga-byggprojekt-i-Vasterort/Hasselby-Strand/


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Bostäder, still the administrator of most rental flats in Vällingby, stated that in many cases the 1950s standard is better than that of the 21st century.126 The housing organisation has done some reparation work, e.g. new kitchens and bathrooms, yet the original planning solutions often stay unchanged. There are only few cases of major rebuildings where the inhabitants have been evacuated and flats have been fused together. Still, many consider the standard size of the 1950s apartments too small for a family and new housing experiments have taken place, e.g. the 16 self-build singlefamily houses in Grimsta. Constructed as Stockholm’s first self-build row houses with right of habitation, they were constructed by the inhabitants on initiative of Svenska Bostäder in the early 1990s.

CITY OF THE FUTURE OR THE QUEEN OF WHITE SLUM

Today, Vällingby Centrum has become Vällingby City. Additions includes this glassed roof.

Vällingby is worth studying for cities and towns of our time, launching costly campaigns in the ‘urban competition’ of branding an identity, attracting the ‘right’ inhabitants, investments and enterprises. Early on, the ABC-Town understood the importance of mention and marketing - it was one of the first to be promoted so consciously and consequently. Long before it was realised, Vällingby became an event and a brand: Stockholm’s real estate office hired a PR-man, while AB Svenska Bostäder engaged the part-time ‘branding consultant’ Axel Vänje. Two of Vänje’s brilliant ideas were Vällingby’s logo, the turning V-sign in neon, visible from all angles, and the design of illustrative signs, signalling the character of the shops in Vällingby Centrum. In two weeks, the exhibition Vi bygger en stad (We Build a Town), October 25 - November 9, 1952, curated by the City’s real estate office, attracted more than 100.000 visitors. As moviegoers would step into curious sci-fi universes in 1950s film theatres, spectators dived into a 3-D spectacle of designs, presented as the ‘City of the Future’. Models of Vällingby were displayed along with furnished 1:1 sample-apartments. Adding a historical memory to the generic New Town, future Vällingbies could also visit archaeological diggings of a Bronze Age settlement (some local shops – e.g. the grocery store Pärlan - were named after ongoing excavations).127 The popular interest in Sweden’s pioneer New Town repeated at the inauguration of Vällingby Centrum November 14, 1954, attracting a public of 75,000. Staging the event as a happening with speeches, performances, shop openings and fireworks, the

126.  Telephone interview with Kerstin Ahlin from AB Svenska Bostäder in Vällingby, conducted by the author in Stockholm, July 17, 2008.

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127.  Today, only a single small house remains from old Vällingby, the so-called Jan Pers stuga – a two-family house with apple and lilac trees from the second half of the 18th century near the streets Vittangigatan and Jämtlandsgatan. The previous owner had to move, because he could not afford to live in Vällingby. Antiquities include two offering stones, Älvkvarnstenarna, remaining at their original site, while Fornkullen, a graveyard from 550 - 800, has become part of a green park space.


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The ‘spin doctor’ Axel Vänje invented Vällingby’s V-sign logo as well as these iconic shop signs. Kidder Smith, G. E.: Sweden Builds, New York: Albert Bonnier, 1950/57.

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first director Albert Aronson made good use of his previous profession as a journalist. After one year, Vällingby Centrum’s birthday was celebrated with a big jamboree and ever since, jubilees and extensions of the centre have been fêted as important events, asserting a common identity and co-ownership. (Many well-liked performers began their career in Vällingby Centrum.128) Thus, Aronsson recognised how mass media played a crucial role in the success of Vällingby and knew how to press the right buttons. With popular statements he communicated the top-down vision of planners, politicians and investors to laypeople, while inviting them to leave their own mark on it through living, working and (not least) consuming in the New Town:

‘It is people’s own engagement in what is happening and taking place, what is good and bad that makes a town lively. We who are busy with the problem of town building should not go too far in our endeavour of serving everything on a plate…Yet, the game – life itself – shall be formed by those who work, live and are active there. It is the inhabitants who shall act.’ 129

In most medias the mention of Vällingby was exceedingly positive: Close to the inauguration, the ‘lobbyist’ Axel Vänje made a deal with the Social Democratic newspaper Morgontidningen about a special Vällingby edition. Here, the New Town was depicted as the quintessence of the Swedish Model, rather similar to Nehru’s Congress Party’s perception of Chandigharh as an emblem of postcolonial India. Soon, the word spread outside of Sweden, i.e. as reportages in architectural journals worldwide and documentaries by Danish and American television. Yet, there were exceptions; not everybody sang along on the hymns.130 In 1955, the magazine Se did a photo reportage entitled ”Is Vällingby the right solution?” Describing the New Town as ‘pure porn’, a product of what is ironically described as a uniform and inflexible ‘five-year plan’, the reportage proclaimed: ‘People have got Vällingby fever.’ Se‘s list of symptoms of this ‘illness’ was long:

128.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 71.

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129.  Albert Aronsson: ”Centrum”, in Byggforum, nr. 7, 1963, p. 13 (author’s translation). 130.  Albert Aronson: ”Vällingby Centrum från idé til verklikhet”, in Byggmästaran, 1956, No A4, p. 79.


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‘Vällingby is a blunder! One doesn’t solve the housing problem in a city by forcing people to move to the countryside. The whole centre idea is done in a wrong way. There is already traffic chaos. Where is the ‘tomorrow’ in the buildings. The same old uniform 3-storey houses between the high-rise buildings. They create melancholy and heart diseases. Doesn’t one think about the old people? Does standardisation necessarily imply monotony of the apartments? Much attention has been drawn towards Vällingby as a self-sufficient town. Will one ever reach this goal? Does one really think that it is possible to create a town with one restaurant, one cinema, one theatre and some assembly halls in the centre when the inhabitants have a city around the corner? Will Vällingby within foreseeable time become something else than an affected society? Just look at folks on the streets. Even the people are rectified. Hardly any teenagers or elderly. How can there be any traditions? How shall Vällingby ever become something other than a sleeping town like all the others?’ 131

Echoing such unconvinced arguments, a 1956 article in the tabloid paper Expressen, criticised ‘the commercial bubble Vällingby’. The writer Per-Anders Fogelström describes the New Town as a ‘sleeping town’ randomly superimposed on some ‘leftover farms’, creating an undesirable (sub)urban environment he designates as ‘the queen of white slum’:

131.  Se reportage: ”Is Vällingby the right solution?”, in Se, October 21 – 28, 1955, p. ?? (author’s translation).

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‘All the talk about the town at the countryside and sun and greenery and the children at the green paths – it probably lies well in a speaker’s mouth, nothing but beautiful words. Postcards with summer greenery. However fall with stinking mud against white facades, smashed lamps at the green path, storm around the thoroughfare streets, the impossibility to get the baby carriage down the Tunnelbana stairs…Through an exertion one wanted to make the dream about the island in the forest to cogent reality. And what did it become? I insist on what I have said: the queen of white slum.’ 132

Some Vällingbies had local jobs, although not as many as envisioned. Mobilisation of female employees contributed to Vällingby’s image of the ‘City of the Future’. Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966.

In Byggmästaran (1956), Markelius gave an answer to such accusations, explaining that it was too ‘hasty’ to judge about the success of the social experiment Vällingby after two years. At the same time, he admitted that the marketing campaigns, stimulating 277

132.  Per Anders Fogelström in Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 60 – 61 (author’s translation).


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public interest had been ‘more popular than exact’. Even so, he highlighted the wonder of a society, rising from tabula rasa in five years time in spite of severe housing shortage and other restrictions on urban development. Moreover, he emphasised that Vällingby and later New Towns in the Stockholm region were never planned to become fully independent like their British counterparts: The distance to important workplaces in ‘the magnet Stockholm City was way too short’. Stockholm’s consistent labour market, benefiting employed and employees alike, hindered that 100 percent of the local labourforce would be able to bike or walk to work. Efficient Tunnelbana and bus connections made it easy to commute from the satellite towns to the city, whereas the distribution of local workplaces and the attraction of settling outside of the city core produced nicer living environments and smoother infrastructure between different districts of the Stockholm region rather than high pressure in one direction (towards the city centre):

‘The independency, the self-sufficiency is a question of wellbeing, convenience and sensible organisation. However, it does not mean isolation. The Stockholmer in Vällingby, Högdalen and Farsta still remains Stockholmer just like people from Östermalm, Södermalm or Kungsholmen.’ 133

The career as stewardess-like hostess, guiding groups of tourists around the ‘City of the Future’, was the most exotic among job possibilities for the newly mobilised female workforce.

Similar to the media craze, surrounding contemporary reality TV shows like Big Brother or Robinson, the social experiment Vällingby caught the attention of myriads of people that wanted to see for themselves. Busses with Swedish and international tourists – a broader public than the usual suspects of architects and historians - did sightseeing in the ABC-Town sensation far into the 1960s. Among the new jobs, created for the recently mobilised female workforce, the most out of the ordinary was no doubt the career as Fröken Vällingby (Miss Vällingby): coquettish hostesses in stewardess-like uniforms who smilingly guided groups of visitors around. Perhaps, the huge outbreak of 133.  Sven Markelius: ”Stockholm’ s struktur”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3, p. 54 (author’s translation).

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‘Vällingby Fever’ in the pioneer years can be explained by the fact that the foundation of a new Swedish lifestyle, based on the neighbourhood principle, was laid in Vällingby.134 Centred on the vision of the neighbourhood to create local ties, community and wellbeing, Vällingby may have been the ‘City of the Future’, after all.

PLEASANTVILLE - INSTANT COMMUNITY Planned according to common standards, meant to guarantee happiness and prosperity to as many as possible, Vällingby has often been envisioned as an ideal society, embodying the Swedish Model. Markelius’ ABC-Town concept was an ‘integrated’ planning, underpinned by an egalitarian Social Democratic utopia, striving to find equilibrium between binaries like integration/segregation, homogeneity/ heterogeneity, collectivism/individualism, Socialist/Capitalist, private/public, work life/ private life, etc. Equating life and architecture, Markelius and Sidenbladh participated in the social engineering of the welfare state in pursuit of harmony and happiness:

‘All of us [Swedish planners and architects] are doing our best to create a human milieu for people’s work and leisure. And we are trying to make real their dreams of new homes – better, brighter and more convenient than they live in now.’ 135

Continuously focusing on the healthy, the educating and the edifying, Vällingby with the victorious V-sign logo was never intended as one of the New Towns, functioning like a NIMBY valve, relieving the inner city for people outside the norm: it did not become a container of institutions for handicapped, mentally ill or incurables.136 Nor did it cultivate a support group for the Algerian liberation movement FLN or a branch

134.  Thomas Millroth & Peter Skoglund: Op. cit., p. 107. 135.  Sven Markelius and Göran Sidenbladh: ”Town Planning in Stockholm: Housing and Traffic”, in Ten Lectures on Swedish Architecture. Stockholm: Svenska Arkitekters Riksförbund, 1949, p. 78.

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136.  Here I am refering to a quote by the sociologist Lennart Holm: ’The master plan for the suburbs also includes certain establishments, such as mental hospitals and institutions for incurables, which do not need to be centrally located.’ Lennart Holm (ed.): ”The Master Plan for Stockholm and Master Plans for Some Other Swedish Towns”, in Att Bo, Special issue (1953), p. 8.


Youngsters in the youth club Tegelhögen, in the ‘60s.

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Children taking dance class in the assembly hall Trappan. In 1966, it was managed by the local assembly hall association, joining about seventy local organisations. Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966.

Kindergarten children and the active library in Vällingby Centrum in 1966. Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966.

Youngsters in the youth club Tegelhögen, 1966. Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966.

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of the leftist post-1968 counterculture.137 Even though some fights took place between the tough beer-drinking, skinhead-like sunar and the more peaceful, longhaired mods in the mid-sixties, the local youth culture could largely be contained in the youth club Tegelhögen.138 In agreement with the ABC-Town ideal, Vällingby became a bastion of democracy and participation (although many activities were planned as public services). In 1956, approximately 30 local associations, organisations and clubs joined in a self-governed association, Vällingby medborgarhusförening (Vällingby assembly hall association), administrating public rooms and facilities. In 1966, the number of organisations and clubs (political, religious, women, sports, elderly, youth, hobby, etc.) had grown to 70.139 In the assembly hall Trappan Vällingby inhabitants from 4 years up danced ballet, while housewives weaved tapestries, voluntaries did education work, and pensioners played chess or bridge. All of them joined in festivities like Christmas markets, Easter celebrations and children’s parties.140 There was a lively church life around a Swedish state church, an ecumenical church and other religious communities. A subsection of Stockholm’s Stadsteater (city theatre) was built into läroverket (the high school), whereas more social needs were satisfied in a mothers’ organisation, a public dentist, an employment service, and two medical centres, a public and a private. There were a premiere cinema and a library with Sunday openings, discotheque, author’s talks, concerts and 175.000 annual loans. During the day the youth club Tegelhögen, managed by shift, was a meeting place for students with different day courses, homework assistance and a hangout with soda pop and newspapers; at night it opened for other activities such as record listening, pop concerts, ceramics, woodwork, and cooking classes.141 In the Vällingby core area (Vällingby-Råcksta-Grimsta), there were three schools (two for lower and middle levels and one for all three levels) with 3,800 pupils in 160 classes, a gymnasium with 500 students, a grundskolehögstadium (upper level of compulsory school) with 650 students, three daycares plus another two in preparation, nine playschools, and two after school centres for children of working mothers in 1966. At least on the surface, the media-conscious New Town looked like the happy ‘Pleasantville’, early associated with its planning and lifestyle, presented in glossy magazines and propaganda campaigns. Meanwhile, a lively debate about qualities and failures of the New Town – hidden school toilets, expansion of football fields, etc. unfolded in the pioneer years.142 By the same token, Vällingby Centrum’s director 137.  While a few hardcore enthusiasts frequented Forum Vänster (Forum Left) in Vällingby, such activism had much more support in neighbouring villa suburbs like Bromma. Thomas Millroth & Per Skoglund: Op. cit., p. 16. 138.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 129 139.  Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 6. 140.  Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 17. 141.  Albert Aronsson: ”Från Bondby till Stor-Vällingby”, in Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 4. 142.  Albert Aronson: ”Vällingby Centrum från idé til verklikhet”, in Byggmästaran, 1956, No A4, p. 79.

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23 d e The City of Stockholm’s Real Estate Office promised that dads would be able to eat lunch at home thanks to the ABC-Town’s integration of work, housing, and shoppingcum-community centre. The City of Stockholm’s Real Estate Office: Vällingby: företagens framtidsstad. Stockholm: Hera/ Ivar Hæggströms, 1952.

Albert Aronson used a rhetoric against the grain at the inauguration, November 14 1954, although Vällingby was usually envisioned as the perfect embodiment of the Swedish Model. Acknowledging imperfections and the value of bottom-up inputs of daily life experience, he expressed hope for Vällingby to become a real town - ‘a living drama’ rather than a ‘pattern town’.143 In 1956, Aronsson described a shift from a planned utopia to a lived heterotopia:

143.  In an article in Byggforum published at the occasion of the re-inauguration of Vällingby Centrum in 1966, Aronsson recalls how he concluded his opening speech 12 years earlier with the hope for the New Town to become a ‘living drama’: ‘When will Vällingby be completely finished? Never!...No living town will ever be finished. The richer life in Vällingby, the more need for constant additions, expansions and extensions. Now we wait for the social tensions and conflicts of the industrial companies, the competing businesses, the institutions and the fight over the souls to become so big, lively and changing that it creates a living drama – a drama that prevents Vällingby from becoming a ’pattern society’. The worst thing that could happen…The best thing about Vällingby are the mistakes.’ Albert Aronsson: ”Centrum”, in Byggforum, nr. 7, 1963, p. 9 -10 (author’s translation).


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‘A part of the life that takes place there [in Vällingby] is propaganda products. Meanwhile, this directed propaganda has faded out. However, life in Vällingby doesn’t just go on like it began but becomes richer and more intensive each month. Now the people act themselves without injections. What was suggestion has now become reality.’ 144

The creation of the novel ‘pattern society’ Vällingby, imaging a microcosm of the welfare state, was largely a product of the ruling Social Democratic Party, backed up by a group of sociologists, culture workers, debaters, architects, and popular movements. Situated in between the urban and the rural, the ABC-Town was intended to balance life between the poles of industrial progress and harmony with nature. Workers would become more productive and lead better, healthier lives thanks to fresh air and short distances to their workplace. Integration of professional and private life was planned according to Markelius’ ‘walk-to-work’ ideal by means of a rigorous path system, local workplaces and easy access to the Tunnelbana. Intending to spur this development, the City of Stockholm published the brochure Vällingby: företagens framtidsstad (Vällingby: the Future Town of Companies) 1952. Companies, industries and businesses were encouraged to strike camp and settle in Vällingby in order to create happy and efficient providers:

‘The majority of the inhabitants are estimated to live so close to the work place that they have to walk or bicycle 15 minutes there at the most. They shall be able to eat lunch at home and have more time left for recreation and their family. Result: better wellbeing with better work conditions, more efficient performance.’ 145

144.  Albert Aronsson: ”Vällingby Centrum fra idé till verklighet”, in Byggmästaren, nr. A4, 1956, p. 78 (author’s translation). 145.  Stockholms Stads Fastighetsnämd/The City of Stockholm’s Real Estate Office: Vällingby: företagens framtidsstad. Stockholm: Hera/Ivar Hæggströms, 1952, p. 5 (author’s translation).

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23 d e The City of Stockholm’s Real Estate Office published a brochure to attract trades and industries (1952) under the banner ‘Fresh air for companies’, typically juxtaposing the polluted, congested city and the clean, ordered New Town. The City of Stockholm’s Real Estate Office: Vällingby: företagens framtidsstad. Stockholm: Hera/ Ivar Hæggströms, 1952.


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Rendering of the pedestrian-friendly Vällingby Centrum: ‘No car traffic will disturb the shopping housewives.’ The City of Stockholm’s Real Estate Office: Vällingby: företagens framtidsstad. Stockholm: Hera/Ivar Hæggströms, 1952.

Unfortunately, the brochure’s prophecy proved too optimistic. The amount of actualised local work places never matched the visions of the master plan although a series of flagship projects paved the way: Zoning laws provided a whole industrial area, Johannelund, with its own Tunnelbana station, while headquarters of Konsumentverkat and Svenska Bostäder opened in Vällingby Centrum in addition to that of the National Power Board Vattenfall in Råcksta. Insecure about the prospects of the New Town, many businesses and industries awaited the outcome of the New Town experiment. Most enterprises settled in Vällingby Centrum or industrialised zones like Johannelund almost 10 years later than planned. New jobs were few because this moving out happened after the pioneer inhabitants were accommodated and the media success of the New Town was a reality.146 For these reasons, there were more shops and office jobs although Vällingby was planned to have the majority employed in industries – in 1956 there were 507 employed in industry compared to 1,447 employed in shops and offices.147 According to the art historian Thomas Millroth, growing up in Vällingby as a

146.  Axel Wennerholm, former managing director of the Stockholm Retail Federation, highly influential on the planning of Vällingby Centrum, later recalled: ’Shopkeepers felt they would be taking a great risk and said: ’My business had been in the downtown area since my grandfather’s time. What the hell, who is going to live out in Vällingby? I mean, just think of the name of it – Porrridge Town. But, retailers did accept shops there, and those visionary – or lucky – ones made a fortune.’ (To be precise välling actually means gruel and not porridge in Swedish.) David Pass: Vällingby and Farsta – from Idea to Reality: The New Community Development Process in Stockholm. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, UK: MIT Press, 1969, p. 123. 147.  Giorgio Gentili: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958, p. 5.

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child of New Town pioneers in the 1950s, the lack of local workplaces undermined the original intention of strong neighbourhood ties. While the children of his walk-up flat block in Jämtlandsgatan met in school, at the playground or at the day care between the houses, they rarely visited their playmates privately. Collectivism and community were encouraged everywhere in the planning of Vällingby. Still, there was a lack of a genuine meeting ground of professional communities around the workplace that was constituted naturally in inner city Stockholm. Neighbours in Vällingby were rarely colleagues, so the reason for socialising could sometimes be difficult to find. Somehow the planned community was not a real community mirroring the production.148 Yet, Vällingby succeeded to rethink the labour market in tandem with the Collective Housing Unit, invented by Alva Myrdal and Markelius some 20 years before: The planning of Vällingby considered the resource and potential of a new female workforce. Thus, various social services (day care, playschools, laundrettes, etc.) were incorporated into the plan as natural components of a good and functional living environment for busy inhabitants. New ‘feminine workplaces’ also produced more welfare and spending power than families, relying on one provider.149 Hence, new facilities for the ‘common good’ took over many of the functions that had previously been people’s own responsibility as part of the private sphere: Janitors looked after the courtyards, kindergartens took care of the children, the youth club Tegelhögen gave teenagers homework assistance and entertainment, Svenska Bostäder arranged the town’s Christmas decoration, ready-to-go meals could be bought in the supermarket, etc. By the same token, the habits and everyday life of the main characters of the New Town ‘drama’ - Vällingby’s pioneers - were scrutinized by experts of the state and municipality. An on-the-spot report in the magazine Se describes the relationship between residents and public authorities in 1955:

‘And then one can never be left in peace. People are staring through the window so one has a feeling of being social guinea pigs, registered in every unthinkable way. The authorities answer: - Yes it is true that we investigate. Vällingby invites to it. However the scrutiny is pure 148.  Thomas Millroth & Per Skoglund: Op. cit./Vällingby en Tidsbild av Vikt. Stockholm: Almlöfs Förlag, 2004, p. 25.

