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Preparing density

What is progress? Reading about OS, one might get the feeling of a lively and strong community, with plenty of things to offer. The great housing environment, cultural events, geographical position and continuity in traditional activities create a powerful identity which the municipality portrays as “inspiring” in it’s branding campaign. In this sense, we consider the accelerated increase in the number of people moving to OS as a testimony to the high quality of living and the success of the community as a whole. It is important to understand that it is not the case of better economical prospects or jobs which attract people here (as in most common densification situations), but the character of the place and the spirit which bonds it’s inhabitants.

Bergen’s Sprawl Numbers show that 45.7% of the inhabitants of OS are commuting to Bergen to work, while only a small number of people come here for jobs. As it was presented in the assignment, relatively well of senior citizens and growing families generated a low density housing development. Detached houses on medium sized plots are spread on the hills around the city center. Green natural gardens surround the dwellings showing the typical Norwegian attachment to the environment, and small patios and terraces are connected to all of the houses that have a hillside position, offering a place to enjoy the scarce sun rays and astonishingly beautiful scenery. No matter how many people will continue to come to OS, it is of paramount importance to maintain the atmosphere of the settlement and with regard to the housing plan, the density of the built environment.

Urban potential The theoretical criteria used to measure how urban a settlement is, account for three main aspects: physical size of the city, administrative influence and functional diversity coverage. Using these three indicators we will shape the prospects the municipality has in the future. Judging a city by its size: the entire population of OS would fit in 0.9 square kilometers in Paris. Does this mean that OS doesn’t have what it takes to become a city? From an administrative point of view, OS municipality seems to be eager and capable to assume a more important role in the region. We consider the city has all the good premises to become the center of an economically thriving area in the future. But will this be enough? Our theoretical claim for the situation of OS, is that urbanity is not represented by number of buildings or political importance, but rather a high density in the number of social, cultural and economical interactions, for which the built environment has only the role of support. We argue that, in order for this rural type community to offer a complete living experience, we must plan for a vibrant and lively space for people to meet, buy, cycle, debate, relax, admire, create or any other activity that places them in contact with each other. Research shows* that urban places for which people care about most, are active and engaging streets, offering many different functions with permeable and flexible architecture, which can satisfy a large spectrum of requirements.

Status Quo At a scale closer to our site, one can see the privileged position it owns in relation to the most important administrative and cultural functions in the community. Judging by this factor alone, we can make the assumption that, as the importance of the community grows in the future, so will the value of the land on our site, making it a great business opportunity. Other factors must also be taken into account though. The site is man made, as a result of the community needing more space in the 1950s. Although there was plenty of unoccupied land in the vicinity, people choose to make the effort to extend the landmass because of its great position in the center of the village. The topography of the nearby hills create a natural scene with the new available land in the center. Economic regression in OS spoiled the site’s initial purpose, leaving it as it is right now, a strictly functional area for vehicle parking and maintenance. The center stage of OS attracts no one of the spectator’s attention.

A democratic approach We consider that the center of OS should remain dedicated to the public. Planing the site should start by changing the priorities towards placing the pedestrian on the first level. Because it’s function is of no interest to people, it is likely that most citizens have never experienced it. For us this is of great concern because of the importance of the spot and it’s underlying potential. A democratic space should take into account the needs and desires of the people in an equal amount. We believe in the involvement of the citizens in the design and evolution of the project, by using interactive methods of debate and enquiry. This inclusive approach is meant to replace a top down solution and results in an architecture which is very adaptable and merely serves the role of support for people’s activities. Shared space and private businesses must be present on site, allowing for gatherings, cultural events and leisure, but also the area must be able to sustain itself economically. Our proposal offers multiple possibilities for small local entrepreneurs and farmers to start their own businesses with the help of the municipality. Our part in this project is to reveal the inherent potential of the site and developing an architectural language that can help the people unlock and enjoy the opportunities they already have. * Towards contextually sensitive urban densification: Location-based softGIS knowledge revealing perceived residential environmental quality Marketta Kyttä∗, Anna Broberg, Tuija Tzoulas, Kristoffer Snabb

View of the site now

View of the site in 1950

- vehicle infrastructure and parking engulfing much of the site - perceptual connection between the two sides of the community is blocked

- artificial land mass - historical railway buildings hold the memory of this period - ! position of the road network

Limits & Connectors The site is located in a very advantaged position in the middle of OS and has a very strong spatial definition.