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149.  Hence, propaganda brochures such as the brochure Vällingby: företagens framtidsstad (Vällingby: the Future Town of Companies) underlined that more than half of the population in Vällingby would be between 20 – 45 years old, many of them ‘conveniently younger, married women’. Stockholms Stads Fastighetsnämd/The City of Stockholm’s Real Estate Office: Vällingby: företagens framtidsstad. Stockholm: Hera/Ivar Hæggströms, 1952, p. 4 – 5 (author’s translation).


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statistics and naturally it never gets personal. Moreover, it is for the benefit of the Vällingby residents.’ 150

Statistics and sociological reports, registering Vällingbies’ preferred shops and goods, transportation habits, the relationship between home and shopping for housewives etc., worked as a disciplining instrument and a guinea pig for future New Towns with a storcentrum main centre like Farsta and Högdalen.151 As objects/subjects of investigation of well-meaning planners and experts, some inhabitants began to long for intimacy and privacy. Although, the social engineering in Vällingby was practical in various ways, families sometimes felt the need to withdraw into the private sphere: On the one hand, some residents agreed with the happy statement of a Vällingby pioneer from the row houses in Grimsta: ‘When Vällingby was new it was an idyll here… Vällingby is so finely planned and is a wonderfully green area.’152 On the other hand, other inhabitants aspired to create their own space outside the conventions of ‘correct behaviour’, implicitly present as ritualised guidelines in many of the New Town’s social services.153 Like the popular character of Pippi Longstocking, there were those (like the self-made man the boxer Risberg and local rockbands) who were inclined to push the boundaries of the normativity and uniformity inherent in the Swedish Model of collectivism, integration, identity and egalitarianism.154 While some residents enjoyed the common facilities and participated actively in organisations, located in the assembly hall Trappan, others stopped using the collective laundrettes with special rules of conduct and invested in their own washing machine. Instead of going to the cinema Fontänen some people bought their own television, whereas more Volvos and Saabs began to compete with the Tunnelbana. Still, compared to the buzz of Stockholm there was a more relaxed and easy atmosphere in Vällingby that might be due to its smaller scale, the shared ‘pioneer experience’ and the natural surroundings. Thus, Albert Aronsson

150.  Se: ”Is Vällingby the right solution?”, in Se, October 21 – 28, 1955, p. ?? (author’s translation). 151.  One example of this the researcher Lars Persson of the Business Economic Research Institute at the Business School of Stockholm (Företagsekonomiska Forskningsinstitut vid Handelshögskolan). In 1960, he authored the report Kunderna i Vällingby: en undersökning om verksamheten i Vällingby Centrum och köpvanorna hos ivånarna i omgivande bostadsområde (The customers in Vällingby: an investigation of the activity in Vällingby Centrum and the shopping habits of the inhabitants in the surrounding housing area). Stockholm: Företagsekonomiska Forskningsinst. vid Handelshögskolan, 1960. Giorgio Gentili comments on the use of such reports: “It is obvious that knowledge as to these delicate phenomena in the function of a shopping centre is regarded as an extremely useful and indispensable base in the designing of suburbs to be built in the future.’ Giorgio Gentili: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958, p. 6. 152.  Vällingby pioneer in Ulrika Sax: Op.cit., p. 141. 153.  As Aronsson argues, a town is a collective and social entity per se and this fact invited the state to intervene in its development: ‘The town is the most ramified society formation created by man and perhaps after language the most advanced cultural product he has accomplished so far. The town presupposes coexistence between people, adaption and community. Nobody can manage alone. On the contrary – the more developed society becomes, the more complicated life becomes. And society itself must intervene in order to organise services on different levels, childcare, schools, medical care, elderly care, employment service, leisure.’ Albert Aronsson: ”Från Bondby till Stor-Vällingby”, in Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 4 (author’s translation). 154.  Millroth compares Vällingby to a crystal castle: as people began to see the castle as dogma and structure, they invented their own rules in its half shadow. Thomas Millroth & Per Skoglund: Op.cit., p. 107 .

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hails the intimacy and friendly attitude of the shops in Vällingby Centrum: ‘Friendly! Yes – the modest volume create conditions for friendliness. And friendliness is a good salesman among city people suffering of hunger for “love to thy neighbour”.’155 A contributing factor to some of the developments, described above, was probably also the fact that planners and politicians were ignoring or overlooking the class differences imbedded in the New Town. A smaller segment lived in row houses and villas, while the majority inhabited walk-up flats. This social gap became clear in Vällingby Centrum’s shopping mall where state planning and the capitalist market intersected in the formation of consumers’ identity and ability to buy: It became an important matter if you did your groceries in Leja or Kvickly, Crescent or Monark. Ipso facto, the New Town was designed as workers housing according to the ideology of Social Democratic egalitarianism, dominant at the time. Yet, in the late 1940s and 1950s Swedish architects and planners gave up the category of ‘housing for workers’, common in the 1920s and 1930s. At the end of WWII, it was not politically correct to talk about class anymore. Or rather, after the consolidation of Social Democratic hegemony and the implementation of Folkhemmet’s progressive housing policy, it seemed ‘self-evident’ that Sweden was a post-class society free of segregation and inequality.156 Based on a thick structure of sociological reports, statistics and other scientific measurements, Vällingby were presumably planned for everybody.157 When needs were no longer decided by class (however underpinned by working class standards) a series of standard facilities became universal: laundrettes, refuse chutes, hot water, shower, bicycle cellar, public transport, childcare, schools, etc. Practically everybody who moved into one of the rental flats in Vällingby, Råcksta and Grimsta during the 1950s got their new dwelling through the public housing service. Far into the 1960s, the immense housing queues in Stockholm made people accept whatever they could find and for many it was a coincidence that they ended up in Vällingby.158 As the welfare state of the Social Democratic Party gained momentum, the planning of Vällingby coincided with a new cultural policy, favouring education rather than agitation. Enlightenment of the people was a high priority and aesthetics was incorporated into the planning of the new society: In past generations, cooperative movements, study circles, trade unions, etc. had generated change. In the post war period, libraries, art galleries, art in public space, public art organisations such as 155.  Albert Aronson: ”Vällingby Centrum från idé til verklikhet”, in Byggmästaran, 1956, No A4, p. 79 (author’s translation). 156.  As an example of this attitude, the paper Skogsindustriarbetarn (The Forest Industry Worker) printed this victorious statement in 1945: ‘The Swedish working class is now more of a ruling class than it is submissive.’ Ibid., p. 54 (author’s translation).

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157.  Albert Aronsson specifically mentions the sociologist Dahlström’s report about the neighbourhood Söderort and Lennart Holm’s analysis of habits and patterns among the inhabitants in Svenska Bostäder’s apartments in Svedmyra and Kärrtorp as influential sources to the planning of Vällingby Centrum. Aronson, Albert: ”Vällingby Centrum från idé til verklikhet”, in Byggmästaran, 1956, No A4, p. 77. 158.  Ulrika Sax: Op.cit., p. 136.


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Föreningen för konst i skolan (The organisation for art in the school) of 1947, and the construction of 100 new assembly halls, the so-called Folkets Hus from 1945 onwards became new cultural and political bastions. A good and happy life became synonymous with a productive work life and a leisure time filled with healthy and meaningful activities. In Vällingby the library, the youth club, public art, the assembly hall Trappan, the cinema Fontänen, and the sports clubs offered myriads of activities for the residents. As Thomas Millroth writes:

‘Vällingby was created in the displacement from village to city from privatised economy to collective state, from an old-fashioned country marked by farm society and agriculture to a modern welfare state, from the organically growing city to the planned society; the suburb Vällingby became the materialisation of the ideological hopes that anticipated and followed the transformation.’ 159

VÄLLINGBY A SHRINKING TOWN In 1966, Albert Aronsson happily describes how ‘Greater Vällingby’ (the Vällingby Group plus Blackeberg, Norre Ängby and Södra Ängby) ‘belongs to the affluent parts of Stockholm’: The population has grown from 22,500 inhabitants in 1948 to a population of 85,000 with an average income of 12,000 SEK for all persons over 16 years old (considerably more than normal Stockholm standard).160 Yet, looking at the Vällingby core area, Aronsson’s optimism is perhaps a chocolate-box description. In the end of the 1950s, when the population in Vällingby peaked, 24,000 persons lived in the core area of Vällingby, Grimsta and Råcksta. In the mid-1960s, Vällingby Centrum was extended with half its size, although there were now 22,500 Vällingbies. Approximately a decade later (1974), the number of inhabitants had decreased to 15,600. In the late 1990s, only 13,400 residents lived in the inner parts of Vällingby. Thus, the social evolution of the by now ‘old’ New Town mirrors a general pattern of Swedish housing: The social mix in

159.  Thomas Millroth & Per Skoglund: Vällingby en Tidsbild av Vikt. Stockholm: Almlöfs Förlag, 2004, p. 107. 160.  Albert Aronsson: ”Från Bondby till Stor-Vällingby”, in Svenska Bostäder: Vällingby. Stockholm: AB Svenska Bostäder, 1966, p. 3.

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many neighbourhoods with multi-family housing was relatively diverse in the pioneer years. Meanwhile, a series of row houses and single-family houses were built in the neighbouring districts Vinsta, Nälsta, Kälvesta and Hässelby Villastrand during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some families, primarily functionaries and merchants, who felt short of space, and afforded the extra square meters, fled to these houses.161 Writing in 1998, however, the ethnologist Ulrika Sax explains Vällingby’s demographical changes with scarce construction of additional dwellings and lacking maintenance of the Vällingby Group in general and the Vällingby core area in particular. Originating from the 1950s, practically all dwellings in Vällingby, Grimsta and Råcksta needed reparations and improvements of water, sewage and electricity devices along with roofs, facades, windows, balconies and entryways. Since then, a renovation process has begun and accelerated in the inner districts as part of the aforementioned 2006 master plan by White. Nevertheless, many have moved because standards of space and comfort have changed over the last 54 years. Another factor to the change of demographics in the ‘old’ New Town is the aging of the population compared to the pioneer years (until 1966) when the population was young: 30 percent was children and only 2,6 percent elderly. Thus, a series of new dwellings for elderly, the majority Vällingby pioneers, have been built since the 1990s: many of the 1950s walk-up flats lack adequate facilities such as elevators and footpaths from single-family neighbourhoods to the Tunnelbana station or the centre can be long for a senior citizen. For instance, the former police headquarter in Vällingby Centrum has been renovated into flats for elderly. By the same token, pensioners now also use the youth club Tegelhögen as a meeting place for activities like card playing and gymnastics.162 Although Vällingby is both an aging and a ‘shrinking town’, a large percentage of the younger generations, the children and the grandchildren of the New Town pioneers, decide to stay or move back to Greater Vällingby (the Vällingby Group plus Blackeberg, Norre Ängby and Södra Ängby). Parallel to this ‘local patriotism’ a growing geographical dispersal shifts the scale of the local and national towards the regional and global. Some of the most obvious metamorphoses being the lower floor of the traditional Swedish restaurant Vällingehus, transforming into a global food hall, or the local Vällingby Centrum expanding into the regional attractor Vällingby City. Nonetheless, globalisation has left its imprint on other, less visible, levels. Like many other countries in the age of globalisation, many of the jobs in industry and trading of goods have disappeared. Important workplaces – especially within industry and trading goods – have disappeared or reduced in size since the mid-1980s (35 percent from the

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161.  Ibid., p. 137. 162.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 139.


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1988 to 1998).163 During the 1990s, the corporation Konsumentverkat moved from the industrial area Johannelund, while many enterprises and offices emptied. Moreover, the number of employees in the large office building of the National Power Board Vattenfall in Råcksta has decreased in tandem with the vacating of the company’s offices in Hässelby Gård. At present, less than half of the working population work locally, while the percentage of car-dependent commuters (with jobs spread out in the region) has gone up. In 1998, 15 percent of the total working population in Vällingby was employed locally, whereas 22 percent worked in another municipality.164 Meanwhile, the current revamping of Vällingby Centrum a.k.a. Vällingby City are expected to created more job possibilities. More women work in Vällingby than men; female workers frequently hold jobs in the manufacturing industry, service and care, at workplaces situated close to the home and on part-time basis while the children are small. As in the 1950s, most local workplaces are located in Vällingby Centrum, Vattenfall’s headquarter and the hospital in Råcksta, and enterprises in Johannelund, now renamed into Vinsta Företagsområde (Vinsta Company Area). Many of the small neighbourhood shops are closed or are transformed into night open shops such as pizzerias, video shops or tobacco shops. Other empty shops are converted into offices and workshops. In spite of these shifts, there is still an active association life at the sports grounds, the assembly hall Trappan, the four park playgrounds, managed by the private company Vällingby Fritids AB (Vällingby Leisure ltd.) or in the youth club Tegelhögen. Of course the nature of activities have altered according to taste and hype, so the youth club now offer hiphop dance, solarium, skateboarding, etc. Apart from such global youth culture phenomena, globalisation is manifest in another way in Tegelhögen. Kids from the neighbouring New Town Tensta-Rinkeby, most of them of ‘other ethnic origin than Swedish’, take the bus from the southern part of Järvafältet to hang out in the public and, as it were, free youth club. Especially, the Saturday night discos are well visited by hundreds of young lads from the outside, around 90 percent of the visitors. Because of occasional fights between rivalling ‘gangs’ from Tensta-Rinkeby, many of the local youths prefer to hang out on cafés or discos in central Stockholm – if they don’t meet at the local Macdonald’s, one of the few places in Vällingby Centrum that is open after 11 pm.165 Several teenagers in Vällingby commute the other way to the upper secondary school Tensta Gymnasium. Ten years ago, most youngsters preferred to buy clothes in chic fashion stores in inner city districts like Södermalm, while their parents and

163.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 153. 164.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 153. 165.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 151.

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grandparents continued to shop in Vällingby Centrum. Rebranded as Vällingby City with the fancy fashion store Kfem, this might change: After a long and difficult rebuilding period where clients and shop owners deserted the centre, many now have the desire to move back as new client groups are attracted to Vällingby.166 Regardless of such optimistic prospects, the difference between certain parts of Vällingby and Tensta-Rinkeby are probably not as drastic as you might think, browsing through the newspapers. In a recent report, Johan Rådberg, director of a large research project about segregation and attraction in the Stockholm region (1995 – 2000), describes a general tendency to polarisation within the region. According to Rådberg, villa suburbs and regenerated parts of the inner city experience fast social upgrading, while neighbourhoods with collective housing with a high concentration of ’ressource-weak’ and ’immigrants’ become ’declassé’. Juxtaposing, ‘attractive’ and ‘unattractive’ housing, he attributes much of the blame to the (once celebrated) architecture:

‘The problem of segregation not only concerns a handful of stigmatised ’problem neighbourhoods’ of the Million Program (as it is sometimes presented by the mass media). All neighbourhoods who are dominated by unattractive architecture risk social declassification.’ 167

Rådberg argues that it is not only the Million Program New Towns, habitually depicted as ’ghettos’, but also New Towns with high-rise built in 1955-65 who live through ’fast declassification’. Specifically, he mentions Farsta, Högdalen and Rågsved, south of Stockholm in addition to Vällingby, Råcksta, Blackeberg and Hässelby.168 Although Vällingby has experienced an influx of inhabitants of ‘other ethnicities’, following the liberal Swedish immigration laws in the decades after the inauguration in 1954, Vällingby has not turned into a ‘ghetto’ New Town like Tensta-Rinkeby where ‘resource-weak’ immigrants and their relatives are a majority. As mentioned, many of the New Town pioneers and their younger generation family tend to stay or move back to Vällingby. Yet, for ‘resource-weak’ families it can be a problem to find another place to live whether they move from a rental flat in say Tensta or Hässelby Gård because of high

166.  Telephone interview with Kerstin Ahlin from AB Svenska Bostäder in Vällingby, conducted by the author in Stockholm, July 17, 2008. See also Vällingby City’s website: www.vallingbycity.se/, Kfem Retail store´s website: www.kfem.se/ and White Architects’ website: white.se

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167.  Johan Rådberg: ”Segregation och attraktivitet”, in Arkitektur, Vol. 2, March, 2006, p. 40 (author’s translation). 168.  Ibid., p. 38.


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real estate prices and long queues for dwellings in ‘high status’ neighbourhoods.169 In this process, ‘socially ambitious’ people from Tensta-Rinkeby (‘ethnic Swedish’ as well as ‘new Swedish’) alternatively move to Vällingby. While crime rates grew during the 1990s with vandalism, robberies and occasional drug selling, it has diminished in recent years. Different safety initiatives were launched by Svenska Bostäder: Locks were installed on cellar doors, trees and bushes were trimmed, new lampposts and cameras were placed strategically, and mobilisation campaigns were initiated in order to inspire the inhabitants to feel ownership and take responsibility for their neighbourhood. Segregation was probably always present within the social gaps between the different neighbourhoods and dwelling types, represented in the integral ABCTown. Nevertheless, it has become more visible as publicly allotted rental flats have become déclassé (or perhaps even stigmatised) housing. While non-profit organisation Svenska Bostäder continuous to be the dominant administrator of dwellings, there have been experiments with alternative ownerships and housing typologies in some neighbourhoods, following Rådberg’s advice to ’built nothing unattractive’ and ’change the unattractive so it becomes attractive!’170 One example is the 16 self-build row houses in Grimsta, constructed by the inhabitants in the mid-1990s on initiative of Svenska Bostäder as Stockholm’s first self-build row houses with right of habitation. The residents take care of their housing environment and some functions themselves. As an effect of the housing cooperative, water prices in the neighbourhood has been reduced considerably. Moreover, a residents’ association manages the houses. A real community has developed around the self-help houses, but communities can sometimes be exclusive: New senior dwellings (for old Vällingby pioneers) were built next to the self-build houses. Svenska Bostäder planned that the inhabitants of the self-build houses could use the shared laundrette, located in one of the senior houses. After continuous complaints made by the seniors, the housing organisation had to construct a new laundrette for the row houses. The same story repeated at the shared common room. The seniors were disturbed by noise from parties organised by the inhabitants of the self-build houses as well as the children playing under their windows in the evenings. As Jonny, originally from Rinkeby, but now living in the self-build houses, explains: ‘We came here at the same time as the seniors and would

169.  As Rådberg argues: ”The problem can be put this way: the housing market in our big cities contains a big surplus of low-attractive neighbourhood typologies that moreover lie concentrated in certain areas. This is the reason for the increaing polarisation in the cities. It is a problem that doesn’t go away by itself. It will follow us for at least a generation, even if we begin to attack it immediately.” Rådberg: Op. cit., p. 41 (author’s translation). 170.  Rådberg: Op. cit., p. 38 (author’s translation).

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like to have contact, yet it became zero contact.’171 On a micro level, this neighbourhood conflict between old Vällingby pioneers and the newcomers of the self-build houses, some originating from Tensta-Rinkeby, mirrors an ever-present tension between old and new, inside and outside, in the listed ‘old’ pioneer New Town Vällingby.

HAPPY IN THE MIDDLE As we have already seen, Vällingby was a product of the historical break after World War II, a time equally uncertain and open to new solutions. Born in such a political climate, one could describe Stockholm’s first New Town as a testing ground for postwar urbanism: Located between shifting geopolitical and architectural paradigms, it came into being under the impression of the tabula rasas of bombed city centres and the hardening of Churchill’s Iron Curtain. While the new super powers were drawing the borders of a new map, dividing the world into a Capitalist and a Communist part, Vällingby was planned as a manifestation of Sweden’s Middle Way position between the poles (the Swedish Model). Neither part of NATO nor the Warsaw Pact, the country remained (supposedly) neutral ground outside the geopolitical conflicts governing the faith of the world.172 With a constant Social Democratic ruling mandate during the first three decades of the Cold War, the neutral democracy was free to make choices, transgressing the ‘either…or’ dichotomy of ‘Communist’ and ‘Capitalist’ planning systems: Vällingby exceptionally combined public control and education (common social facilities with certain norms of conduct like laundrettes, rules of colour schemes for balcony coverings, collective standards according to sociological ‘facts’, public schools and kindergartens, edifying modernist art, politicised activities in the assembly hall, etc.) with stimulation of private business initiatives (the Retail Federation Board’s engagement in the development of Vällingby Centrum, strategic marketing and branding campaigns, the focus on consumerism, the invitation for private enterprises to settle, the collaboration between public authorities and the business sector, etc.). In the words of Thomas Millroth, growing up in Vällingby in the pioneer years: ”The zone of childhood that was established in saga books and the whole pedagogy of the welfare program was crossed by the business man.’173 This rare combination of socialist welfare and capitalist consumerism makes

171.  Ulrika Sax: Op. cit., p. 148 -149 (author’s translation).

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172.  Although a strong army backed up Sweden’s neutrality with weapons from the national factory Bofors AB, one can discuss whether the country remained completely neutral ground, probably leaning more towards the Western side of the Berlin Wall. See Cristopher Caldwell: Op. cit. 173.  Thomas Millroth & Per Skoglund: Op. cit., p. 15.


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Vällingby the rule of exception among the New Towns at the Cold War frontier. The ABC-Town concept is closely linked to the consolidation of a new society in the mould of a Social Democratic utopia: Vällingby constitutes a possibly unrepeatable urban phenomenon, conceived at a moment when consensus and common interests were reached between the Social Democratic Party in power and visionary urban planners as well as between public works and private initiative in the Sweden of Folkhemmet. It is in this sense that the New Town can be said to embody the Swedish Model. Yet, for the same reasons Vällingby might also be seen as a New Town ‘in the middle’; a ‘neutral’ and ‘happy’ New Town which caught the eye of architects and planners from the East Block and the West Block alike: During the construction process, the CIAM Council Meeting took place in Sigtuna, located within the Stockholm County. Between lively discussions of the proposed Charter of Habitat, excursions were arranged to modern Swedish architecture and Markelius presented the plans of Vällingby (1952).174 Shortly after the inauguration of Vällingby Centrum the American architecture critic G. E. Kidder Smith, already a supporter of Swedish architecture and urban planning, was smitten by the ‘Vällingby fever’. In 1957, he revised his 1950 book about Swedish urban planning Sweden Builds, adding a chapter on Vällingby and a foreword by Markelius. For Kidder Smith Vällingby was a model New Town with global potential:

‘This new “town section” in west Stockholm has more lessons to offer the cities of our time than any development yet built. It shows to a beautiful degree how the suburbs which increasingly envelop the world’s cities can be well planned, parklike, viable centers, and not haphazard accretions strangled in transportation, mired shopping and frantic for enough schools and public facilities. Every road, every building location, every need for its inhabitants was minutely planned before ground was broken. It is the embodiment of Sweden’s intimate relationship between

174.  One of the issues, discussed at the CIAM congress, was the relationship between dwelling design and the role of working women; a question Markelius had explored with Alva Myrdal two decades before in Kollektivhuset (the Collective Housing Unit). Eric Mumford: Op. cit., p. 220 – 21.

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architecture and the land on which it stands. Virtually all major decisions in the moulding of Vällingby were good ones: strict preservation of the landscape and trees; free planning in spaces with fingers of green everywhere; separation of pedestrian and motor traffic; integrated transportation, parking and shopping; full cultural and entertainment facilities; a great variety of housing types; one central plant for heat and power. One can quarrel with the minor decisions – especially with some of the architecture – but the basic concept and its execution is superior.’ 175

Architects of ‘the Old World’ in Europe also showed enthusiasm towards the new experiment in the far north: In 1958, the Venetian architect Giorgio Gentili did research in Stockholm for some months with a UN scholarship. In September that year, he published an article about Vällingby and Stockholm’s second New Town Farsta in the Italian periodical Urbanistica. Although Gentili is disappointed with the number of local workplaces and considers Vällingby too dependent on Stockholm, he is impressed by the Swedish capital’s project ‘gradually to replace Stockholm’s “monocentric” system of yesterday with a “polycentric” system.’176 Moreover, he judges that ‘the planning has given an extremely satisfactory result in regard to the activity in Vällingby Centre and, particularly for the shopping centre which is its most flourishing part. The commercial independence of the district can really be regarded as almost complete.’177 With the growing legacy of Vällingby, the further planning of Swedish satellite towns continued to attract international experts. One of the more in depth studies was carried out by the American planner and economist Edwin D. Abrams who spent the summer of 1961 at the City of Stockholm’s urban planning office. Here, he analysed and advised on the relationship between residents and district centres as well as the bigger

175.  G. E. Kidder-smith: Sweden Builds, New York: Albert Bonnier, 1950/57, p. 94.

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176.  Giorgio Gentili: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958, p. 2. 177.  Giorgio Gentili: ”The Satellite Towns of Stockholm”, in Urbanistica, 24 – 25, September, 1958, p. 5.


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Vällingby’s traffic separation, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3.

Sketch showing Vällingby’s traffic separation, inspired by Clarence S. Stein’s Radburn. Kidder Smith, G. E.: Sweden Builds, New York: Albert Bonnier, 1950/57.

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Storcentrum community centres, connecting several districts.178 In the same year, Sven Markelius and his right-hand man Göran Sidenbladh were awarded with the Patrick Abercrombie Price for the (re)development of Stockholm in general and Vällingby in particular. The award was particularly motivated by the originality and sustainability of Vällingby’s ABC-Town concept: ‘A satellite town, a neighbourhood, a traffic separation and a centre in a successful combination.’179 Under impression of such positive reports from the Scandinavian country, it is not surprising that many foreign professionals went on a pilgrimage to Stockholm, offering their expertise, while open to the new planning methods. Working for different political agendas and ideologies, foreign architects and planners came from hither and dither to learn from the New Town in the middle of the Cold War frontier. The cosmopolitanism of Markelius’ own architectural office is emblematic in this sense: After his retirement as director of Stockholm’s urban planning office, parallel to the inauguration of Vällingby Centrum, 14 November, 1954, architects from Denmark, Norway, Finland, United Kingdom, Italy, United States, Poland, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Switzerland, Israel, Australia, Japan, and even China worked side by side at the Stockholm office.180

LACK AND LARGE-SCALE - HOUSING BY MILLIONS Contrary to the recurrent celebration of Vällingby’s innovative and ‘healthy’ 1950s Modernism, the large-scale urban planning of the 1960s is often perceived as a ‘decadent’ Modernism, a product of visionary planners becoming pragmatic producers. Swedish 1960s planning is also frequently depicted as a result of a welfare state, burdened by bureaucratisation. Or rather, a system working too efficiently and powerfully – too perfectly. In the article “Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?” (“Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · What Then?”), 1977, the architects Jon Höjer and Sture Ljungqvist, together with two colleagues, forward a critique, exemplifying this attitude. Both active in Vällingby and in Tensta-Rinkeby, they construct a historical narrative of Swedish urbanism, juxtaposing the cases of Vällingby and Tensta-Rinkeby: Vällingby’s 1950s view of human nature characterises ‘a variant of the philosophy of folkhemmet’ guided by a vision of a ‘rich social life for all sections of the population, like a housing standard

178.  One of Abrams’ findings was that the two district centres in Hässelby Strand and Hässelby Gård were somewhat overshadowed by the main centre of Vällingby Centrum. Abrams then came up with the rule of thumb for future planning of New Towns that a population of 10,000 would require 40 shops, yet, only 20 shops if the neighbourhood unit was situated close to the inner core of a larger community centre. Göran Sidenbladh: (1981) Op. cit., p. 341.

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179.  The Patrick Abercrombie Price committee, quoted in Ulrika Sax: Op.cit., p. 59. 180.  Eva Rudberg: Sven Markelius, arkitekt. Stockholm: Arkitektur Förlag, 1989, p. 163.


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and an agency in level with what only richer groups were able to win before.’181 While the state guaranteed the implementation of this egalitarian utopia, ‘vision was more qualitative than quantitative’.182 Then a shift came by in the 1960s:

‘In the 1960s, the innovation of the 1950s frequently became a production by routine in the hands of administrators and technicians, stressing rationalisation and short-term economy. In that way, the view of human nature also changed. The administrative and economical scheme of things appeared in the terminology with concept types like optimisation, quantitative execution methods and the like…Urbanisation and housing shortage made it easy to argue for a quantitative perspective. The original comprehensive political view of human nature separated into a number of measurable (normative) qualities, together guaranteeing the good life. But perhaps more, it reflected the administrative structure and its power relations than the needs of human beings.’ 183

What such critiques tend to play down is the severe magnitude of the housing shortage, plaguing Swedish cities for decades. Vällingby was hailed as an eloquently designed New Town, catering for every need of its inhabitants with plenty of leisure activities and social services. Yet, an old snake was lurking behind the Social Democratic utopia: By 1955, the housing situation of Sweden’s overcrowded cities was no better than prior to World War II. The number of names on waiting lists exceeded that of Don Juan’s women, apartments and rooms were minuscule, maintenance was poor, half of the people in the three biggest cities lacked proper washing facilities,

181.  Jon Höjer; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 16 (author’s translation). 182.  Jon Höjer; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 16 (author’s translation). 183.  Jon Höjer; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 16 (author’s translation).

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and one quarter of the dwellings were without central heating and indoor toilets.184 In 1960, the number of Stockholmers rose to the unseen number of 808,294 inhabitants. Because of the construction of new New Towns, public authorities anticipated that the population in the City would decrease, but increase on a regional level. Official calculations expected a growth of the national population to 25 millions Swedes by 1970 (in 2008 it was only approx. 9 millions). Politically, there was a consensus that something had to be done!185 Large-scale was the weapon, mobilised to fight lack of housing. Meanwhile, new possibilities and construction methods were offered by the giant technological quantum leap, taken after Vällingby.186 (As Höjer and Ljungqvist dryly comment: ‘Nothing seemed impossible: mountains were not a hindrance, just a source of irritation.’187) Importantly, this happened in a welfare state raging of optimism and high growth rates. As it became possible to built in an unseen scale and pace, Social Democratic politicians, welcomed the technological progress as an instrument to solve the housing problem in the big cities once and for all. With general improvement of living standards, and thus new demands, housing became a flagship in the ramified web of social security. According to the logics of the period, it seemed evident that housing lack could be turned into housing abundance by means of the new materials, building components and industrialised construction methods. Such rationalised building schemes were also beneficial because they would spare some of the workers’ hands, both Swedish and imported labour force, needed for Sweden’s expanding export industry. Although new planning procedures and building methods generated a more uniform built-up area than Vällingby’s, and the average urban Swede had to make do with a relatively standardised home, a final solution to the housing problem via the construction of New Towns with a high concentration of high-rise, slabs and walk-up flats was regarded as an urgent and prestigious project of a bright future by comtemporaries.188 After the inauguration of Vällingby in 1954, the City of Stockholm completed approx. one new satellite town per year: First, Högdalen, Hagsätra, Farsta, Bredäng and Sätra inside the City’s own boundaries, then Skärholmen and Vårberg on bought land, and finally, Bollmora in Tyresö plus Fittja, Alby, Hallunda and Norsberg in Botkyrka

184.  Peter Hall: Op. cit., p. 853. 185.  Magnus Andersson: Stockholm’s Annual Rings: A Glimpse into the Development of the City. Stockholm: Stockholmia, 1998, p. 181. 186.  One of the key inventions was the system of concrete elements, created by Ohlson & Skarne, enabling Swedish entrepreneurs to built 1,000 identical apartments with the same technique and at the low cost, required for getting a contract. Prior to its fusion with Skånska Cementgjuteriet, the company became the biggest constructor of housing in Sweden. Familjebostäder: Tensta: En stadsvandring i Familjebostäders kvarter. Stockholm: Familjebostäder, 2002. 187.  Jon Höjer; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 17 (author’s translation).

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188.  As the architect Jöran Lindvall writes: ‘The belief in the possibilities and techniques of the development as a good force seemed almost unlimited. One built for a bright future – for people who had left the old behind and were going to create a new world together. Income and living standard improved, people’s spending power increased and accordingly their demand for better dwellings.’ Jöran Lindvall: ”En Miljon Bostäder”, in En Miljon Bostäder: Arkitekturmuseets Årsbok 1996. Stockholm: Arkitekturmuseet: 1996, p. 7 (author’s translation).


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as a collaboration with the neighbouring municipalities. Like Vällingby, Högdalen with the districts Bandhagen and Rågsved, as well as Farsta between Drevviken and Maggelungen, each constituted a Storcentrum, serving a large hinterland (Farsta 70,000 people). Following lively discussions on housing policies, the big issue at the national election of 1962, a new mobilisation of the building effort was launched: Within the framework of the so-called Miljonprogrammet (the Million Program), accepted by the national parliament Riksdagen, Sweden constructed a million new dwellings between 1965 and 1974, beating a record in time and efficiency. Today, these dwellings constitute 25 percent of Sweden’s total housing stock.189

Some facades in Tensta stay intact, although exposing the varying quality and durability of the prefabricated building elements. Still, the environment of this courtyard is intimate and green like in Vällingby.

189.  Magnus Andersson: Stockholm’s Annual Rings: A Glimpse into the Development of the City. Stockholm: Stockholmia, 1998, p. 183.

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As exemplified by Höjer and Ljungqvist‘s 1977 article, the Million Program has been a subject to critique - justified and unjustified – over the years. Thirty years after, journalist Christine Demsteader writes:

‘These neighbourhoods, hailed residential heaven when they were built in the seventies, were soon to become viewed as the nation’s housing from hell…Reputation precedes the most notorious neighbourhoods: Rinkeby, Tensta and Skärholmen in Stockholm, Hammerkullen, Angered and Bergsjön in Gothenberg and Rosengård in Malmö. 190

The problem of the sometimes unbiased reception of the Million Program is that many critics apply the same yardstick to a diverse phenomenon. Although the image of the Million Program has become synonymous with a dull landscape of concrete slabs, it did not evolve as an unconscious duplication of the same dwelling type over 9 years. Rather, it manifested as individual satellite towns, distributed around urban centres like Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, mirroring changes within the period. Moreover, it involved various planners and architects, designing a third single-family houses, a third low collective houses and a third high-rise apartment blocks of different qualities and characters. Moreover, architectural diversity can be found within the category of the lower collective houses. Scale and grouping recall the building tradition of the 1940s and 1950s that made ‘Swedish Modern’ famous, even if it is coarsened and stereotyped; increased prefabrication was visible in structure and details. In this part of the Million Program, architects experimented with new building types, uniting a human scale and site-specificity with new demands for rationality and economy. Meanwhile, the natural landscape was transformed into an accessible tabula rasa, paving the way for the building cranes to work optimally while lifting the building elements. This machine-like appearance became particularly evident in the large-scale housing estates. ‘Planning adapted to production’, became the ideological mantra among a new generation of Swedish planners and architects.191

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190.  Christine Demsteader: ”Concrete Jungle: Sweden’s Surburbs Become Cool”, in The Local, February 9, 2007, www.thelocal.se 191.  Jöran Lindvall: ”En Miljon Bostäder”, in En Miljon Bostäder: Arkitekturmuseets Årsbok 1996. Stockholm: Arkitekturmuseet: 1996, p. 8.


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As cogwheels in the production process, architects were expected to design buildings that could be erected in the cheapest and quickest way. Even so, there are also examples of variety and landscaping in the large-scale parts of the Million Program (e.g. monolithic high-rise blocks, towering up on rocky heights in Tensta). Yet, most of the Million Program’s large-scale planning is characterised by repetition of simple shapes, arranged in monotonous grid patterns (this is often the case in Rinkeby). According to preference, one can picture this as pragmatics (if one likes cheap and rational housing), minimalist beauty (if one enjoys simplicity and systematisation) or sad (if one prefers diversity and human scale in housing environments). But other factors motivated this kind of planning. From the time of Vällingby to Million Program New Towns like Tensta-Rinkeby, an important change had taken place, limiting the possibilities of creative land use. A veritable boom in car ownership demanded a new system of traffic security with hierarchical road systems, taking up big pieces of land and making up new borders and distances between people. Furthermore, the Million Program’s planning machine was challenged by a new complexity on political and administrative levels.

THE JÄRVA BOMB - THE BECOMING OF A MILLION PROGRAM NEW TOWN Although Järvafältet is one of the oldest parts of the Stockholm region, inhabited since 500 B.C., a historical palimpsest superimposed by layers of archaeological traces of Iron Age settlements, Viking Age rune stones, a Romanesque church, an ancient cemetery and old farms, it is the last large area on ‘virgin soil’, developed into New Towns by the City of Stockholm. Spelled Rynkaby, Rinkeby is mentioned for the first time in 1347, designating a medieval town with four farms, while the name Tensta, appearing in 1538, referred to two church homesteads.192 One can revisit the ancient history of the site via historical structures in the valley between Tensta and Rinkeby and ‘memorial signposts’, scattered around the New Town area that was transformed into a tabula rasa before construction began. After the expansion of the Tunnelbana, Stockholm’s southern and western land resources were emptied, and once more the City invested in land outsides its borders.193 Development of the area towards the southwest was initiated by the purchase of Sätra with Bredäng and Skärholmen, followed by Tensta and Rinkeby at Järvafältet, a

192.  Stockholm utanför tullarna: Nittiosju stadsdelar i yterstaden. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 2003, p. 399 and Familjebostäder: Tensta: En stadsvandring i Familjebostäders kvarter. Stockholm: Familjebostäder, 2002. 193.  In the late 1970s, 27 percent of the 1,6 million acres of Stockholm County were in public ownership, the largest land bank of any metropolitan area in Western Europe. Ownership was divided between the national government, the county, the city, and most of the 22 municipalities in the county. Peter Hall: Op. cit. 859.

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military area since 1905 northwest of Stockholm.194 In the Social Democratic Party’s campaign for the 1962 national election, it was promised that 160,000 new dwellings would be realised at this former training-ground within eight years. August 29, 1960, Tunnelbana travellers were offered freshly printed flyers, promising that this plan would be realised before the end of the decade! 90,000 people would be accommodated inside the City of Stockholm, while the remaining population would live in the neighbouring municipalities.195 Presented as an unexpectedly simple solution, triggering passionate election debates, this deus ex machina spin stunt was soon nicknamed Järvabomben (the Järva Bomb).196 As early as 1938, a public report launched the idea of appropriating Järvafältet for the purpose of housing. After 1949, the contract of the military tenants was only prolonged on a yearly basis when the area, owned by the poor farmer municipality Spånga, was incorporated into Stockholm; an event paving the way for the neighbouring New Town Vällingby.197 Yet, because of interest conflicts with the state and the military, the five municipalities involved in the planning of Tensta-Rinkeby (Stockholm, Solna, Sollentuna, Sundbyberg and Järfälla) had to await the exit of the army before the land area were finally bought by the state for the sum of 240 million SEK in 1966. The promise of an implementation of 160,000 new dwellings at Järvafältet within 8 years proved deeply exaggerated. For once, negotiations between conflicting interest groups delayed the process: there was no concrete plan for the military moving out. Moreover, state authorities wished to allocate governmental institutions in the area, the last major plot within reasonable distance of the city. Finally, ‘the battle of Järvafältet’ became a serial story in the press and a political game, occupying most of the (municipal) mandate period, 1962 – 1966.198 At the 1966 county election, voters punished the Social Democrats for breaking their election pledges. When the cranes started to operate in the area, a few months after the election, the Non-Socialists gained the majority at Stockholm’s town hall.

194.  To be precise, Järfva-Spånga-Järfälla-fältet, commonly referred to as Järvafältet, constituted a land area of 5,300 hectares, owned by the state. While 4000 hectares were reserved for military purposes, the remaining part was rented to farmers. Ingemar Johansson: StorStockholms bebyggelseshistoria: Markpolitik, planering och bygganda under sju sekler. Stockholm: Gidlunds, 1987, p. 587. 195.  The day before the distribution of the flyer, the Social Democratic Prime Minister, Tage Erlander, had personally delivered: ’ the historical message to Stockholm’s inhabitants that the government has decided to pass arrangements to move the military units from Järvafältet and instead allow the field to be left at Stockholm’s and the neighbouring municipalities’ disposal for construction of housing.’ Tage Erlander in Ingemar Johansson: StorStockholms bebyggelseshistoria: Markpolitik, planering och bygganda under sju sekler. Stockholm: Gidlunds, 1987, p. 590 (author’s translation). 196.  See the brochure Familjebostäder: Rinkeby: En stadsvandring i Familjebostäders kvarter. Stockholm: Familjebostäder, 1998/2001. 197.  Karl-Olov Arnstberg & Björn Erdal (edit.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998, p. 16 and 19.

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198.  An editorial in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter (1962) posed the question: ‘Will the planning of Järvafältet be 10 years delayed?’ By the same token, an editorial in Expressen (1965) carried the headline: ‘The profit desire of the state hinders Järva to become a model town’. Ingemar Johansson: StorStockholms bebyggelseshistoria: Markpolitik, planering och bygganda under sju sekler. Stockholm: Gidlunds, 1987, p. 590 – 592 (author’s translation).