North - high density building layout West - hill rock face, residential area East - primary: water; strong definition secondary: hill slope, perceptual limit South - water edge, port facilities

The studied project area is extremely complex due to the large number of natural and man made elements which can be found here. These can be classified by various criteria in order to understand their relation to each other and the contribution to the present configuration of the site. Natural elements:

- rock face - hills - water - dense wild vegetation - atmosphere

Physical relations:

- verticality, enhanced spacial definition on the edge, break in the circulation paths from the housing area above, - sloped, amphitheater position of the houses, focus toward the site and the water. - clear, sharp relation between public domain and the water, mostly unaccessible, strong importance of the bridge as single crossing point - few areas of unoccupied land - opening shape towards the sky

Man made elements:

- existing urban configuration - cultural and perceptual connections - vehicle infrastructure

- planed vegetation

- traditional architecture, Norwegian style and few modern offices, densely packed with narrow streets, low height constructions - site is man made, close to the train station, boat museum, city hall, in the way from current city center to Oseana. Most of these points are not part of the site but their connection both physical (by foot, bike) or perceptual (sight, place memory) overlap the area. - parking lots, auto repair shops, gas stations and two lane traffic lanes connect on site. This generates strict limitations for pedestrian and bike flows, placing them lower as importance. People bypass the site using the sidewalk, because they feel it does not belong to them. - the way vegetation is currently used on site it does more harm than good, reinforcing the limit between car areas and pedestrian areas.

Approach By thinking foremost of the needs and movement patterns of pedestrians, the urban regeneration process will start by discarding most of the present vehicle related functions on site. As the area is man made, we propose to cover it’s surface with a flat stone pavement to establish an empty mineral platform as support for the upcoming development. This will remove any circulation restrictions for people and bikes. Our first goal for the assignment is to reactivate the site by using “location events”. These are strategic architectural interventions meant to create spaces in strong relation to the places listed above, for different activities to happen. As there are so many factors which constitute the beautiful complexity of the site, the architectural language we use to construct the spaces will be equally complex and diverse. Aside from the location events, we propose wood pavilions as a space definition tool of the site, where there are no naturally occurring ones. These are necessary in order to sustain civic activity on the blank flat surface of the site. The pavilion structures are very flexible. These can stand open, serving the public; closed, for private businesses (cafes, shops, etc); stacked for higher density; closed with windows (during winter season) and other forms. In parallel, a well defined set of rules are meant to keep the growth and density of the pavilion areas in check with development strategies on a larger scale. These rules take into account our decisions regarding the density, function, architectural feeling that certain areas must have; but people will have a great influence over the final shape of the space they occupy. The speed at which citizens will start to convert empty pavilions into businesses or social events and fill the available spaces, will vary according to the desire of the people to use the site. If all the available spots are taken faster than the natural increase in density of the community, it means the people were hungry to use the site and are happy they can. In this case, we expect other community centers to start developing in the same manner, closer to other high density poles of occupancy. If the people choose not to use the site, it can stagnate in it’s empty, mineral form, as a resource of space for the community to develop other projects. Either of these options are the end result of a multi staged process. We feel that a first stage is necessary to gather ideas from the people and guide them to experience the site as it is. A layer of infrastructure must be added on the site to sustain future development. Buildings and other installations that enhance the space for location events must be built. The first empty pavilions will be placed as a sign of something waiting to happen, waiting for the people to transform it into the lively and vibrant space it can be.

A threat emerges Right now the municipality has a development proposal that plans to construct the entire site with housing units. We recognize the potential of this approach to reactivate the site from an architectural perspective and the economic benefits. In the same time we consider the development extremely harmful for the character of the community. The proposed housing blocks block the density of the site in time and will not allow any change in relation to the density of OS. The center of the community will be practically owned by the people who buy the apartments. The resulted public space is a joke. Narrow pathways and pedestrian streets cornering around the buildings leave no places for gatherings and fragments the space into smaller, semi-private courtyards.

-out of space: picture copyright to Jan Petter Svendal

Functional status quo and proposed intervention limit

If we take into account all the parameters that influence the work area, the true boundaries of the intervention will stretch more than the defined Europan site. Facades of the buildings to the north are a physical limit which must be considered. On a bigger scale, the opposing hill sides are perceptual limits which shape the spacial volume of the site. This map shows the existing layout of the limits (road network); functions (vehicle services); and potential location events (the old railway buildings, the rock face, water’s edge, Oselvar workshops, old city square). The bridge has a pivoting role as the only connection (a physical one) between the two sides. Looking and kinesthetic perception from one side to the other is filtered and blocked trough the existing buildings. For the new layout the two lane road network was placed back in it’s original location from the 1950s. It is separated from the rest of the square only by a differentiation in pavement texture and color. Relocating the road leaves more place for gatherings on site.

The true separating element between the two parts is the site, not the water. Europan site limit Current road path Intervention limit Vehicle function Built environment Cultural activities

Proposed activities and the underlying infrastructure

One low level parking building will accommodate all the lost parking space the city center will have to suffer. The building can have a multipurpose function. Together with the office building next to the city hall and two accommodation buildings near the rock face, they plug a gap in the built pattern. These fixed objects will function complementary to the flexible strategy for the pavilions to allow the site to sustain itself economically and function properly. The port area is defined so not to impede boat traffic to and from the river. Physical connections (stairs, elevators) are planned between the residential zone on the neighboring hill and the site. Besides these, the proposed buildings will act like great terraces for viewing the sea, continuing an architectural pattern present on site.

Infrastructure preparation Based on the size of the pavilions (6x6m), an imaginary 3x3m grid was oriented by the main directions of the site. The dots represent possible anchor points for structures and links to infrastructure underneath: high speed internet, water, sewage, structural foundation.