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In reality, the planning of Tensta-Rinkeby anticipated all these formalities.199 Initiatives to a general plan for the southern part of Järvafältet, who was never directly affected by military works, were taken in autumn 1962, shortly after the detonation of the Järva Bomb. Based on an already existing sketch for a master plan by the Regional Planning Office, Stockholm’s urban planning office finished a preliminary proposal for Tensta-Rinkeby’s general plan. By 1964, the master plan for the New Town with the districts Tensta, Hjulsta and Rinkeby was in place. After consultation with different administrations, the municipal principals accepted the plan, April 1965. Only, the politician Jan-Erik Wikström criticised the outline, finding it driven by ‘regularity’. He questioned if the ‘beautiful formulations’ would be matched by an equally imaginative architecture.200 To a certain extent Wikström’s doubts proved justified. Primary responsibilities for the shaping of the outer environment were handed to the building owners. Not rarely, their perspective on urbanism and architecture was guided by pecuniary interests and technical logics of production. It also caused some difficulties that no less than 22 different building companies each constructed their part of Södra Järvafältet.201 What united them was the common goal to create a new society from scratch for a population of 35,000 within 5 years. Without real previous experience, matching in scale and time schedule, the Tensta-Rinkeby experiment exposed all the advantages and drawbacks of a large-scale expansion, compressed in time and space. Yet, the great building efforts in the Stockholm region had already peaked in the preceding years, so the relative extent of the Million Program in and around the capital was half as large than elsewhere.202

SATELLITE URBANISM In 1956, Stockholm’s retired urban planning director, Sven Markelius wrote that if one was to exploit the land resources of the city to a higher degree than it had happened in Vällingby, one had to reconsider traffic convenience as well as the choice of dwelling types.203 Assisted by the planners Igor Dergalin and Josef Stäck, Markelius’ successor at the City’s urban planning office, Göran Sidenbladh followed the advice. Thus, the planning of Tensta-Rinkeby produced new guidelines for urban development, compiled in the document Planstandard 1965 (Planning Standard 1965), January 7, 1965, advising on

199.  For an insider’s account of this process see Göran Sidenbladh: ”Introduktion till dispositionsplan för Järvafältet”, in Arkitektur, 1, 1969, p. 6 - 7. 200.  Ingemar Johansson: StorStockholms bebyggelseshistoria: Markpolitik, planering och bygganda under sju sekler. Stockholm: Gidlunds, 1987, p. 594. 201.  Together the city’s four non-profit housing organisations were responsible for production and administration of half of the approx. 11,000 planned apartments. Other contractors included all the main cooperative housing companies and 12 different private housing companies. Ingemar Johansson: StorStockholms bebyggelseshistoria: Markpolitik, planering och bygganda under sju sekler. Stockholm: Gidlunds, 1987, p. 594. 202.  Magnus Andersson: Stockholm’s Annual Rings: A Glimpse into the Development of the City. Stockholm: Stockholmia, 1998, p. 183. 203.  Sven Markelius: ”Stockholms struktur”, in Byggmästaren, 1956, A3, p. 59.

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every detail necessary in a multi-family housing area and presented together with the general plan.204 Framed by these norms and standards, Tensta-Rinkeby’s planners ambitiously claimed to invent a new satellite town typology, adding a ‘new urban feeling’, transferring some of the qualities of the inner city to the New Town. Spearheads of the plan included: densification of housing, traffic separation, a selective, but optimal use of greeneries, and a break with the ideals of Howard’s garden city as well as the functionalistic paradigm of housing in a park landscape. Trained as an architect in Greece, Igor Dergalin was inspired by contemporary European debates on urbanism about the qualities of a town. In the Swedish interpretation, urbanism (stadslikhet) basically meant density, intensity and structure. With the formulation of the general plan: ‘an urbanism, that is to say a regularly designed and concentrated grouping of the building volumes and an effective co-planning of buildings and land.’205 Situated at the southern part of Järvafältet, the interconnected New Towns Tensta and Rinkeby are located in a hilly terrain, sloping down towards the valley stretch in the south. This green belt, containing the Romanesque Spånga Church from the 12th century, a cemetery with Viking Age rune stones and wooden houses from the 18th century, constitutes a ‘natural’ border between Rinkeby and Tensta including Hjulsta. Meanwhile, the main traffic arteries of Bergslagsvägen and highway E18 indicate the northern border, separating Tensta-Rinkeby and the wild nature resort at Järvafältet, the biggest green area in the region. Like building crane tracks, the general plan follows straight angles in an easily readable grid structure, intending to form an integrated and consistent townscape. (While it was a main objective of the plan to conserve the existing landscape image, no nature was left untouched between and around the buildings. Woods growing on the hills were replaced by a dense built-up area, paused by new-planted greeneries of modest proportions.) By allowing building heights to follow the topography according to a structure of the so-called bandstadsmönster (band town pattern), the ’patrimony’ valley stretch is left untouched by the New Town’s tabula rasa architecture: First, the ‘backbone’ of the satellite town is constituted by an ‘outer band’ of housing with tall lamella houses (skivhus) up to 6 or 7 storeys. Situated on the northern hills facing the natural resort on Järvafältet, these enlongated slabs, resemble a fortress with the infrastructural arteries of Bergslagsvägen, Hjulstavägen and highway E18 as a moat. Second, another ‘middle band’ further south, designed like a walking street, distributes Tensta, Hjulsta and Rinkeby’s district centres along a wide axis with thre three Tunnelbana stations, various

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204.  Guidelines indicated new standards for distances to building entrances and between feeder roads, designs of crossings, and advice on open spaces, housing types, flats, communal facilities, etc. The office of urban planning of the City of Stockholm: Beskrivning til generalplaneförslag för området kring Rinkeby, Spånga Kyrka och Tensta inom Järvafältet. (Bilaga till Stadskollegiets utlåtande nr 92 år 1965), appendix in Olle Bengtzon; Jan Delden & Jan Lundgren: Rapport Tensta. Stockholm: Pan Express, 1970, p. 100. 205.  Stockholm utanför tullarna: Nittiosju stadsdelar i yterstaden. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 2003, p. 430 (author’s translation).


Images of TenstaRinkeby under construction. Images from Arkitektur 1, 1969

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The main pedestrian route from Tensta Centrum to SpĂĽnga Church with a pedestrian bridge over a sunken lower road in the foreground and sketch of the traffic separation. Images from Arkitektur 1, 1969

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Schoolyards function as playgrounds for local children.

The middle strip of the tripartite strip city continues from Tensta Centrum’s walking street deeper into the district animated by life and activity.

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services, schools, a gymnasium, highschools, a swimming pool, etc. Third, a last ‘inner band’ with housing, primarily three-storey houses, lower slabs and lamella houses, runs southwards, while a neighbourhood with terrace houses is situated closest to the green valley around Spånga Church. Like a Greek amphitheatre, this layout with a gradual decline of building heights and variation of volumes, offers a view towards the unbuilt parts of Järvafältet to the majority of the inhabitants. In this sense, the plan for Södra Järvafältet cooperates with the structure of the natural terrain, although Tensta-Rinkeby is often criticised for the strictness of its grid structure and taming of the landscape. As Igor Dergalin and Josef Stäck writes in 1964: ‘The principal lines of the landscape is underlined with this grouping of the built-up area and one obtains a townscape, directed towards the sun.’206 Mixing large-scale and small scale, the general plan also describes a cosy everyday life, taking place between the houses, recalling some of the values of Vällingby: ‘The plan attach great importance to the outer environment of the everyday – the walkway to school and centre, the playground at the house, the playing-field in the neighbourhood.’207 Educational institutions are described like local hubs for social meetings and leisure activities, the ‘beating hearts’ of the different neighbourhoods. Preschools and mid-level schools are situated close to the housing areas in conjunction to greeneries and pedestrian streets. This layout assures the safest and shortest walking distance for the school children as well as a full use of the playing fields in the few parklike areas. Moreover, the school courtyards are included into the open-air areas of the different neighbourhoods. Obliging the needs of families with children, a key concern of the plan was to increase the amount of lower housing and the standard size of flats. In particular, it favoured facilities such as indoor toilet, shower and refrigerator, becoming fixtures in media advertising as well as in political propaganda, and of course fast delivery of dwellings for those on waiting lists. (Yet, bigger, better and faster flats meant fewer and smaller green spaces: Greeneries within Tensta-Rinkeby are limited to modest outdoor spaces with walkways, planted growths and playgrounds, while larger green areas outside the double New Town are within walking distance via the pedestrian tunnels from E18 and other ringroads.) Originally, the intention was to build 28,000 room units (rumsenheter) and two Tunnelbana stations at the southern part of Järvafältet. However, when it was decided to construct another Tunnelbana station, the number of room units increased to 35,000. In the end, the number multiplied to 44,000 room units for

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206.  Igor Dergalin and Josef Stäck in Karl-Olov Arnstberg & Björn Erdal (edit.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998, p. 22 (author’s translation). 207.  The office of urban planning of the City of Stockholm: Beskrivning til generalplaneförslag för området kring Rinkeby, Spånga Kyrka och Tensta inom Järvafältet. (Bilaga till Stadskollegiets utlåtande nr 92 år 1965), appendix in Olle Bengtzon; Jan Delden & Jan Lundgren: Rapport Tensta. Stockholm: Pan Express, 1970, p. 99 (author’s translation).


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approx. 30,000 inhabitants. First, the minimum distance between 3-storey buildings was 24 meters, but in the final plan it decreased to 17 meters.208 Pushing the density level of the built-up environment, the land reserve could be exploited to a higher degree. Furthermore, it permitted a rethinking of the common Million Program solution of high-rise blocks in a scale, alarming public opinion in the southern New Towns, e.g. in Bredäng and Skärholmen’s monolithic built-up area with a shopping mall, criticised for commercialism by Socialists.209 Likewise, densification of housing was a strategy, guaranteeing an adequate number of inhabitants, frequenting shops and services in the district centres without building tall. Densification also implied that parking spaces are mostly designed in two levels. Initially, a parking area for 2000 cars was planned south of Hjulsta in the Spånga Valley. Still, it was never realised and already in 1974, the area was used for the more romantic purpose of allotment gardens. Before the planning of the big parking area, there were also plans to establish workplaces in the area along with offices at the northwestern and northeastern part of Tensta. By the same token, the disposition plan for the northern part of Järvafältet from the end of the 1960s, mentions the neighbouring areas Hästa and Stora Ursvik as potential workplaces for the inhabitants in Tensta-Rinkeby. At present, the industrial area Lunda is within walking distance. Compared to Vällingby’s integral ABC-Town planning, Igor Dergalin was a pragmatic, combining maximal land use with the best possible housing environment. Land areas close to the Tunnelbana station were reserved for enterprises with an efficient land use, but the general plan never brings up the possibility of direct integration between dwellings and local workplaces. As Dergalin later remarked:

‘For the expansion of dwellings there is a well-established control mechanism, politically and socially as well as technical and economically. For workplaces, established outside the city of the region, such control mechanisms do not exist today.’ 210

208.  Björn Erdal: ”Därute i Tensta”, in Karl-Olov Arnstberg & Björn Erdal (edit.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998, p. 21 - 22. 209.  Initial sketches represented the architecture in Tensta-Rinkeby as 12– to 14-storey blocks, however, this average was dwarfed to six, maximum seven, storeys like in the inner city. Björn Erdal: “Därute i Tensta”, in Karl-Olov Arnstberg & (edit.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998, p. 22. 210.  Igor Dergalin & Thomas Atmer: “Dispositionsplanen för Norra Järvafältet”, in Arkitektur, 1, 1969, p. ????? (author’s translation).

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In order to intensify the land use in the three district centres (Rinkeby Centrum, Hjulsta Centrum and Tensta Centrum), some offices were planned instead of money- and space-consuming dwellings, demanding instalment of playgrounds and safer traffic conditions. Following guidelines of the aforementioned document Planstandard 65, making status of Stockholm’s ‘old’ New Towns and determining new planning standards, housing is located at a maximum distance of 500 meters from the Tunnelbana, while car parking is within a radius of 100 – 150 meters from the dwellings. As suggested by the general plan:

‘Among others the goal of the work with the general plan has been to obtain a partially new outer city environment. A housing environment that adds some of the inner city’s intensity, concentration and order to the outer city’s greenery, spaciousness and freedom from disturbances. The present standard height adds new demands to outdoor spaces and comfort. This makes it necessary to concentrate built-up area and to exploit every piece of land intensively in order to have enough basis for collective service such as Tunnelbana, schools, shops, etc. At the same time, concentration makes possible an intensive urban environment that only a dense built-up area can give.’ 211

Thus, together with densification of housing, the goal of ‘a greater urban feeling’ was planned through a rectangular structure, recalling the street network of the inner city with buildings and streets, distributed in two main directions. A characteristic feature of Tensta-Rinkeby is the almost complete traffic separation between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ road users, complying with the multiplication of vehicles throughout the 1960s. In contemporary Million Program New Towns south of Stockholm like Bredäng, Sätra, Skärholmen and Vårberg, traffic separation with cars on the higher level and

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211.  The office of urban planning of the City of Stockholm: Beskrivning til generalplaneförslag för området kring Rinkeby, Spånga Kyrka och Tensta inom Järvafältet. (Bilaga till Stadskollegiets utlåtande nr 92 år 1965), appendix in Olle Bengtzon; Jan Delden & Jan Lundgren: Rapport Tensta. Stockholm: Pan Express, 1970, p. 99 (author’s translation).


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Masterplan of Tensta-Rinkeby, scale 1: 10,000. Arkitektur 1, 1969

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Layout development plan for the later Northern Järvafältet, scale 1: 40,000. Arkitektur 1, 1969

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pedestrians on the lower level was a leitmotif. The planners of Tensta-Rinkeby did exactly the opposite. Inspired by the Italian town-state of Venice, a pedestrian network of paths and walkways is entirely segregated from car traffic by means of bridges, crossing feeder roads at regular intervals.212 Vehicles are channelled through the New Town from either the main route or two north-south feeder roads according to a hierarchical order. In continuation of the feeder roads, short cul-de-sac streets are connected to parking areas with parking spaces close to building entrances.213 As an important part of Tensta-Rinkeby’s ‘satellite urbanism’, this new traffic flow intended to create a dynamic ‘sort of rhythm’.

Igor Dergalin was inspired by Venice’s bridges and canals whilst planning TenstaRinkeby’s traffic separation with bridges for pedestrians and tunnels for motorists.

212.  Thus, when Dergalin showed the ambitious bridge system, he presented it together with images of the bridges/channel system in Venice in order to persuade the politicians to agree on the costly plan. Peter Lundevall: ”Tenstas planeringshistoria”, in Anders Gullberg (edit.): Tensta utanför mitt fönster. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2006, p. 212. 213.  Magnus Andersson: Stockholm’s Annual Rings: A Glimpse into the Development of the City. Stockholm: Stockholmia, 1998, p. 193.

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ARCHITECTURE IN THE TRACKS OF BUILDING CRANES The architecture of Tensta as well as Rinkeby is structured according to the tripartite bandstadsmönster (band town pattern), mentioned in the general plan, with tall lamella houses along the main road in the north, the district centre with a walking street, Tunnelbana station and services in the middle, and lower slabs towards the green valley in the south with Spånga Church. Building layouts are adjusted to an overall grid-pattern, intending to give the New Town a shape that can be easily read as a tight townscape, surrounded by nature.214 Following Dergalin and Stäck’s vision of a new satellite town ‘urbanism’, Tensta consists of a dense built-up area, linked by the two Tunnelbana stations, Tensta and Hjulsta, with adjacent shopping centre. As mentioned, 22 different non-profit, cooperative and private developers contributed to the construction of Tensta’s built environment. Although this meant a certain lack of coordination in the hurried building process (5 years), it also gave the satellite town a relatively varied architecture, compared to Rinkeby and other Million Program New Towns. One has to remember that this was a time in desperate need of housing, where the norm for contractors was to be able to produce 1000 identical dwellings at the lowest cost and the highest pace. Yet, there are twenty different neighbourhoods in Tensta with dwellings in different designs – primarily rental apartments; the smallest section is constituted by a single building, while the largest one gathers 48 buildings. Within each group of dwellings there is some variation, but three housing types are predominant: 1 to 3-storey lamella houses, 3 to 7-storey balcony access blocks (loftgånghus) and 5 to 7-storey tall lamella houses/elongated slabs (skivhus), appearing as perpendicular plates. The typical combination in Tensta’s townscape is tall enlongated slabs and low lamella houses juxtaposed against each other, creating variation of heights as well as visibility to the courtyards between the buildings. Like a wall facing highway E18, taller and longer slabs situated on a hill add monumentality to the northern part of Tensta. As a contrast, the average height of the architecture in the direction of Spånga Church is built in a smaller scale of 2-3 storeys. In certain ways, these contrasts of building heights echoe the traffic separation in Tensta: From the window of a car, driving at the highway E18, the image of Tensta resembles the stereotype of the large-scale Million Program – repetition of symmetrical belts of tall, grey enlongated slabs. According to Dergalin and Stäck this architecture contributed to give Tensta a consistent townscape, while providing many of the inhabitants with a view over Järvafältet’s unbuilt area.215 Seen from the south, this

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214.  Björn Erdal: ”Därute i Tensta” Karl-Olov Arnstberg & Björn Erdal (edit.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998, p. 22. 215.  Peter Lundevall: ”Tenstas planeringshistoria”, in Anders Gullberg (edit.): Tensta utanför mitt fönster. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2006, p. 220.


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architecture frames the remaining part of the New Town (with 63 hectars of taller building blocks and 56 hectars of lower houses). Pedestrians and bicyclists can visit Tensta from the south via Spånga Kyrkväg along the green Spånga Valley with sports fields, Spånga Church and two to three-storey houses, ‘climbing up’ at the southern border. East of the church lies an award-winning neighbourhood (the Ytong Price 1974) by Jon Höjer and Sture Ljungqvist who created some of the most experimental architecture in Vällingby. This is Sörgården, Tensta’s only original single-family house neighbourhood, consisting of 76 row houses with wellkept courtyards. Significantly it was constructed as a self-build program under guidance by the organisation SMÅA in 1955. According to the urban planner Peter Lundevall most of the inhabitants in this idyllic enclave between Tensta and Spånga refer to themselves as Spånga residents.216 In the northern section of Tensta, smaller neighbourhoods of enlongated slabs and low lamella houses represent a more geometrical building structure with individual details and pleasant courtyards. These parts of the New Town are designed by wellknown architects such as Lars Bryde, Olle Zetterberg, Ernst Grönwall, Gunnar Larsén and Bernt Alfreds. Hjulsta’s district centre Hjulsta Centrum is the work of the architectural office Boijsen & Efvergren. The ensemble consists of two low buildings with shops, the Tunnelbana station and a youth club, anchored by a six-storey balcony access house and low houses with chalk stone facades. Meanwhile, Tensta Centrum is designed by Gunnar Andersson and built by Svenska Bostäder in 1969, but as new facilities were added, it underwent various transformations. Shops are spread in one level with underground storage facilities (NED? of which some parts were rebuilt into the art gallery Tensta Konsthall, opening 1998). Tenstagången is Tensta Centrum’s main walking street with square-like features such as fountains, a sculpture by the artist Raimo Utriainen and a paving of concrete plates, forming a stylised flower pattern. At the inauguration of Tensta Centrum, November 27 1969 there were 23 shops, post office, bank and systembolag (alchohol shop administered by the state). Originially, it was intended that the centre would serve as a stadsdelsgruppcentrum (district group centre), serving the districts of Tensta, Rinkeby and Spånga. Yet, when the much larger and better-equipped Kista Centrum, the last Storcentrum in the Stockholm region, opened at the northern part of Järvafältet in 1977, most of the big chain of shops vacated Tensta Centrum.217 In order to break the negative curve, the centre was revamped by the architect Kornél Pajor. Two walkways, facing the shops, were covered by a glass roof and provided with

216.  Stockholm utanför tullarna: Nittiosju stadsdelar i yterstaden. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 2003, p. 432. Peter Lundevall: ”Tenstas planeringshistoria”, in Anders Gullberg (edit.): Tensta utanför mitt fönster. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2006, p. 218. 217.  Familjebostäder: Tensta: En stadsvandring i Familjebostäders kvarter. Stockholm: Familjebostäder, 2002.

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new open entryways towards the walking street Tenstagången. The revitalisation was celebrated with a re-inguration event, December 1989, coinciding with Tensta’s 20 years anniversary. Among the prominent buildings in the centre are the Tunnelbana station, the parking house with a decorated concrete façade, the office house of stadsdelsnämden (a local branch of the county), Gunnar Andersson’s building for social services with the artist Josephine Siskind-Nylander’s façade paintings (1982-86), and the so-called Blue House, containing a theatre, a café and a boxing club. South of the centre lies a park with scarce natural vegetation and one of the few conserved pre-New Town buildings. Close to the park is the Tensta Church, built by Spånga Frikyrkoförsamling in 1973 after drawings by architect Joachim Labitzke. Located west of Tensta Centrum, the upper secondary school Tensta Gymnasium, the Tensta Hall with swimming pools and sports facilities plus the assembly hall Tensta Träff with library and common rooms, are grouped around a Japan-inspired square with bronze sculptures and trees. Gösta Uddén and Olle Wåhlström’s design in red bricks and untreated wood and concrete (1982-1984) sharply contrasts the New Town’s other school buildings from the late 1960s. Repeating the same composition of concrete elements, they are the work of Sven Backström and Leif Reinius who did most of the architecture in Vällingby Centrum, while the landscape architect Walter Bauer designed many of Tensta’s school courtyards. In the meantime, the schools have been renovated with alterations such as new roofs, change of colour schemes, several extensions and restructurings of school courtyards. In Tensta’s younger neighbour Rinkeby, there are five main neighbourhoods, constructed by thirteen different developers, four of them non-profit housing corporations under the City of Stockholm such as Familjebostäder and Svenska Bostäder. The dominant architecture in the three neighbourhoods, located in the southern part of Rinkeby, is 2 to 3-storey lamella houses or corridor houses with facades in plaster or brick wall, designed by the architects Ernst Grönwall and Björn Näsvall. In the same place, Lars Bryde’s enlongated slabs and corridor houses with green plaster facades, window bands, symmetrical lines and corner balconies recall the 1930s’ Functionalism. Buildings are placed either parallel or perpendicular to each other, occasionally intersected by green courtyards. Ernst Grönwall also designed the 5 to 7-storey tall lamella houses/enlongated slabs (skivhus) and two-storey lamella houses, both with plaster facades, in the larger fourth neighbourhood towards the west. Although the houses in this neighbourhood are completely identical, they are the labour of five different developers.218 In the fifth main neighbourhood, buildings are designed by HSB Architects and built by Familjebostäder. Originally, the concrete 323

218.  Stockholm utanför tullarna: Nittiosju stadsdelar i yterstaden. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 2003, p. 401.


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elements defined the architecture with different types of surface techniques, but now they are masked by plaster or brick wall. Rinkeby’s district centre Rinkeby Centrum consists of two main components: Rinkeby Square, embraced by low-rise shops, and another square-like area, comprising the assembly hall Folkets Hus and the local medical centre. The shopping centre, designed by Nils Sterner, has kept its intimate, small-scale character in spite of later transformations. In the early 1990s, an extension was added to the main centre building when new shopping facilities were added along the walking street north of Rinkeby Square. Shops and services encircle the lively meeting point of the fountain at Rinkeby Square. The assembly hall Folkets Hus with its arcade and strong outer roof was officially inaugurated in 1986, although it was put to use by the residents, eight years earlier.219 Northwest of Rinkeby Centrum there is a former housing area for students with tall and low lamella houses. Those designed by Hans Borgström are connected through long corridors with staircases and elevator towers, rising up against highway E18 like a Brutalist castle. (Further north, a tall enlongated slab block by Henry Letholm gives an impression of monumentality towards Kvarnbyvägen with its nine storeys. In spite of the large scale, details such as marble borders and teak doors recall housing of the 1940s and 1950s.) Repeating the same standardised measures and components, all the schools in Rinkeby were realised by the Consortium 12 Schools. In the late 1990s, colourschemes on the facades of Rinkebyskolan (1970) west of the centre was redefined, while a new outer roof replaced the old. In 1997, the school’s sports hall was demolished and substituted by the flamboyant

219.  Stockholm utanför tullarna: Nittiosju stadsdelar i yterstaden. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 2003, p. 403.

The People’s House assembly hall in Rinkeby, inaugurated as late as 1986, is a testament of Tensta-Rinkeby’s bad coordination of services compared to Vällingby. Today, an ethnic restaurant owner has taken over the lower floor.


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In Rinkeby blocks are situated denser and straighter than in Vällingby – practical when aiming at realising one thousand dwellings in one go.

Yet, some architecture utilises the topography and natural site in a more integral way.

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Courtyard between housing in Rinkeby.

Satellite dishes and oriental carpets testify to the increasingly multicultural population in Rinkeby.

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curves of the so-called House of the Youth by Anders Bergkrantz, adding a stark contrast to the discreet school architecture. In 1999, Rinkeby had three daycares and playschools in addition to 6 kindergartens; one of them was the largest in Scandinavia with capacity for 150 children. Reminiscences of the old village Tensta peep through in the Tensta-Rinkeby, built on top of old farms, lending the New Town names like Stora and Lilla Tensta, Elinsborg and Lackes. Although the construction of Tensta-Rinkeby caused a massive transformation of the existing agrarian landscape, fragments of the original, rural architecture are also conserved. Thus, the master plan for Tensta-Rinkeby was adapted to the small-scale, heritage architecture scattered around the tongue of land between Tensta and Rinkeby around Spånga Church. The foundations of this medieval church date from the 12th century, while other parts were rebuilt in the 17th century. Next to the cemetery, some 19th century wooden houses are conserved along with the soldier house Torp Bussenhus (1725) and the church waiters building (1965). Moreover, the small Nydal Torp north of Tensta Centrum was left intact. In the 1970s these heritage houses were renovated and given new functions such as park playground and assembly halls. Forty years ago, when Tensta-Rinkeby was new, building cranes made most of the original nature into a tabula rasa. Yet, today greeneries and plantations in the courtyards are abundant and some sections have been left ‘wild’. Järvafältet is the longest (uninterrupted) green area in the Stockholm region and in the green valley between Rinkeby and Tensta there are many possibilities for organised and spontaneous sports and leisure activities like a barbecue or a picnic.

REFURBISHMENTS AND HERITAGE Retrospectively, one might wonder how and why the Million Program planning, based on the scale of the collective and the child, has gained a rumour as exactly the opposite. Aiming to induce inhabitants with a new ‘urban feeling’, decent housing, and user-friendly traffic separation, Tensta-Rinkeby has often been criticised as a deserted and child-hostile living environment in an uninhabitable scale. For instance, the Finnish architect Leena Laukasto argued that the protected traffic separation (contrary to the belief of the planners) counteracts and voids the environment of life and urbanism. In her opinion, it would be more suitable to mix vehicles and pedestrians the inner city is not only ’intensity, concentration and order’, but also ’un-order’.220 Such

220.  Laukosto forwarded these arguments at a conference in 1989. Björn Erdal: ”Därute i Tensta”, in Karl-Olov Arnstberg & Björn Erdal (edit.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998, p. 23.

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critical attitudes was underlined by the fact that many ‘resourceful’ inhabitants’ vacated the Million Program walk-up flats for single-family houses elsewhere without the type of (social) ‘un-order’, frequently associated with Tensta-Rinkeby. Moreover, there was the problem of the durability of the architecture. Due to the original use of building materials of a variable quality and fast construction methods, renovations became imminent within two decades. For these reasons, Sweden launched the so-called ROT Program (Renovation, Rebuilding and Adding) from 1984 onwards.221 By the same token, an international urban renewal congress Tensta-Stockholm-Sweden was held in Tensta, June 1989. After a week of discussions, the expert panel concluded that Tensta’s townscape had sufferered from too much well-meaning ‘caretaking’ from the outside rather than being amenable to local initiatives from the inside.222 One of the results was the Samverkansprojekt (the Cooperation Project), a series of collaborative projects, mediated by the non-profit housing organisation Familjebostäder (Family Dwellings), engaging the residents. Using the so-called Work Book Method, the tenants association, the inhabitants, Familjebostäder and the architectural office Loggia developed a programme of action for each neighbourhood. In some neighbourhoods, concrete renewals began immediately, while others were postponed until 1994 when the city of Stockholm launched the regeneration project Ytterstadssatsningen (the Outer Towns Venture) with various alterations, renovations and rebuildings.223 In the neighbourhood Björinge a two-storey parking deck was demolished and replaced by a laundrette and a daycare centre. During the 1970s, the neighbourhoods (at) Krällinge and Glömmingegränd were administered by different property speculators, leaving the dwellings in an ugly stage. Shortly after they were put under administration by the city, Familjebostäder took over responsibility and from 1992 to 1995, considerable transformations occurred. Following the cooperative guidelines of Samverkansprojektet, the Painters’ National Union held an idea competition, generating initiatives like change of coulour scheme of Krällinge’s northern façades from grey monochrome to a harlequin square pattern in pastel shades. ‘Dialogue-based’ restructurings, were also performed in the neighbourhood Hämringe: Outdoor spaces, facades and courtyards were upgraded, new light entry halls were built, and the tall buildings along Glömmingegränd were connected to a lower built-up area with different premises. In the neighbourhood

221.  Sweden’s ROT Program influenced neighbouring countries like Denmark. Writing in 1990, the Danish architect Michael Varming is inspired by Swedish renovations of late Modernism: ”it has been interesting to follow the incredibly efficient effort of the Swedes. There have been many errors, however, also many interesting improvements. For us Danes, Sweden has been a perfect catalogue of possible transformations.’ Michael Varming: “Fra million-program til milliard-sanering”, in Byplan, Vol. 4, 1990, Arkitektens Forlag, København, p. 117 – 119 (author’s translation). 222.  Familjebostäder: Tensta: En stadsvandring i Familjebostäders kvarter. Stockholm: Familjebostäder, 2002.

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223.  Ytterstadssatsningen included 12 of Stockholm’s ’physically and socially endangered districts in the periphery’. Eight of these districts were in Million Program New Towns like Tensta-Rinkeby, but also one of the Vällingby Group’s districts Hässelby Gård. The other districts were: Akalla, Husby, Bredäng, Sätra, Skärholmen, Vårberg, Hökerängen, Fagersjö and Östberga. The main purpose was to fight social and ethnical segregation and the inhabitants were invited to particiape in the process via collaborating working groups. Peter Lundevall: ”Tenstas planeringshistoria”, in Anders Gullberg (edit.): Tensta utanför mitt fönster. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2006, p. 220.


Grill adjacent to Tensta Tunnelbana station, the late sixties’ floral pattern of the paving, and renovated apartment houses, covered by brick wall.

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Uppinge, façades were renovated with new colours and materials, while inhabitants and experts from the National Arts Council Statens Konstråd redefined the structure of courtyards. A more drastic renewal happened to the school Enbacksskolan (1967). As a memorial of Tensta-Rinkeby’s long lack of basic amenities, the school was made of temporary barracks, meant to last for 10 years – it was in use for 25 years! In the beginning of the 1990s, Enbacksskolan was torn down and substituted by a new school, designed by architects of Stockholm’s real estate office. In 1991, Skanska and Svenska Bostäder launched the redevelopment project “From Tensta to Tenstad”, intending to supply the area surrounding Tensta Allé with new workplaces and a varied housing environment, willing to use the multiculture character of the New Town as a resource to increase the ‘urban feeling’, forwarded in the old general plan.224 In spite of all the good intensions and the critique of modernist top-down planning, it is difficult to judge how much influence the inhabitants have had on the regeneration process. (Yet, in spite of rebuildings in Tensta Centrum and the schools, plus some ‘plastic surgery’ on façades and restructurings of courtyards, many buildings in the neighbourhoods, involved in the process, still appear close to their original state.) In 1987, the same year as Vällingby Centrum was listed as cultural heritage, a renewal process was also initiated in Rinkeby. Like in Tensta, the common goal was to alter the New Town’s image through an upgrading of architecture in decay and a wider catalogue of flat types. In this case, the regeneration was not as ‘dialogue-based’ and bottom-up as in Tensta. On initiative of one main architect, Jan Lundqvist, Rinkeby’s minimalist structure of five main neighbourhoods was subdivided into 11 smaller neighbourhoods. In the renovation process, lasting until 1996, a customised solution was found for each of these neighbourhoods. With a certain postmodernist eagerness, the makeover went deep. The overall ambition was to modify the large-scale and repetitive character of the architecture, and frequently it was almost only the supporting scheleton of the orginal buildings that was left untouched.225 Over fifteen stages and in concert with the inhabitants, 1,362 worn-out apartments were replaced with 1,245 new. Buildings were demolished, sometimes floors were added or subtracted, installations were replaced, attic floors were added, and facades were altered by means of variegated coulour schemes, balconies, new entrances (some in costly materials like oak), bays, and new materials like plaster, bricks or glaced tiles. As an example of the radicality of this new gable architecture, the big buildings overlooking the main communication lines highway E18 and Hjulstavägen were

224.  Björn Erdal: Därute i Tensta, in Karl-Olov Arnstberg & Björn Erdal (edit.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998, p. 24. 225.  Familjebostäder: Rinkeby: En stadsvandring i Familjebostäders kvarter. Stockholm: Familjebostäder, 1998/2001.

Tensta’s newly build row houses with wooden facades in different colours seem to dream about (Disneyesque) new urbanism, inhabiting a house of one’s own, small town community, and individuality. Everything Tensta is not, according to stereotypes.

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given new attic floors, tile facades, balconies, bays and corbie-step gables. Hadar Tilja designed the façades in glaced tiles and the shimmering emanel plates in various colours. Meanwhile, asphalt courtyards were transformed into abundant garden environments, whilst art works were placed throughout the New Town. For instance, new brick walls and portals in Venetian mosaic by the sculptor Hans Pettersson were added to the courtyards along the street Degerbygränd. In search of ‘multiplicity’ and new enterprises, a whole housing block was altered into offices, e.g. for the local police and social insurance office. As a way to fulfil the vision of creating new life, a new shopping street was made: Old laundrettes were converted into rental premises, while the bottom apartments along the street Parkstråket were expanded and replaced by shops, restaurants and other enterprises. Of all the Stockholmian satellite towns, Rinkeby and the later Husby at the northern part of Järvafältet were the only ones without any single-family houses. In order to foster a more diverse housing environment, a small neighbourhood of row houses


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were realised at the street Rinkebysträdet in the beginning of the 21st century. (In the beginning the houses were rented out, but potential residents requested ownership over their dwelling. The non-profit administrator agreed on a to compromise of a housing cooperative.226) Row houses were built in order to provide Rinkeby with a broader selection of dwellings and mixed ownerships, yet, 99 percent of the New Town’s inhabitants still live in rental flats. From all the refurbishments, described above, it becomes clear that preferences and standards for dwellings change with time – even if they are based on scientific research and rationality. After the heyday of the ‘Swedish Modern’ and the rupture of Social Democratic hegemony in 1976, renewals in Tensta-Rinkeby and other Million Program New Towns, have been based on a general critique of late modernist architecture

226.  Telephone interview with Kerstin Ahlin from AB Svenska Bostäder in Vällingby, conducted by the author in Stockholm, July 17, 2008.

Everyday streetscapes in Rinkeby of the early 21th century differ significantly from the original renderings of the planners.

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(signified by the material of concrete) and the minimum standards, underpinning it. Blaming architecture as the culpable for the allegedly ‘declassification’ and, as it were, ‘ghettoisation’ of the New Town, the urban regeneration has largely remained at the physical level with a limited social and economic effect. 10 to 15 years after the renewal efforts, described above, the majority of Tensta-Rinkeby’s population still consists of ‘resource-weak’ ethnic Swedish and Swedish of ‘other’ ethnicities. ‘Resourceful’ families tend to move out of the New Town when they are able (e.g. to Vällingby). It is only now that a ramified reform program, Järvalyftet (the Järva Lift) integrating social, economical, environmental, cultural and architectural aspects and parties, including local groups, is in the ladle. Over a ten-year period, the city of Stockholm and Svenska Bostäder will spend 100 million SEK annually on what is called a ‘sustainable’ and ‘integrated’ renewal program with the purpose of increasing security, welfare and attraction at Järvafältet:

‘The long-term investment is done within the framework of what is called the Järva Lift. It is the City of Stockholm’s job to make Järva a part of Stockholm that is known for its good economic and social development. An area where people and enterprises want to move – and stay.’ 227

At present, the project is still in its planning phase, so it is too early to predict the character and effects of concrete initiatives. Yet, from the description material, it seems like the Järva Lift will operate with different strategies parallelly, intending to go deeper than colourschemes and bays on facades. Meanwhile, many previous renovations have suffered from a lack of awareness or recognition of the historical value of the Million Program. Ugly or not, it was a decisive architecture of the Swedish Model, framing and shaping the history of a modern and urbanised Sweden - just like the listed Vällingby. After the most intensive stage of the renewal process, some began to question the (uncritical) destruction and refashioning of the ‘outlawed’ architecture of the late 1960s and early 1970s according to contemporary aesthetics and values. Hence, postmodernist details and rainbow colours of the late 1980s and early 1990s substituted 335

227.  Svenska Bostäder: Stadsförnyelse in Järva – en del av Järvalyftet. Stockholm: Svenska Bostäder/Stockholms Stad, 2008, p. 3 (author’s translation).


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the repetition and monochromatic tonality at the time of the Million Program. The architect Claus Bech-Danielsen pushes it to extremes: ‘the overly dull’ was swapped for ‘the overly festive’ as ‘brightly coloured chaos’ replaced ‘coulourless dullness’.228 In 1996, the Swedish architecture museum Arkitekturmuseet in Stockholm published an anthology, critically reassessing the Million Program with its inherent limitations and qualities.229 In a similar vein, the architect Johan Engström worried that, considering the blackened rumour and the lack of protecting laws of the Million Program, there might not be anything left of this important chapter in Sweden’s recent urban planning history if the ‘beautifications’ continued. In a 1997 article in MAMA (Magasin för Modern Arkitektur), he summed up his scepticism towards the reiteration of the tabula rasa strategy of the anti-historical modernists in the Million Program New Towns:

’Today we are 20-30 years after the implementation of the Million Program. Around the country there are big housing areas, often with a shameful reputation and, perhaps even more frequently, of poor technical quality, making them in need of an upgrading. Yet, it is housing areas with a completely own and quite interesting history. How shall we set to work in order to preserve them for the future?’ 230

Slowly, such heritage debates, initiated by architects and historians, are spreading as a new curiosity and awareness of the historical and cultural value of the Million Program.231 In 1952, thousands visited ‘the city of the future’ via model apartments of a New Town to be at the Vällingby exhibition. As an inverted mirror of this event, 15,000 people re-visited the ‘city of the past’ at a living exhibition over ten days in August, 2006: The Stockholm City Museum reconstructed a Tensta apartment at the address Kämpingebacken 13 into its original 1972 appearance (green plastic tablecloth, orangebrown patterned curtains and a luxurious freezer compartment in the refrigerator). According to the artist and architectural writer, Mikael Askergren, such renewed 228.  Claus Bech-Danielsen: ”Ghettoer – et spørgsmål om arkitektur”, in Politiken, December 13, 2008, p. 6 (author’s translation). 229.  See Arkitekturmuseet: En Miljon Bostäder: Arkitekturmuseets Årsbok 1996. Stockholm: Arkitekturmuseet: 1996. 230.  Johan Engström: ”Miljonprogrammet”, in MAMA (Magasin för Modern Arkitektur), Vol. 18, 1997, p. 27 (author’s translation). 231.  Christine Demsteader: ”Concrete Jungle: Sweden’s Surburbs Become Cool”, in The Local, February 9, 2007, www.thelocal.se

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interest in the Million Program is history repeating itself: 50 – 60 years ago, Swedish urbanism inspired planners, architects and politicians to travel half the globe to learn from cases such as Vällingby. Similarly, Askergren pictures the future of Million Program New Towns like TenstaRinkeby as monumentalist artworks and subject of betongturism (concrete tourism):

‘Why do people have such problems loving the concrete architecture of Sweden’s structuralist residential suburbs of the 1960s and 1970s? Most people seem to agree that it is impossible to live a decent life there, but it should be possible to learn to love the architecture of these suburbs as monumentalist artworks; as sculpture. The future of the suburbs of the 1960s and 1970s is not to be lived in, but (much like the castles, palaces, and other monumentalist artworks of ancient times) to be emptied, to be restored into their original splendour, and then to become the subject of tourism.’ 232

Although Askergren’s future scenario is radical (one might ask where the million+ inhabitants should live if the Million Program New Towns became living museums?), it is also thought provoking. By inverting mainstream mythologies and historical narratives, new potentials become visible in the existing. If modernist utopia was located in a future to come (Vällingby as ‘city of the future’), present-day utopia is rather situated in a future linked to past experiences with an ever-changing history and memory as active forces and shapers of the present and the future (Tensta-Rinkeby as cultural heritage). Thus, history is the proof that everything has changed over time and most probably will do it again, depending on the persons, inhabiting and living it – narratives, myths, images, life styles, mentalities and of course spaces. Perceived as cultural heritage, Million Program Modernism has become a memory of the welfare state – traumatic and nostalgic - recognising the histories of the 25 percent of the Swedish population who either live or has lived in the Million Program architecture.