Infrastructure grid New roads Imaginary point grid Perceptual links (views, terraces) Planted areas Pavilion structures Accommodation buildings Mixed use/office

General zoning of the site We used three criteria to regulate the outcome of our rehabilitation process: character, people density and usage program. The purpose was to divide the site in smaller areas, easier to manage, so a specific scope for the area is maintained. Zone boundaries do not exist in reality, only as administrative definitions, they blend into each other respecting the general language of the site. By overlapping the three criteria, we got an accurate image of what the site should look like. character zoning

density zoning

functional zoning

high density urban character

rent space parking low density gathering space

mineral square public space


medium/high density

square/ market retail/ leisure

medium/low density port

recreational low density


Solution quality indicators

Zoning result

In order to quantify the outcomes of different strategies on the site we have rated each approach by three criteria: economic potential, environment (atmosphere) quality and social quality. These three indicators can be applied at different scales, from a general overview, to specific zones and individual pavilions.




Project time line Encouraging people to participate enquiry


Infrastructure preparation Starting the process

removing vehicle related structures

building infrastructure

Building local events building the fixed objects (parking; accommodation)

repaving the square surface

All spots are full

positioning pavilions

Regression the pavilions can be dismantled and the process reversed if people loose interest

Encouraging people to participate Pedestrian routes go around the site at the moment. Sidewalks and pathways are clearly defined and control the circulation of the people. There is little incentive to explore the site, since it is destined for vehicles mostly. Vegetation also contributes to enforce the perception of the constraints. Because the pavilion structures are meant to be very flexible and responsive to all sorts of events desired by the locals, it is important to gather ideas for activities that may take place on site. Urban farming may turn our structures to greenhouses, weekend markets need a place to gather people and install sellers, winter fairs need places for muled wine and gingerbread. All these activities can have an impact over the final layout of the space and the flexible arrangement system can be modified during the whole process of enquiry and construction. Steps taken to engage the people:


information about the multiple stages of the process


showing how they can get involved and change

Our proposal aims at breaking the current movement patterns and generating a different way people perceive the site. A course trough the site is planned with a few pavilions installed in their future position. In each pavilion people can find information about specific intervention solutions and a suggestion box will be placed. The course will lead to the railway repair hangar, where detailed information, presentation and debates will be held.

Interactive model Suggest ... Review Vote Settings

Resturant 26 11 Vote Suggest ...

Choose location of new pavilion

Different ways to engage the citizens can include augmented reality devices and mobile apps to vote on diferent proposals for the development.

Inside the historical building a scale model of the proposed planing will be reconstructed form blank pieces and frame blocks. People can move them around to find layouts they consider more appropriate. Take pictures and change them again. All the proposals will be stored, exposed and analyzed for reference.

stage one of the densification process

Unrestricted mobility, freedom of movement in any direction

Starting the process and economic model After the construction with predefined timespan ends, it’s time to position the first pavilions. These have strategic locations on the infrastructure grid which allow development to happen according to the desired characteristics of their zone. Our proposal must be judged from eye level of the pedestrian who is able to walk or cycle on the site freely without any restrictions. Cars are restricted to a trajectory which is color differentiated and defined by road bollards on both sides. The structures will be placed using the 3x3m grid oriented by the site geometry. The business model starts with an entrepreneur renting an available structure from the authorities. (36sqm) At that point, an area of 5 more pavilions surrounding the structure become the owners responsibility. On these parcels he may extend with one more structure wherever he pleases. (total of 72 sqm). He may choose to build one more empty structure, which can only be enclosed during the winter season to allow the business to continue to run. The rest of the unbuilt space must be kept green. In the areas planed to accommodate a high density of functions the owner can extend upwards one more level. The space above he’s pavilion is not he’s own though, the municipality could also rent it to someone else, for a different business. This process can repeat itself, the pavilions can downgrade if the businesses go bankrupt or the owner can’t afford the rent. A staged approach also means a smaller initial investment which can encourage local entrepreneurial initiatives (not only high capital investors will afford a place in the city center). The modular approach means that the people have a powerful influence over the shape of the public space.

modules for public space

The module

16 15 14 13 12 16 x 0.188 = 3.000

11 10 9 8 7 6

2 3






8 12



3 2




4 5 6



16 x 0.188 = 3.000

Wood structures of 6x6x3 meters are to be filled with different functions. Joined together or solitary they form spatial delimitations which condensate activities in and around them. The size of the pavilion is related to the human scale and generates the dimension of the imaginary point grid. In low density areas, structures surround the site and host activities on a temporary event basis (markets, concerts, workshops, etc) In high density areas the wood structures can receive different types of enclosures, from glass facade panels to opaque surfaces, creating a permanent structure. Open pavilions adjacent to fixed structures can be closed during the winter.

Column on the right shows one possible creation pattern for two adjacent spaces in the most dense area of the development.


occupation of all the available space

more open approach

























Occupying space in our development is always a process of balancing environment, capital and social activity. This highly versatile process can be covered at various speeds depending on the eagerness of the citizens to take back the site and occupy the available space.




most dense stage of the densification process

Clearly defined space

Europan13_Preparing density_Runner Up  
Europan13_Preparing density_Runner Up