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232.  Mikael Askergren: ”Betongturism”, in Plaza Magazine, 5, 2002, www.askergren.com/betongturism.html


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NEW TOWNS ON THE BLOCK Regardless of the optimism expressed by Mikael Askergren, the standardised architecture of the Million Program, politically framed to the period between 1965 and 1974, is still identified as the ‘Other’ of modernist urbanism in Sweden. Yet, standardisation anticipated the Million Program: Many forget that the celebrated 1930s Functionalism also forwarded the idea of industrial construction methods. The earlier mentioned Stockholm Exhibition (1930) and the manifesto Acceptera (1931) are examples on this. Likewise, industrialisation of building processes was a hot topic in books and magazines of the 1950s. Ideas were translated into practice, assisted by the building cranes, often associated with the Million Program architecture.233 Thus, writing in 1957, the American architecture critic G.E. Kidder smith, admired the implementation of prefabricated concrete panels and building cranes in Vällingby.234 Breaking ground for novel production methods and planning in a larger scale, the success of Vällingby paved the way for a new boldness and efficiency among urban planners and decision makers to fight the negative curve of housing and overcrowding in Sweden’s urban centres. Stockholm’s pioneer New Town Vällingby came into being in the post-war era, a time susceptible to architectural experimentation and high ideals. Although, the planners of Tensta-Rinkeby intended to redefine New Town planning according to new ideas of urbanism, it was also a planning that pushed the boundaries for how fast it was possible to build a New Town from scratch. Varying in shape and orientation, the 1950s (eternit and plaster) architecture of Vällingby is kept in a smaller scale, inspired by British neighbourhood planning. Building methods are less rationalised than in the Million Program New Town (i.g. single-family houses with self-build assistance provided by Småstugabyrån (the Single-Family House Bureau).235 In Tensta-Rinkeby the built-up area is more monotonous, while the level of density is generally higher in relationship to green spaces. According to the new planning principle of ‘a new urban feeling’, the so-called bandstadsmönster with tall lamella houses on hills along the main road in the north, the district centre with Tunnelbana station and services in the middle, and lower slabs towards the green valley, Tensta-Rinkeby’s layout follows the topography as well as the parallel lines of building crane tracks. In Vällingby the balance between the

233.  By the end of the 1950s, 700 tower cranes were operating in Sweden. Olof Eriksson: ”Brännpunkt 60-Tal: Den politiska och tekniska bakgrunden”, in En Miljon Bostäder: Arkitekturmuseets Årsbok 1996. Stockholm: Arkitekturmuseet: 1996, p. 35. 234.  On a study trip to Vällingby, Kidder-smith witnesses the new experimentation with industrialised construction methods: ‘From the production point of view, some of the most interesting experiments at Vällingby can be found in the prefabricated concrete panel apartments shown above. These two-storey industrialized units, designed by Hjalmar Klemming, are dry erected on the site by means of a small travelling crane.’ G. E. Kidder-smith: Op. cit., p. 113. 235.  Jon Höjer,; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 18.

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built and the un-built is different. Adding a feeling of coherence within neighbourhood units, buildings are situated relatively close to each other. Nevertheless, Vällingby’s general plan is drafted in dialogue with the pre-existing landscape and the topography of the site, maintaining a certain distance and green ‘oases’ between the built-up areas. In both New Towns, infrastructural communication lines are structured according to an ideal of separation between ‘hard’ vehicle traffic and ‘soft’ pedestrian traffic –Vällingby’s echoing Radburn, N.J. and Tensta-Rinkeby’s hierarchical grid structure imitating an inner city street network. Finally, Vällingby’s integral ABC-Town planning scheme incorporated all aspects of the inhabitants’ life with public services, shopping facilities and local workplaces (although it took 10 years before most enterprises settled). In Tensta-Rinkeby, where coordination of the construction process was poor, it lasted several years before some of these functions were only partially in place. On this background, many describe Vällingby as urban planning of a time when Modernism was fresh and innovative, whilst it was Tensta-Rinkeby’s destiny to coincide with an engineer-like bureaucratisation of modernist planning schemes of the Million Program. In short, Vällingby was associated with quality, aesthetics and integration while Tensta-Rinkeby radiated quantity, pragmatics and segregation. What such a presentation tends to forget is that some of the later designs such as Hässelby Strand, Hässelby Gård and Grimsta initiated the inclusion of prefabricated building elements in Sweden. Another factor is that many of the same people such as the planner Göran Sidenbladh and Josef Stäck in addition to architects like John Höjer and Sture Ljungqvist or Sven Backström and Leif Reinius participated in the planning and design of both New Towns. Moreover, there are some individual designs in Tensta-Rinkeby, although they might not be as spectacular as in Vällingby. Parallel to Sweden’s changing demographics, housing and living standards, the differences between the two New Towns might not be as clear as 30 – 40 years ago. The majority of dwellings in both Vällingby and Tensta-Rinkeby are social rental apartments, often allotted by public non-profit housing organisations like Svenska Bostäder or Familjebostäder to (lowincome) people in need of affordable housing - not exactly the top priority dwelling type of ‘resourceful’ in contemporary Sweden. Still, Vällingby materialised in a relatively homogenous planning environment, largely controlled by Stockholm’s planners and politicians, while the planning of Tensta-Rinkeby was marked by a complication of the political administration in the 1960s. With an increase of conflicting planning interests and incompatible demands, tasks of administration, negotiation and mediation were added to the usual design role of the planner. Similarly, more responsibilities were given over to private contractors and developers.236 236.  Jon Höjer,; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 18.

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‘At the end one gets tired of complaining. Perhaps that is what they are waiting for’ 237

Because of the desperate housing shortage in the Stockholm region, the first 30 families moved into Familjebostäder’s two-storey walk-up flats in Tensta, June 1, 1967, few months after the first spit was taken November 2, 1966. In august 1967, the now 200 New Town pioneers had to walk one kilometer to the neighbouring district Spånga to buy groceries and go to the post office, while the children went to Solhemskolan in Spånga.238 In May 1968, there were 1,000 inhabitants (mostly children’s families) in Tensta – a year after the number had increased to 7,000, many of which had been on waiting lists for 10 years.239 Although they probably liked their spacious and wellplanned apartments, it was no doubt a chaotic and occasionally dangerous experience to live in the middle of a building ground. For years Tensta-Rinkeby was one big construction site with various contractors working on different lots within the same neighbourhood.240 The miserable scenery took the shape of a tight schedule with serious delays and lack of coordination between the city’s different administrations as well as between the many developers. Long time after almost all dwellings were completed in May 1971, housing areas appeared unfinished, while basic facilities were missing. In November that year, the district centre Rinkeby Centrum was also inaugurated although the Tunnelbana was not in place before 1975. This was exactly the opposite tactic than the one, used in the decade when Markelius directed Stockholm’s urban planning office. Here one of the key principles had been to coordinate the construction of new satellite towns with the expansion of the Tunnelbana, not least in Vällingby’s integral ABCTown planning. Controversial images of unhappy inhabitants in a living environment, constituted by a provisional bus line, an arbitrary selection of groceries in interim barracks, unfinished pedestrian paths, children playing among building cranes and scaffolding, and nonexisting or poor social services caused a major media outcry. With a title mimicking the sociological reports, so trusted at the time, Rapport Tensta (1970), a publication by three journalists of the tabloid newspaper Expressen, was the first to blow the whistle. The critique was delivered loud and clear in sensational interviews with unsatisfied 237.  Tensta pioneer in Olle Bengtzon; Jan Delden & Jan Lundgren: Rapport Tensta. Stockholm: Pan Express, 1970, p. 12 (author’s translation). 238.  Björn Erdal: ”Därute i Tensta”, in Karl-Olov Arnstberg & Björn Erdal (edit.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998, p. 26. 239.  Ibid.

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240.  The gravitiy of the situation led the housing organisation AB Svenska Bostäder to publish a brochure, warning the pioneer inhabitants about the dangers of the site: ’We want to draw your attention on the fact that you move into a district to be. In other words, henceforward you will live on a construction site with everything this implies in a matter of dangers, especially for children. For them the environment to which you are moving is exciting and enticing – but dangerous.’ AB Svenska Bostäder in Ingemar Johansson: StorStockholms bebyggelseshistoria: Markpolitik, planering och bygganda under sju sekler. Stockholm: Gidlunds, 1987, p. 596 (author’s translation).


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Idealistic poetry adorns the wall of Tensta Tunnelbana station, indicating the original good intentions, while planning the New Town: ‘We need to build a sustainable world for us living now and for coming generations.’

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tenants and dramatic headlines like: ‘Deliberately set death traps’, ‘Warlike past’, ‘Civil offensive’, ‘Time bomb’, ‘From plan to chaos’, and ‘Splintered responsibility’.241 Simultaneously, images of a growing immigrant population in the area led the newspaper Dagens Nyheter to write, ‘Tensta becomes a ghetto’, and in April 1971: ‘Tensta is everything but slum. Yet, there is a risk for Tensta to transform into an immigrant ghetto’.242 Opposition politicians were not late to join in, blaming the Tensta-Rinkeby ‘fiasco’ as an offspring of irresponsible and untimely Social Democratic policies. Subsequently, a whole choir of voices has contributed to the construction of the shady reputation of the New Town, backed up by statistics, signifying ‘ghettoisation’ and segregation. As the historian Ingemar Johansson writes:

‘Within a small period, Tensta became a nationally known concept via the mass media, and soon it appeared as the symbol of failed urban planning in general and an inhuman housing environment in particular…a monument in concrete of the housing shortage in the 1960s.’ 243

The critique of Tensta-Rinkeby’s built-up environment resonated so loud and harsh in the beginning of the 1970s that the parties of the building sector washed their hands of it, presenting the Million Program as ‘a political project’.244 When it came to Tensta-Rinkeby, the normally cautious architecture critics Henrik Andersson and Fredric Bedoire were also clear. In 1973 they wrote: ‘The ambitions in the planning of the area have to a considerable degree been sabotaged during the actual construction phase of the work.’245 These arguments were echoed (slightly milder) by Stockholm’s urban planning office: ‘the experience gained from Tensta will

241.  See Olle Bengtzon, Jan Delden, & Jan Lundgren: Rapport Tensta. Stockholm: Pan Express, 1970 (author’s translation). 242.  Peter Lundevall: ”Tenstas planeringshistoria”, in Anders Gullberg (edit.): Tensta utanför mitt fönster. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2006, p. 219 (author’s translation). 243.  Ingemar Johansson: StorStockholms bebyggelseshistoria: Markpolitik, planering och bygganda under sju sekler. Stockholm: Gidlunds, 1987, p. 595 - 596 (author’s translation).

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244.  Olof Eriksson: ”Brännpunkt 60-Tal: Den politiska och tekniska bakgrunden”, in En Miljon Bostäder: Arkitekturmuseets Årsbok 1996. Stockholm: Arkitekturmuseet: 1996, p. 35. 245.  Henrik Andersson and Fredric Bedoire in Magnus Andersson: Stockholm’s Annual Rings: A Glimpse into the Development of the City. Stockholm: Stockholmia, 1998, p. 195.


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be very important in the future.’246 Some lessons were indeed learned from the TenstaRinkeby experience, including a better coordination of the building process with fewer contractors, more diversity in designs and colour schemes, and an overall time schedule for the construction of dwellings, Tunnelbana, communal facilities and shops. The plan for the northern part of Järvafältet was done on the basis of a Nordic idea competition ‘to throw light on different possibilities to exploit and to go into details with Järvafältet.’247 Launched in February 1966, more than 50 teams participated and the result was published, March 1967. Towards the 1970s when the Million Program’s excessive construction machine was close to overproduction, the planning scale decreased, encouraging low and dense building environments. From 1973 onwards, changes were visible in Stockholm’s last New Towns at the remaining part of Järvafältet, also planned by Dergalin and Sidenbladh, but this time assisted by the planner Thomas Atmer.248 The planning and architecture of the New Towns Norra Järva, Akalla, Husby and especially Kista differed significantly from the early Million Program period. When Stockholm’s great building era came to a closure in 1977, with King Karl Gustav and Queen Silvia’s inauguration of the region’s last Storcentrum, an indoor mall in Kista, Vällingby was still respected as a model New Town. Admiring the qualities of the pioneer New Town in comparison to the disappointments of the 1960s - TenstaRinkeby in particular - Sture Ljungqvist and Jon Höjer propose the idea of 1970s urban planning, elaborating – or even completing - the ABC-Town project, initiated by Vällingby:

‘Today it is difficult for us to imagine this [the ABC-Town planning of Vällingby] as a larger novelty. Nevertheless, the fact is that Vällingby has been studied by countless foreign study groups and is often designated as a model in the literature on urban planning. It is doubtful whether something similar can be said about the 1960s. Rather, the usual structure was often utilised according to routine and

246.  Stockholm’ s urban planning office in Magnus Andersson: Stockholm’s Annual Rings: A Glimpse into the Development of the City. Stockholm: Stockholmia, 1998, p. 1995. 247.  Igor Dergalin & Thomas Atmer: “Dispositionsplanen för Norra Järvafältet”, in Arkitektur, 1, 1969, p. 8 (author’s translation). 248.  The framework of the plan for the northern part of Järvafältet was presented October 31, 1968. For further details see Göran Sidenbladh: “Introduktion till dispositionsplan för Järvafältet” in Arkitektur, 1, 1969 and Igor Dergalin & Thomas Atmer: “Dispositionsplanen för Norra Järvafältet, in Arkitektur, 1, 1969.

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in a quite unimaginative way. However, as is well known, it is difficult to repeat a successful performance. Perhaps, the 1970s can succeed completing parts of the Vällingby ambitions regarding a simultaneous construction of dwellings, schools, childcare and workplaces.’ 249

Writing one year after the end of the Social Democratic hegemony in Sweden (from 1932 to 1976) and three years after the consolidation of the Million Program (1974), Ljungqvist and Höjer’s statement expresses a schism of their time. Standing in a ford, they were unsure about the next step, questioning Social Democratism and Modernism alike: On the one hand, they were still in line with the old utopias; they talk about urban planning, implying ‘a certain control of the social structure’ and advocate for ‘that the town building technique must develop into some sort of society building’ (top-down).250 On the other hand, imagining a Swedish urbanism of the 1980s, they begin to doubt these strategies, controlling individuals according to collective minimum standards (bottom-up): ‘At the same time planning must become less abstract by establishing a direct contact with the individual human being or a small group of people instead of searching for her wishes among statistical tables.’251 According to Höjer and Ljungqvist, a new planning ethics, at the intersection of the individual and the collective, bottom-up and top-down, was emerging. Although, this new utopia was not fulfilled in the 1970s, little openings appeared with individual choice of tapestry, removable, flexible walls, courtyard environments managed by inhabitants, half-finished planting areas, and other initiatives inspired by villa neighbourhoods. The question was what the future obligations of Swedish urban planning would become: The longlasting housing shortage was no longer an issue - on the contrary there was a surplus of vacant apartments. When, the expansion and decentralisation of Stockholm, distributing a series of satellite towns in the periphery, was realised, it was no longer evident to use the rational construction methods and quantitative thinking, forwarded in the 1960s and early 1970s. As mentioned, Vällingby’s integral ABC-Town concept was still a model (e.g. for Ljungqvist and Höjer), but many things had changed since the 1950s. Reflecting a gradual process of individualisation, privatisation and differentiation in Sweden, the new category of the ‘the user’ (a.k.a. ‘the consumer’, ‘the

249.  Jon Höjer; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 16 (author’s translation).

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250.  Ibid. 251.  Jon Höjer; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 18 (author’s translation).


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inhabitant’, ‘the individual’, etc.) was introduced as an interested party in matters of urban planning as well as in other sectors of the political game. Only two years after the first spit in Tensta-Rinkeby, an editorial in Arkitektur, 8, 1968, invited people to direct their comments and wishes to the framework of the plans for the northern part of Järvafältet and the Gothenburg New Town Angered-Bergum, so they could be adjusted accordingly:

‘A great deal of work has been put into the planning of Järvafältet and Angered-Bergum. The planning areas are not locked in any larger sections. Accordingly, there is still a possibility to influence the planning. Arkitektur has gathered available material and offer the main features of both plan suggestions in this edition. The readers are invited to participate in a debate. Are we able to hope that those deciding on and participating in the planning study and perhaps even consider the viewpoints given? Are we able to expect that some user organisation edits the viewpoints and present them before the plans are materialised in reinforced concrete?’ 252

Parallel to the counter-movement of 1968, a series of events with the user as a protagonist took place in Tensta-Rinkeby. As a kind of ‘borderline case’, equally mark ed by the rationalised planning of the 1960s and a new mobilisation of the inhabitants as ‘users’, individuals with desires and dreams about the meaning of ‘happiness’ and ‘the good life’, the New Town denoted the evolution of Swedish urbanism. Contrary to the Vällingbies, inhabitants in Tensta-Rinkeby were not ‘pampered’ in an immaculate ABCTown. Due to the opacity of the many interested parties, the missing coordination, and the long lack of basic facilities, Tensta-Rinkeby’s inhabitants were forced to organise and

252.  The editorial also reflects about the difficulties for the ’user’ to have an overview picture and a voice in an urban planning process: ‘It is difficult for the individual to be able to study all material that are given in a planning matter and then to present objective viewpoints in a debate. What misses is an organisation that collects and reworks consumers’ wishes regarding plans, not yet fixed, in different contexts. An influence from the consumers’ party at the right time assure that the plan is revised and then presented again, perhaps with various alternatives.’ Editorial: ”Inom tio år”, in Arkitektur, 8, 1968, p. 3 (author’s translation).

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‘build barricades’ at an early stage. In Vällingby the inhabitants were merely ‘onlookers’ – sometimes row house groups built and administrated own community grounds, but collective housing around courtyards did not foster independent administrative units. Meanwhile, the tenants of Tensta-Rinkeby grew stronger and began to organise themselves in byalag (neighbourhood associations), attending to common interests and a neighbour-friendly communication, just like the active political groups of the New Town.253 At different occasions, they demanded improvements of public amenities, conservation of the green area bordering the New Town and protested against relocating of a long-time promised gymnasium to Kista.254 As a reaction to the disposition plan for Norra Järvafältet (1969), Tensta citizens initiated the organisation Rädda Järvafältet (Save Järvafältet) in 1970 and in 1972 more than 10,000 participated in an environmental march against Regionplan 70.255 Such bottom-up activism also happened in the 1972 incident of the elm trees in the park Kungsträdgården, following several protests against the demolition of historical buildings in the inner city (during the regeneration of Hötorget). In front of the rolling cameras of an international press, thousands of Stockholmers fought police and city authorities, resisting the felling of a series of long-standing elm trees. Politicians and planners were stupefied. One of them exclaimed: ‘Now it is a question of the function of democracy and not about the elmtrees. Are we to have democracy or anarchy?’256 As a victory for the citizens, the elm trees were indeed saved. On different levels, these events reflected a growing individualisation and where the Swedish state and the City of Stockholm with their usual bureaucratic procedures were in less control over urban planning matters. At the time of Vällingby, the ‘patriarchal’ Markelius and a limited number of strong decision makers had delegated from Stockholm’s urban planning office. Meanwhile, the dynamics caused by a lack of coordination between non-profit, cooperative and private developers in Tensta-Rinkeby, followed by a new web of responding users’ groups, pointed towards a more plural planning environment. On this background it is not strange that Ljungqvist and Höjer (in 1977) imagine the future as ‘the turbulent planning environment’, characterised by more debates and interest conflicts in the various steps of a planning process: the political elite, fashion, fluctuations of the market and ‘above all between the different groups of inhabitants with varying success of claiming the demands that appear in situations, impossible to

253.  Jon Höjer; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 19. 254.  Björn Erdal ”Därute i Tensta”, in Karl-Olov Arnstberg & Björn Erdal (edit.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998, p. 36 and Familjebostäder: Tensta: En stadsvandring i Familjebostäders kvarter. Stockholm: Familjebostäder, 2002.

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255.  Lundevall, Peter: ”Tenstas planeringshistoria”, in Anders Gullberg (edit.): Tensta utanför mitt fönster. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2006, p. 219. 256.  Municipal politician quoted in Magnus Andersson: Stockholm’s Annual Rings: A Glimpse into the Development of the City. Stockholm: Stockholmia, 1998, p. 186 (author’s translation).


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master with the planning routines of today.’257 For better and worse, the tendency of more negotiations and architects acting as mediators between interested parties, so often criticised as uncreative bureaucratisation, also meant more democratisation – or at least participation - in the shaping of people’s living environments. Another aspect of this ‘turbulent urbanism’ in the process of becoming was the increased influence of globalisation and Capitalist market forces, coinciding with new political values and ideals of the Non-Socialist opposition parties, winning the national election in 1976. As the housing situation became less desperate and people were able to make a choice, inhabitants in Tensta-Rinkeby and other Million Program New Towns became more critical and requested higher diversity rather than architecture, adapted to production and universal minimum standards. From the mid-1970s, the ideal of collectivism and unity were replaced by individuality and multiplicity; the dwelling was to reflect identity, not anonymity.258 Generated by a change of the tax system, singlefamily houses popped up like mushrooms, while a liberalisation of the real estate market took place. At the same time as many Swedes realised their old dream of a house of their own, private developers were in the clover.259 From then, the exodus began - ethnical and ‘resource-ful’ Swedes, vacating their rental flat in Tensta-Rinkeby for a single-family house in one of the neighbouring suburbs. This negative spiral was – and is - a determining factor to the metamorphosis of Tensta-Rinkeby’s demography. The tenant structure became unbalanced, while social problems grew. As the flats emptied, there was a surplus of dwellings, increasingly allotted by public authorities to those who could not afford to choose where to live. From an early date, Tensta-Rinkeby had a higher concentration of marginalised Swedes and representatives of the county’s growing immigrant population compared to other parts of the Stockholm region: In the late 1970s, Rinkeby had approx. 7,500 inhabitants of which 35 percent was under 20 years old; 20 percent was of foreign origin, spread out on 20 countries, the majority coming from Finland, Greece and Turkey. In 1999, there were 15,000 residents; 35 percent was still younger than 20 years old, while 72 percent was now carriers of more ‘exotic’ names than Svensson or Andersson.260 Today there are more than 100 different nationalities in Rinkeby. In 1972, the population in Tensta peaked with almost 16,000 inhabitants, but the composition and number of residents have changed many times since, following a demographic pattern similar 257.  Jon Höjer; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 17 (author’s translation). 258.  Claus Bech-Danielsen writes about the motives of this parallel shift of mentality and change of housing: ‘The dwelling mirrors our identity. That is why housing programs steal the peak viewing time on all television channels, and why so many owners of single-family houses use weekend after weekend, making additions to and renovating their dwelling. They want to leave their stamp on their dwelling, because in a time where individuality blossoms, we want to be different from the mass, so we don’t appear as trivial fabrics sold by the meter or as a copy of our neighbour. Our dwelling must be something special. Naturally, inhabitants in public housing have the same need, yet, here the 1960s and 1970s blocks have a problem.’ Claus Bech-Danielsen: ”Ghettoer – et spørgsmål om arkitektur”, in Politiken, December 13, 2008, p. 6 (author’s translation). 259.  See Peter Hall: Op. cit. 260.  Stockholm utanför tullarna: Nittiosju stadsdelar i yterstaden. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 2003, p. ??

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to Rinkeby’s. This contributed to further blackening of Tensta-Rinkeby’s image: From mess and ‘sloppy-ness’, it went through low status, addictions and unemployment, to immigration, crime and ghettoisation.261 Hence, the paradox of Tensta-Rinkeby: Contrary to ‘the city of the future’ Vällingby, it was designated as a dated ‘dinosaur’, a product of a bureaucratised planning environment and an urbanism adapted to production, already as a ‘new’ New Town.262 Yet, after decades of long waiting lists, thousands of homeless, presumably regardless of class or income, could settle in well-planned, spacious apartments. Framing a ‘new modern living for good democratic citizens’, the average of square metres (for the flats with 2, 3 and 5 rooms) was usually higher than Vällingby’s.263 (Some of the bigger flats had a ‘room for rent’ (uthyrningsrum) with private entrance and many of them had separate toilet and bathroom in addition to windproof balconies and flowing daylight illumination through their big windows.) As the Million Program expert Lisbeth Söderqvist puts it:

’These homes were built for everyone, not just poor people...the idea was to blend different people from different backgrounds. By doing so you would have a society that was stable and a society without conflict...

Gradually the population got more mixed in Million Programme New Towns like Tensta, built parallel to growing immigration to Sweden. Arnstberg, Karl-Olov & Björn Erdal (ed.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998.

261.  Urban Ericsson; Irena Molina, and Per-Markku Ristilammi: Op. cit., www.mkc.botkyrka.se/biblioteket/Publikationer/miljonprogram.pdf

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262.  As Höjer and Ljungqvist writes: ‘Significantly, much of the critique against Tensta was aimed at the broken coordination in the building process…Now, the planning process is not only complicated and happens in large scale but is also dragged out in time; the product is ‘out of time’ when it is finally ready to be put into use.’ Jon Höjer; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 17 (author’s translation). 263.  Sonja Vidén: ”Folkhem och Bostadssilor”, in En Miljon Bostäder: Arkitekturmuseets Årsbok 1996. Stockholm: Arkitekturmuseet: 1996, p. 61 (author’s translation).


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People started to move in and everyone was happy... It was an expression of the welfare state that people had a modern functional home, with three rooms and a kitchen.’ 264

Thus, a dichotomy of integration/segregation was imbedded into the egalitarian planning of the Swedish Model: Walk-up flats built for Swedish families, were increasingly vacated of natives and accommodated by a growing immigrant population, adding an unforeseen diversity to the Million Program New Towns. If Vällingby had been the incarnation of the homogenous, happy and egalitarian welfare state, TenstaRinkeby became the emblem of the fragmentation, multiculturalisation and social unequalities of Folkhemmet’s Sweden. As Höjer and Ljungqvist writes: ’Tensta [became] a concept as a symbol of ”a failed town building”.’265

SEGREGATION AND SELF-ORGANISATION Like many counterparts in the Western hemisphere, Stockholm in general and the New Towns towards the northwest in particular have undergone vivid transformations. Over the last decades, globalisation and (im)migration have generated major changes of urban and social geographies. Facing global urban competition (of investments, tourists, workplaces, tax rates, attraction of ‘resource-ful’ segments, etc.), public funds have been canalised into higher education, business parks and prestigious regeneration projects such as Hammerby Sjöstad and the Sankt Erik Area. Recent planning documents present Sweden’s capital as the epitome of urban success and prosperity: ‘the beautiful city at the water’, ‘a prosperous global city that upholds itself well in the international context’ and the city’s high-tech hub is designated as ‘the world’s leading ICT Cluster’.266 Although one can give a little smile at the clumsiness of such city branding, it might possess a certain danger. It notoriously ignores or tones down the growing segregation that has always been the ‘evil other’ of the egalitarian and integrated ideal of Folkhemmet’s Sweden. The planning of Tensta-Rinkeby coincided with a gradual process of segregation

264.  Lisbeth Söderqvist in Christine Demsteader: ”Concrete Jungle: Sweden’s Surburbs Become Cool”, in The Local, February 9, 2007, www.thelocal.se 265.  Jon Höjer; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 19 (author’s translation). 266.  Lina Olsson: Den Självorganiserade Staden: Appropriation av offentliga rum i Rinkeby. Lund: Lunds Universitets Förlag, 2008, p. 246.

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in the Stockholm region from the 1970s onwards, partially produced by an influx of immigrants and refugees: First, Sweden experienced a ‘controlled’ immigration of foreign labour force from Yugoslavia, Greece, etc. in the 1950s and 1960s, then a ‘sudden’ wave of refugees from global focus points like Allende-supporting Chileans, Lebanese escaping the Civil War or secular Iranians fleeing from the Theocracy in the 1970s and 1980s, and finally family unifications in the 1990s and 2000s.267 Many of these ‘new Swedes’ were accommodated in the walk-up flats of the Million Program, vacated by the ‘old Swedes’, moving to single-family houses of the 1970s or older apartments in the inner city. As a consequence, 18 percent of the citizens in Stockholm is of foreign descendent, while the relationship between Svensson Swedes and Million Swedes are approximately the opposite in Tensta and Rinkeby with an ‘immigrant’ population of 85 and 75 percent, respectively.268 Such statistics prompted Johan Rådberg, director of the aforementioned research project about segregation and attraction in the Stockholm region, to use the strong expression ’a ticking bomb’ in his description of recent developments. In 2006, he writes:

‘Segregation is increasing in Swedish cities. If the trend is not broken we will – sooner or later – be hit by the plague that haunts many American and European cities, the cities become divided: a city for the rich, one for the poor, a city for an indigenous middle class, one for immigrants. Until a generation ago, this was unthinkable in the Sweden of Folkhemmet. Today, however, the threat has come closer. Perhaps it is legitimate to talk about a ’ticking bomb’. The development between 1970 – 90 can enlighten this. In the beginning of the period, the income profile in the majority of the neighbourhoods was relative mixed. At the end of the epoch, the group of mixed neighbourhoods shrank

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267.  For a short history of Sweden’s refugee and immigration patterns see Christopher Caldwell: ”Islam on the Outskirts of the Welfare State”, in The New York Times, February 5, 2006. 268.  These numbers stem from Pontus Herin: I Djursholm och Tensta Kindpussar vi hverandra. Stockholm: Frank Förlag, 2008, p. 26 and the brochure Svenska Bostäder: Stadsförnyelse in Järva – en del av Järvalyftet. Stockholm: Svenska Bostäder/Stockholms Stad, 2008.


New Swedes in Hässelby Strand district centre.

Afro hairdresser in one of Rinkeby’s housing blocks.

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A mosque has taken over a basement in one of Rinkeby’s housing blocks.

New networks and realities emerge in the relation between the social and the architecture.

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Vegetable market in Tensta Centrum.

The reputed high school Tensta Gymnasium, attracting kids from the entire region. The school is also used for activities of the local community and collaborates with the Royal Institute of Technology about an urban planning course.

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Activities organised by the NGO Love Tensta and the Town Board in Rinkeby.

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considerately: some developed into particular high-income areas, while others became low-income areas.’ 269

Although grey zones are frequent (Vällingby being one of them), there is a growing gap between downtown Stockholm, dominated by middle to upper class ethnic Swedish, and the Million Program New Towns with a majority of low-income, multiethnic inhabitants. Contrary to the situation 50 years ago, when Vällingby was marketed and visited as the panacea of future urbanism, the success stories told about present-day Stockholm, rarely extend to its satellites.270 By the same token, the level of social and collective services in the Million Program New Towns at Järvafältet was long-time low in comparison to Vällingby’s standard. These two factors might have contributed to the innovative appropriations of public space and self-organisation, ‘activities that have not been assigned, nor designed for’, taking place in TenstaRinkeby.271 Problems are no doubt many (‘resourceful inhabitants’ moving out, the image of ghetto, physical decay caused by low-quality building materials, and other aspects often designated as signs of ‘ghettoisation’) and it is both ironic and tragic to think about that the Million Program New Towns, built for the benefit of the welfare state, are used as a symbol in debates on segregation in Sweden. In 1998, two billion SEK was put into the so-called Storstadssatsningen (Metropolitan Development Initiative), a project intending to fight segregation via higher employment rates and educational standards among immigrants. Some criticised this state involvement for lack of sincerity, but there were successes like more teacher support, local job centres and a higher number of leisure activities for young people. Still, these improvements worked as a double-edged sword: those who got a job left and were replaced by another wave of immigrants.272 A survey of autumn 2001 to spring 2002 showed that 80 percent of the inhabitants in Tensta were satisfied with their apartment, while 60 percent liked the architecture, the people and the district. Main complaints were about the level of cleaning, vandalisation, shopping and public services.273 (As suggested by the City of Stockholm and Svenska Bostäder’s initiative at Järvafältet, Järvalyftet (The Järva Lift), a long-range effort (ten

269.  Rådberg: Op. cit., p. 38 (author’s translation). 270.  In this case, the richer suburbs dominated by privately or partially privately owned single-family houses make an exception. 271.  In the context of Tensta-Rinkeby it is important to take into account that: ’self-organisation is a process through which subjects aspire to become involved in societal development and decision-making from below.’ However, the direction is not only bottom-up: ‘self-organisation always takes place in a social and spatial context that establishes the conditions, both restricting and enabling, for self-organisation. In other words, self-organisation refers to activities, and subjects, that are not completely autonomous in this sense.’ Olsson: Op. cit., p. 243 - 244. 272.  Christine Demsteader: ”Concrete Jungle: Sweden’s Surburbs Become Cool”, in The Local, February 9, 2007, www.thelocal.se 273.  Peter Lundevall: ”Tenstas planeringshistoria”, in Anders Gullberg (edit.): Tensta utanför mitt fönster. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2006, p. 222.

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years+) combining top-down and bottom-up, are required to change such aspects. Operating on different levels, (architecture, integration, boost of job market, attraction of new residents, etc.), Järvalyftet will imply collaboration between various parties, including local communities, cultural organisations, women’s groups, etc., presumably offering the users a higher degree of voice in the management.274 The renewal plans are still at the idea stage, but at the ideological level they resemble Höjer and Ljungqvist’s (1977) vision of future urbanism, stressing the importance of: ‘giving the individual human beings responsibility for their own environment…Here, like on the social level, much relies on organisation and experiment. It is not something that can be launched from above, but rather it must grow through initiatives from below.’275) From this bottom-up perspective, one can begin to discover a potential, escaping the cliché-image of a socially and racially marginalised ghetto, so often presented by the media and official reports. Thus, civil society in Tensta-Rinkeby has produced a series of non-profit organisations ranging from culture, education, sports, art, politics, to voluntary work and returning events like Tensta Marknad (Tensta Market), an annual culture festival in Tensta Centrum over two days in September, and Rinkebyfestivalen (the Rinkeby Festival) in Rinkeby Centrum. Rental rooms and apartments are transformed into mosques, bazaars and private schools, with ‘mother tongue’ and religious classes. Clearly seperated by the green valley with Spånga Church, Tensta and Rinkeby each have their own identity – nobody doubts if Rinkeby Amateur Theatre Association and Tensta Film Association belong to Rinkeby or Tensta. Likewise, Tensta Gymnasium functions as a meeting place for the local community (not only the students) where various activities are organised.276 In this context, it is worth mentioning Gringo Magazine, an initiative of the Tenstaborn Iranian-Swedish journalist Zanyar Adami. The concept of the magazine is that Miljonsvenskor (Million Swedes) write about life in Stockholm’s New Towns from an insider’s perspective.277 Starting from the position of a pariah, Gringo Magazine has recuperated Stockholm’s mainstream media. An eight-page edition of the magazine is distributed monthly in the free newspaper Metro. The newspaper can be found at every station of the Tunnelbana - the physical link between the inner city and the satellite towns. From this alternative media platform, Gringo Magazine unravels cases of Million Program culture taking on active positions of production and creativity that 274.  See the brochure Svenska Bostäder: Stadsförnyelse in Järva – en del av Järvalyftet. Stockholm: Svenska Bostäder/Stockholms Stad, 2008. 275.  Jon Höjer; Ljungqvist, Sture; Poom, Jaak & Thörnblom, Ingvar: ”Vällingby · Tensta · Kista · Vadå?”, in Arkitektur, 2, 1977, p. 17 (author’s translation). 276.  See Anders Gullberg (edit.): Tensta utanför mitt fönster. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2006.

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277.  In a radio interview Meryam Can, managing editor of Gringo, describes typical media representations of Stockholm’s ethnically diverse New Towns: ’Personally I think they write in two different ways. First they are “exotify-ing” the suburbs and the people who live there. They say that the suburbs are filled with exotic oriental food and music and that people’s clothes are different. We’re given that picture. Then we have the negative picture of people in the suburbs as frequently criminal - that he or she is poor - or has had a rough life. That’s not the whole picture – that’s not the whole reality.’ Azariah Kiros: “Gringo magazine, or the changing face of multicultural media”, radio program, September 29, 2006, networkeurope.radio.cz/feature/gringo-magazine-or-the-changing-face-of-multicultural-media


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often remain unknown to the world ‘outside’. To get an idea about contemporary life in Tensta-Rinkeby, we will look closer at four such stories.

MILJONSVENSKOR LIFE IN TENSTA-RINKEBY

Gambian-Swedish rapper Adam Tensta in front of his childhood flat in Tensta Centrum where he lives and has installed a music studio.

Every summer since 1999 a football tournament for European-Somali communities has been organised in Rinkeby. Attracting a large public, the Somali Week gathers visitors from various parts of Sweden and abroad, participating in the wide catalogue of activities during the tournament. Apart from being a football event and a social gathering, it is an occasion of coming to terms with a troubled history, but also a platform for exploring new identities between cultures.278 With activities (seminars, workshops, exhibitions, etc.) questioning different aspects of Diaspora culture, the Somali Week offers participants opportunities to share and discuss their experiences with others in a similar situation. Exploring new types of Somali-European identities, each team in the football match represent their new resident country or town. In this way, the event presents a positive and diverse image (e.g. black Rinkeby or Vällingby supporters) of a group that is often envisioned as one of the most difficult to integrate into the Swedish society.279 As a temporary appropriation of public space and services, the Somali Week requires self-organisation on various levels in addition to commitment and financing of many individuals. The event is so popular that the Tunnelbana usually clogs, and it is always difficult to find sufficient accommodation and playing facilities. Since Rinkeby lacks the capacity to host the event single-handedly, the event spreads to sports grounds in neighbouring New Towns. Still missing its proper ‘home arena’, the Somali Week doesn’t have a stable foothold in such borrowed, but public, locations and often gets refuted as an external event. Yet, local politicians and civil servants back up the appropriations and self-organised activities of the organisers.280 This public support also include the informal business types, frequently referred to as ‘immigrant shops’, appropriating spaces in Rinkeby’s housing areas. As creations of ‘immigrant entrepreneurship’, such shops are often considered as loopholes: Through private initiative their owners are independent of a formal labour market that can feel like a Sisyphean labour of unemployment and discrimination. Although Rinkeby was primarily planned as a residential enclave according to a tight zoning system, the first

278.  Close to 2 million people fled to different countries during and after the civil war in Somalia in the early 1990s. Officially, 18,000 Somalis live in Sweden.

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279.  Much like the way sociology was used as an instrument to install a universal denominator for the modernist housing project of Folkhemmet, Western anthropology has played a major role in the production of this image of the Somalis. Public authorities, scientific reports and the media, often describe and ‘handle’ them as a uniform culture, loyal and defined by clan. Such analyses tend to forget that the Somali community is composed of several ethnicities, languages, classes and geographies all mixed with their new experiences in exile. Olsson: Op. cit., p. 254. 280.  Olsson, p. 254.


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immigrant shops opened in previous laundrettes, storages and garages in the late 1970s. Decisive factors for this were public assistance, rent subsidies and bending of official planning schemes, permitting shops to temporarily locate and rebuild in residential architecture. Thus, the first shop owner-bricoleurs remodelled rented premises on a provisional state that got increasingly permanent over the years: As products of public authorities’ generous interpretation of formalities in order to empower entrepreneurs with scarce means, what the Dutch call gedogen, the immigrant shops have become ‘permanent exceptions’ without formally recognised places. Yet, they have existed for decades and currently attract a mixed crowd of consumers from Greater Stockholm. Due to this momentum and regional attention, urbanist Lina Olsson regards Rinkeby’s immigrant shops as new public spaces and ‘cultural ambassadors’. Potentially, they are platforms for new intercultural meetings to take place when customers from different parts of the Stockholm region come together whilst shopping spicy groceries.281 According to such progressive (perhaps too optimistic?) viewpoints, other parts of Stockholm and Sweden can learn from the Million Program New Towns. This was also the message of the housing exhibition TenstaBo 06, held in Tensta, August 2006. Since the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930, various housing exhibitions have been important sites for a debate about the housing situation in Sweden. From May 17 to September 16, 2001 the first international housing exhibition of the country Bo 01 City of Tomorrow, was launched in Malmö around the theme of ‘the ecologically sustainable information and welfare society’.282 Five years later, Sweden’s first housing exhibition concerning the Million Program New Towns, TenstaBo 06, opened in Tensta, August 17, 2006. This time the focus was on the challenges This immigrant shop has taken over

localities in a housing block in Tensta.

281.  Olsson: Op. cit., p. 256. 282.  For more information about the housing exhibition Bo 01 see the website home.att.net/~amcnet/bo01.html and Anders Gullberg (edit.): Tensta utanför mitt fönster. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2006.

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‘when the suburb meets the future’ and on ‘highlighting the potential and possibilities of the suburbs’.283 Thus, TenstaBo 06 was different from most of the housing exhibitions previously held in Sweden. As promised by the website:

‘This exhibition will differ a lot from former housing exhibitions. There won’t be that many newly produced flats, instead the ambition is to give a broad picture of Tensta. Different questions regarding housing projects and the suburb will be in focus.’ 284

TenstaBo 06 came into being in collaboration between inhabitants of Tensta and Stockholm’s City suburban program. Documenting an ongoing process, the visitor could make his/hers own opinion about built, ongoing or planned housing projects in Tensta. One headline was ‘Tensta as a housing development’. During the exhibition the public could visit the ‘replica flat’, already mentioned, restored and designed like in 1972, as a ‘homage’ to the original qualities of the Million Program, so often forgotten. Additionally, one could stop at 20 newly produced flats as well as existing flats that had been refurbished. During the exhibition, guided tours were available for the public with visits at 4 - 5 different flats, whilst informing about different housing projects. Under the heading ‘Tensta as a culture arena’, culture and creativity was explored as drivers for development. Professional artists and local non-profit cultural organisations gave music performances in addition to acts of stand up comedy, a poetry festival, the three-day Tensta Market, and an outdoor cinema. Various seminars were also arranged during the exhibition. Titles included: ‘Renewals of the Million Program’, ‘The suburb meets the future’, ‘Multicultural life and integration’, and ‘A housing market for everybody’. Moreover, a book Tensta utanför mitt fönster (Tensta outside of my window) was published as a steppingstone for further discussions.285 Anticipating the national election by just two weeks, the timing of the exhibition was not chosen randomly. It was seen as ‘a good opportunity to discuss housing politics, cultural differences, the Million Program and different issues in the suburb’ as well as ‘how an individual housing can be made where several cultures meet’.286 283.  Website of TenstaBo 06: www.tenstabo06.se 284.  Website of TenstaBo 06: www.tenstabo06.se

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A last example of the ‘melting pot culture’ of Tensta-Rinkeby is Tensta Konsthall, one of the most spacious and visionary contemporary art galleries in the Stockholm region, located in a renovated underground storage in Tensta Centrum. It opened in May 1998 as a part of Stockholm’s European Capital of Culture and has hosted exhibitions with internationally well-known artists such as Shirin Neshat, Susan Hillier, Tracey Moffat, Julian Opie, Wolfgang Tillmans, On Kawara, Kutlug Ataman, Rainer Ganahl, etc. Still, the most interesting projects are the educational wing and the site-specific, relational art works, produced in collaboration with the locals under the label TK Productions. One such project is 163 04/ made by students from Tensta Gymnasium and The University College of Arts in Stockholm. Referring to Tensta’s zip code, the project is part of a three-year educational program. Connecting social and geographical territories it is ‘creating new opportunities for trajectories through the collective and the individual experiences of the participants’.287 So far, it has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, 2007 and The New Museum in New York, 2008. From fall 2008 to spring 2009, another project Pimp my Kommunaltrappa (Pimp my Municipal Staircase) is taking place as a part of Tensta Konsthall’s investigation of ‘how the art center can contribute to change and development in Tensta’.288 Partnering with the urban development initiative in Tensta-Rinkeby, Järvalyftet, it investigates Taxingeplan, a square nicknamed Piazza Taxingeplan, next to Tensta’s Tunnelbana station, shopping centre and Tensta Konsthall, as a public space. Around a wide staircase, connecting the two levels of central Tensta, locals are invited to join in, while the square will host fairs, markets, cultural and outdoor events, continuing after the project period. Taking advantage of the multicultural composition of the local community, the gallery not only offers guided tours in the usual languages Swedish and English for the 12,000 annually visitors, but also in Somali, Japanese, Polish, Czech, Turkish, Spanish, Persian, German, and Bengali.289 In different ways, the four cases, presented above, contribute to a renewal of the culture of the Stockholm region and of the architecture of Swedish New Towns. Combining top-down and bottom-up, Swedish and global culture, they evolve in dialogues between public institutions of the welfare state and private initiative of the locals. As a token of the importance of this kind of contact and interaction between the satellite towns and central Stockholm, fourth year students from the School of Architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology in collaboration with Tensta Konsthall reinterpreted the city-satellite relation of the Tunnelbana with a piece of landscape

287.  Tensta Konsthall’s website: www.tenstakonsthall.se See also the chapters about Tensta Konsthall in Anders Gullberg, (edit.): Tensta utanför mitt fönster. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2006. 288.  Ibid. 289.  Tensta Konsthall is a foundation supported by the the city of Stockholm, Kulturrådet, the Stockholm county, The Foundation of the Culture of the Future and the Swedish Inheritance Fund. For more information about Tensta Konsthall and its activities see the website: www.tenstakonsthall.se

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architecture, May 2008: ‘Away from traditional models of planning and ill-disguised cynical trends towards a more down to earth, active and participatory approach to urban and spatial questions.’290 Downscaling planning to their own human bodies, walking through the landscape, whilst marking it with four colours of gaffa tape, the future Swedish architects designed a brightly coloured path. This temporary line of communication, TENSTA CONNECTION connected Tensta to Sergels Torg, the inner city’s most important meeting place: A square in the ‘tabula rasa’ neighbourhood Nedra Norrmalm, designed when Sven Markelius was director of Stockholm’s urban planning office. As one of the participants, Francesco di Gregorio, writes:

290.  Production of Architecture’s website: www.unrealstockholm.org


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‘We redefine the position of Tensta, putting it in the centre of Stockholm instead of in the periphery. With four different colours, we not only build a structure of around 490,000 square meters but we also enable all of us to inhabit new mental territories.’ 291

This event, tells how the relationship between the inner city and the satellite towns, as well as that between neighbouring New Towns like Vällingby and Tensta-Rinkeby, is not only about physical and architectural spaces, but also about mental and social spaces – territories.

THE SHEEP TURN GREY AS NEW GREY ZONES ERUPT At this time, it seems relevant to repeat the question that was the starting point for this article: What made Vällingby stand out as the ‘White Sheep’ and Tensta-Rinkeby as the ‘Black Sheep’ of modernist planning history in the Stockholm region? Was Vällingby simply ‘too perfect’ to be repeated? Was Vällingby the climax of a specific historical moment and project at the intersection of a modernist utopia of the happy and integrated satellite town and a Social Democratic utopia of the egalitarian and democratic welfare society, the Swedish Model, having difficulties to adapt to new times? As we have seen, Sweden held a famous and unique position in 20th century urban design. Together with the architecture of Gunnar Asplund, it is still ‘the Swedish Modern’ of Vällingby and the post-war redevelopment of Stockholm, when Markelius was director of the City’s urban planning office, that reappear when one talk about Swedish urban design (at least outside of Sweden). The decades after the beginning of the Million Program in 1965 never became international sensations and study objects. In order to find some of the reasons for this state of things, we might take a short detour to the Canadian design guru Bruce Mau. Prior to the opening of Too Perfect: Seven New Denmarks, an exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre (2004), curated by Mau, he wrote an open letter to Denmark. Here, he accused Scandinavians (particularly Danish design in the 21st century) for focusing too much on details and perfection, whilst forgetting innovation and new ways of thinking after the heyday of modernist avantgarde: 291.  Francesco di Gregorio on TENSTA CONNECTION’s website: www.tenstaconnection.se

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‘Dear Denmark, Remember the late 1940s? That was when a group of young Danish architects and designers decided to throw off the shackles of tradition-bound design. They formed a distinctly Danish movement, inspired by natural materials, organic forms, handcrafting and Danish humanism. Worldwide, Danish Modern became a sign of being innovative and experimental. Today it means nothing – an invisible image. Fifty-odd years later, Danish Modern is so pervasive in Denmark that it’s become a stylistic canopy blocking the light necessary for new developments to flourish, a formal straight-jacket that’s “too-perfect”. Isn’t time for a new generation to break free?...Should Denmark take the shape of the future - or should the future take the shape of Denmark?’ 292

Is Mau’s version of the history of Danish Design also the story of ‘the Swedish Modern’, the post-war urban design with Vällingby as a canonized icon, blocking for new developments? Or was it actually the lack of individual details and space for variation on a social and mental rather than on an architectural design level in the subsequent decades that was the missing link of the Swedish Model to contain all Swedes? Was the social engineering of the welfare state, designed to integrate and please the majority, simply too inflexible and excluding? As a rather homogeneous and self-contained Middle Way country, remaining neutral in both World Wars as well as the Cold War, Sweden has had trouble with identifying itself in the new paradigm of globalisation, individualism and multiculturalism. Although Sweden can seem like the happy, neutral and well-organised IKEA country on the surface, its later history of (im)migration and urbanisation has been both turbulent and rapid: Until 1930, more than a million Swedes immigrated to the United 365

292.  Bruce Mau: Too Perfect: Seven New Denmarks, exhibition catalogue for The Danish Architecture Centre (DAC), 2004, www.dac.dk/db/filarkiv/8382/catalogue.pdf


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States, after that tenthousands of them migrated from rural areas to urban centres, subsequently thousands moved from the cities to the post-war satellite towns, then hundred thousands refugees and guest labourer immigrated to Sweden, and finally their relatives came to join them. It is in this context that Tensta-Rinkeby of the Million Program, mainly accommodating people of ‘other’ ethnicities than Swedish, can be viewed as the ‘evil twin’ of the listed ‘crown jewel’ Vällingby. Thus, the younger New Town has stripped bare the Swedish Model, so that its weaknesses has become apparant. As the homogenous Swedish society became increasingly manifold, the individual with different needs, interests and habits became more visible. The image of a motley multitude of inhabitants replacing ethnical Swedish families in standardised Million Program New Towns, pointed to the fact that every aspect of ‘a happy life’ could not be predicted and ordered according to a master plan, based on modernist and Social Democratic idealisms of universalism and collectivism. In short, it became more complex to talk about Folkhemmet in the singular when visionary utopia became lived heterotopia. From this perspective, there is not that far from the model New Town Vällingby and the ghetto New Town Tensta-Rinkeby. Although both were planned as ‘post-class’ New Towns, socio-economical barriers and differences were imbedded in both. One might say that the ‘White Sheep’ and the ‘Black Sheep’ are turning grey as new grey zones erupt:293 Just like the eloquently designed Vällingby, the industrialised, largescale planning of Tensta-Rinkeby was envisioned according to sociological minimum standards and the Social Democratic ethos of jämlikhet: With the double meaning of economic and egalitarian equality and identical likeness, this concept is based on collectivity as well as homogeneity (Folkhemmet). Post-war Swedish planning was unique because it decided to make public housing a matter for all Swedes – not only low-income groups.294 However, the common standard guiding the planning was monocultural; an ethnical Swedish family with a working father, a housewife mother, kids, healthy economy, and (after Vällingby) probably a Volvo or Saab.295 Underpinning this egalitarian logic, architect Tom Nielsen characterises the project of Scandinavian urban planning after WWII as the planning of ’the welfare city’. This was a Social Democratic planning policy of designing ‘the good life’ for ‘happy citizens’, inspired by the utilitarist and Panopticon-inventor Jeremy Bentham’s principle of satisfying the majority. The difficulty of this attitude is where it leaves the minorities who don’t fit into

293.  As Lisbeth Söderqvist states: ’During the last ten to 15 years we have seen changes in opinion...If the image of the Million Homes Programme was black before, it’s more grey now.’ Lisbeth Söderqvist in Christine Demsteader: ”Concrete Jungle: Sweden’s Surburbs Become Cool”, in The Local, February 9, 2007, www.thelocal.se 294.  Christine Demsteader: ”Concrete Jungle: Sweden’s Surburbs Become Cool”, in The Local, February 9, 2007, www.thelocal.se 295.  Birgit Modh: ”Miljonprogrammet i förandring” in En Miljon Bostäder: Arkitekturmuseets Årsbok 1996. Stockholm: Arkitekturmuseet: 1996, p. 98.

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its implied norm of the ‘common good’, of ‘happiness’ and of the ‘good life’.296 With tremendous faith in the power of architecture and urban planning, both New Towns, dealt with in this chapter, used modernist urban design as an instrument to create a happy and modern life in a built environment, based on optimal and scientifically approved living standards. Notwithstanding the good intentions, Swedish cities in general and Stockholm in particular are having huge problems of segregation. People are continuously blaming architecture as the guilty party. Yet, the lively debates caused by recent publications like journalist Anders Sundelin’s Världens bästa land. Berättelser från Tensta, en svensk förstad (The best country in the world. Stories from Tensta, a Swedish suburb) (2007) and Pontus Herin’s I Djursholm och Tensta Kindpussar vi hverandra (In Djursholm and Tensta We Kiss Each Other on the Cheek) (2008) have broadened the perspective to include other factors (social heritage, gentrification, media image, economical inequality, etc.). Especially the latter, a testimonial of an ‘inverse class voyage’ by a business journalist from the rich villa enclave of Djursholm, moving with his family from the exclusive inner city neighbourhood Kungsholmen to Tensta for two years, has shown that it is not only in the Million Program New Towns that enclavement is ominous.297 Such a story is disturbing because it blurs normalised imaginaries and boundaries between good and bad neighbourhoods. It is somehow safe to keep a scapegoat, e.g. in the guise of a ghetto, as an inverted mirror through which we can see the negative of ourselves. Societal problems can be conveniently located and contained in ‘Black Sheep’ New Towns like Tensta-Rinkeby, so easily associated with the repetitious and criticised Million Program architecture. Most of us probably believe that segregation is something taking place overthere, in the ghetto, although, deep down, we are aware that it is a development in which we also take part. For instance, when we choose where to live and where not to live. Thus, a lesson derived from the experience of the Million Program renovations in the 1980s and 1990s, mainly operating on an architectural level, is that transformation of a stigmatised New Town has to do with more than physical structures. As the Million Program expert Lisbeth Söderqvist remarks: ‘Instead of having a straight path, they made it curvy…It looks nice of course but it won’t break segregation. No Swedish family will move in just because there’s a curvy path.’298 No doubt, it is less problematic to solve physical problems than to change social and economical structures. Hence, the original Catch 22 of Vällingby, was probably the integral ABC-Town concept, a ramified

296.  See Tom Nielsen: ”Ethics, Aesthetics and Contemporary Urbanism”, in Nordisk Arkitekturforskning – Nordic Journal of Architectural Research (Theme: Welfare City Theory), nr. 2, Aarhus, 2004 and Cor Wagenaar et al. (red.): Happy: Cities and Public Happiness in Post War Europe. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2004.

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297.  See Anders Sundelin: Världens bästa land. Berättelser från Tensta, en svensk förstad. Stockholm: Leopard förlag, 2007 and Pontus Herin: I Djursholm och Tensta Kindpussar vi hverandra. Stockholm: Frank förlag, 2008. 298.  Lisbeth Söderqvist in Christine Demsteader: ”Concrete Jungle: Sweden’s Surburbs Become Cool”, in The Local, February 9, 2007, www.thelocal.se


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planning strategy encompassing dwellings, workplaces, education, leisure time, domestic occupations, etc. Where does this leave ‘our’ two New Towns? From 2002, Vällingby’s listed community centre has undergone a lip service, curiously invisible to the innocent eye. Touching on nostalgia, the parties responsible for the redevelopment, Svenska Bostäder and the architectural office White, are aiming at a conservation of the allure and the life style of the 1950s. As an aging beauty recreating her looks with discreet plastic surgery, brand new cobblestones are imitating the pattern at the time of the inauguration. Likewise, the mosaic façade of the classic cinema Fontänen is left untouched, although five new cinema halls with the latest technology are dug underneath it. Still, the rebranding and revamping of Vällingby don’t get caught entirely in the 1950s. There are more visible changes like the lower floor of the old Swedish restaurant Vällingehus, converted into a global foodhall. Moreover, Vällingby Centrum is renamed into the more contemporary and urban Vällingby City, while a new flagship store Kfem is installed as an iconic landmark. Both are being used strategically as elements in an ongoing urban competition of identity, consumers and investments. At a time when Vällingby’s shopping centre is not as modern and unique as it used to be, concentration is on leisure activities for a regional public as much as on new local workplaces: According to the award-winning master plan by the City of Stockholm and White, the new fashion mecca Kfem, designed by Swedish star-architect Gert Wingård, and the new Filmstad (Film City) by the office Scheiwiller Svensson, underneath Fontänen, will attract new consumers within the Stockholm region.299 Yet, old and new came together when the makeover of Vällingby Centrum a.k.a. Vällingby City and the opening of Kfem March 27, 2008 were staged as a re-inauguration: a re-enactment of the event that manifested the success of Vällingby, the inauguration of the New Town November 14, 1954. Thus, Vällingby City’s website welcomes consumers to ‘Sweden’s most modern outdoor centre…full of pleasure, service, food and culture…the latest contribution to Stockholm’s fashion heaven’ where ‘the 1950s meets the 2000s’.300 Intending to keep up street credibility, blogs and websites about the event were launched on popular platforms at the Internet such as Face Book, MySpace and You Tube. In spite of all these attempts on renewal of the old ‘city of the future’, the future might belong to New Towns of a more multicultural character such as Tensta-Rinkeby where the production of un-planned, temporary spaces and events proliferate. The self-organised activities and spatial appropriations of the Gringo Magazine written by Million Swedes, the Somali-Swedish football teams representing their home town at

299.  See Kfem retail store’s website: www.kfem.se/ and Scheiwiller Svensson website: www.ssark.se/index2.asp 300.  See Vällingby City’s website: www.vallingbycity.se/ (author’s translation).

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the Somali Week, the (potentially) trans-Stockholmian meeting places of permanenttemporary immigrant shops, the location of a prestigious housing exhibition and a cutting-edge art gallery in Tensta, involving the locals, might be seen as platforms where refurbishments of the Swedish Model and Swedish identity can take place. Thus, the bluntness or anonymity of the Million Program urbanism, so often criticised, can be regarded as a quality. On the site of Tensta-Rinkeby, a new paradigm of Swedishness is currently being grafted onto the existing landscape of concrete slabs and tall lamella houses, equally ‘haunted’ by the ghosts of Modernism and the Social Democratic housing policy of Folkhemmet. Importantly, this is happening in an affirming and experimental way from the bottom-up, assisted by top-down. Produced between the inhabitants of Tensta-Rinkeby, awareness of this rich Miljonsvenskor-culture could be a more productive attitude, than those critical voices, locking the Million Program New Towns in a stigmatised role as ghettos, whilst lamenting a welfare state lost. On a more immaterial level, music is the putty, connecting the young people in Tensta across occasional conflicts and territories between ethnical groups.301 While most of them present themselves as an ethnical identity (‘I am a Turk, Somali, Chilean…’), as a group they identify with their hometown as Tenstabor (Tensta inhabitants), not Stockholmers. They live in a young town, built from tabula rasa parallel to the first immigration wave in Sweden. Thus, ‘the common’ and ‘the collective’ (to belong to the crowd beyond ethnical, religious and cultural differences and to be a Tenstabo) are emphasised in Tensta. Transgressing the usual binary oppositions of ‘integration/segregation’, ‘collective/individual’, ‘monoculture/multiculture’, ‘city/satellite town’, ‘Swedish/immigrant’, ‘local/global’, inherent in the Modernist and Social Democratic utopia in Sweden (1932 – 1976), ‘what unite is paradoxically the differences…in Tensta it is good to be an immigrant.’302 Accordingly, Tensta-Rinkeby has produced a genuine and unique Million Program culture from the inside. With all the fault lines and mistakes of experimentation, the New Town is a laboratory, where one can test what the welfare state and the Swedish Model, positioned between the local and the global, might look like in the future. Like 50 -60 years ago, when the ‘welfare city’ Vällingby was built and the foundations for the welfare state were being constructed, Swedish identity is again in flux. Nonetheless, this time it is challenged by heterogeneity and multiculturalism rather than homogeneity and monoculture, and active participation in international unions such as the EU and the WTO rather than neutrality and self-containment. Most Swedes

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301.  As the Benetton-mixed crowd of kids dancing together between Tensta’s concrete slabs in the music videos of the nationally famous rapper Adam Tensta. FIND 302.  Peter Lundevall: ”Tenstas planeringshistoria”, in Anders Gullberg (edit.): Tensta utanför mitt fönster. Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2006, p. 219 (author’s translation). See also Örjan Björklund: ”Där är något speciellt med oss här i Tensta”, in Karl-Olov Arnstberg & Björn Erdal (edit.): Därute i Tensta. Stockholm: Stockholmia Förlag, 1998.


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Interior from Svensson pioneer’s flat in Tensta. Folkloristic vernaculars take over standardisation in decoration of the home.

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- Svenssons as well as Million Swedes - are still proud of their Swedish Model. They want to preserve it at the same time as they explore new ways to adapt it to a new paradigm: At the last national election in September 2006, the Swedes broke with 12 years of constant Social Democratic rule. At the same time, the winning Centre-Liberals promised to leave the foundations of the Swedish Model untouched.303 Vällingby anno 2008 seems to incarnate this ambivalence. To give an example: In the review of the ‘re-premiere’ of Vällingby Centrum becoming Vällingby City, March 27, 2008, the architecture critic of the newspaper Aftonbladet Lars Mikael Raattamaa wrote:

‘Oh how I should have liked to be there when Alva Myrdal and Sven Markelius discussed how architecture can be an active party in the building of an equal world. I wish that there would be as little painful nostalgia in this thought as in the defence of the general child allowance. I wish that we could speak about suburbs in another way than as threat and failure.’ 304

Positioned between past, present and future, patrimonial Vällingby might be seen as an opening into living with and finding the hidden potentials of our modernist heritage. Other countries are full of examples on demolishment of post-war architecture, repeating the tabula rasa gesture of the anti-nostalgic modernists. Yet, Vällingby’s legacy and inherent qualities are abundantly acknowledged in its conservation as a listed monument. Stockholm’s pioneer New Town is praised for its collective co-housing, social services, public spaces and greeneries in an integral whole, according to the ABC-Town concept. Elsewhere, such modernist babies have often been thrown out with the bath water when alternative values and housing types have replaced them.

303.  Per T. Ohlson: Op. cit, www.columbia.edu/cu/swedish/events/fall06/PTOChilds92806Web.doc. 304.  Lars Mikael Raattamaa: Op. cit./”Vällingby regerar!”, in Aftonbladet, March 29, 2008, www.aftonbladet.se/kultur/article2149021.ab (author’s translation)

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Perhaps, Lars Mikael Raattamaa’s review of the repremiere of Vällingby Centrum becoming Vällingby City above somehow mirrors a new attitude towards the ‘Other’ of Swedish Modernism, that of the Million Program. Like many ‘50 somethings’, Vällingby is facing a midlife crisis. With the paradigm shifts from collective to individual ideals, monoculture to multiculture, and the breakage of the Social Democratic hegemony, Stockholm’s oldest New Town finds itself challenged. It wants to renew itself with various additions and quests for new identities,’stretching’ the local and the national into a new scale of the regional and the global. In this sense, Vällingby could probably learn from Million Program New Towns like Tensta-Rinkeby where a manifold Swedish culture is evolving in between such parameters. Currently, a renewed interest in the 1960s and 1970s New Towns are spreading from architects and historians to the media, cinema, fashion photography, and in situ.305 After all, one has to remember that for around 25 percent of the Swedish population this architecture is or once was indeed – home.

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305.  Mikael Askergren in Christine Demsteader: ”Concrete Jungle: Sweden’s Surburbs Become Cool”, in The Local, February 9, 2007, www.thelocal.se


Vällingby Centrum today.

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