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Stockholm at  Eye  Level   Strategies  for  Better  Streets   Produced for The City of Stockholm Stadsbyggnadskontoret, Planavdelningen Prepared by Meredith Glaser Hans Karssenberg Jeroen Laven Jan van Teeffelen

This  report  presents  the  outcomes  of  the  two-­‐day  City  at  Eye  Level  game  in  the  city  of   Stockholm,  Sweden.  It  consist  of  three  parts:   1. Introduction  to  The  City  at  Eye  Level:  why,  what  and  how?  (page  2)   2. Results  of  the  Stockholm  Plinth  Game  (page  18)   3. Follow-­‐up  Strategy  for  Stockholm  (page  36).      


1. Introduction to  The  City  at  Eye  Level:  why,  what  and   how?   Understanding the city at eye level starts with what we see and feel. It is, first of all, intuitive. It is also something you can actively work on. A good example is our work on ZoHo (short for Zomerhofkwartier) in Rotterdam, a business area close to the city centre that has been deteriorating and became mostly vacant for the last decade. Together with many partners, we are reviving its streets in an organic way, bit by bit. Part of the strategy is improving the plinths, the ground floors of buildings, the connections with the street.

Roodkapje is  an  important  youth  arts  platform  in  Rotterdam  and  through  networking  and   building  partnership,  we  brought  them  to  ZoHo,  bringing  the  street  to  life.   Plinth strategy is much more than just filling an empty space. It’s about developing a strategy that is based on cocreation, flexibility, creativity, placemaking, and basic urban design principles.

Example of  a  co-­‐creation  plinths   workshop,  involving  planners,   economic  experts,  property  owners,   residents,  shop  owners  and  other   experts  in  De  Pijp,  Amsterdam.    


The City at Eye Level originated in Rotterdam. This city, bombed in the war and rebuilt with modernist design, is trying to win back its city centre. Together with the City of Rotterdam, Stipo developed a plinth strategy. The city realized that it is not enough just to work on the horizontal surface – the pavement, the streets and the public space – but that it is about the whole of the experience, including everything we see: the public realm. Working on this project, we took inspiration from Jan Gehl, Jane Jacobs, Allan Jacobs and Elizabeth McDonalds and many others, but we felt that a more concrete approach was lacking. This led to setting up an open source project, writing a book with 41 co-authors and researching international best practices: The City at Eye Level, an open source book that can be downloaded at From all of the contributions, and based on our own experience, we derived 75 lessons. We also developed a street analysis tool from the lessons that we applied during the two days in Stockholm. STIPO stands for Strategy, Innovation, Process design and Open Source. We are a public developer company devoted to sustainable urban strategy. Our work focuses on long-lasting quality, finding the soul of the city, and the quality of the public realm. We always work based on a co-creation method and our approach is: act and think, letting higher strategy and action in practice mutually interact.

Stockholm at  Eye  Level   The City at Eye Level relates to Stockholm’s urban strategy in many ways. The Stockholm City Plan, The Walkable City, states that ‘the overall aim is to create a denser, more cohesive, more versatile and more dynamic urban environment with opportunities for a broader range of homes, businesses, services, culture, experiences and so on.’ Relating themes from the city’s Plan are cycling and pedestrians, high quality streets, cultural history, understanding Space Syntax, mixed use, increased density, connecting city areas, streets and roads are integral parts of an attractive city and historical assets are the starting point as the city grows. A very important driver for Stockholm is the growth of the city. The city aims to, in the next ten years, increase the number of built units from 100,000 to 140,000 in total (from 5,000 to 7,000 per year). This will prove to be a major challenge. How to combine these newly built areas and densification with The City at Eye Level. There is a strong historic sense, and a drive not to repeat the mistakes of the past. A quote from our preparation interviews in Stockholm: “We had an extension before in recent history and failed on the public space then.” The green character of the city needs improvement as part of the public realm, and if not done well, it could seem contradictory to the aim of densification: “We like our green. We don’t want this densification.” A strong need is felt to put words into action. A resident remarked: “It is called Walkable City, but what is it more than words? We don’t experience it walking on the street.” The Walkable City does not come by itself, the city needs to actively develop new instruments. A developer remarked: “The vibrant, livable city is great idea, but can we please do it on my neighbour’s plot?” These are all ingredients for a new City at Eye Level strategy for Stockholm.


Co-­‐creation Stockholm’s growth raises new questions to answer: how and where will these units be built – and according to a masterplan, or will there be room for spontaneity? Let’s have a look at a very opposite city: Tirana, the capitol of Albania. After the fall of the Socialist regime, the city experienced major political and social pressure. The Hodxa regima had always prevented people moving to the city, afraid of uprises. Then, since the beginning of the 90s, after the regime change, top-down planning was over, and in 20 years Tirana grew from 200,000 to 1,200,000 residents. This all happened bottom-up, without any form of planning.

The upper  picture  is  from  the  60s.  The  lower  picture  is  the  same  area  now.  To  the  right  you   see  an  urban  block  that  has  been  filled  in.   Tirana became a dense, walkable, lively, mixed-use city – all goals from the Stockholm City Plan – and Tirana achieved this completely organically. So there can be a lot of space for bottom-up initiative. However, Tirana lacks the power and instruments to implement an overall strategy at the same time, causing such as lack of infrastructure, parks, and public transport as downsides. So we need both worlds. Stockholm can allow more room for bottom-up initiative, but still needs the more topdown strategy too. With co-creation, these two worlds can be brought together, generating input both from bottom-up and top-down: ‘middle-up-down’. If we want to achieve this, we have to act as urban anthropologists, walking the streets, interviewing users, residents, entrepreneurs, market vendors, but also understanding the strategies on a higher level. During the Stockholm workshop, we involved both strategic input and street experience. The City at Eye Level requires longer term strategies, for instance setting up rules for plinths in newly built areas, interventions in the urban grid, working on the quality of both inner city and residential areas. But it also requires hands-on action too, quick wins with area partners, street management and actual short-term changes where they can be achieved.

From Public  Space  to  Public  Realm   Why is the City at Eye Level so important? First of all, the experience. Stockholm has an extensive post war modernist building tradition. Though we must thank the modernists for their rational planning of parking spaces, green areas, recreation, healthier environments, embracing the City at Eye Level can be seen as a correction after modernist-dominated planning. Modernists relied on the rationale of humans, but residents approach the the city with both parts of their brains. They want an efficient space, but they also seek fun, experience, temptation, and surprise – the qualities that mixed city environment with its layers, history and complexity can offer.


Second, the economy. In the urban economy, experience has become driving force. Research from Norwich (UK) showed that average day-trip visitors to a city will stay 4,5 hours and spend about £100. If the conditions are inhospitable, destinations confusing, and demands unmet, the visitor will leave after half the time and spend less than half. If their arrival is welcoming, the destination safe, clean, relaxed and intelligible, easy to navigate and 1

their original expectations are fulfilled or surpassed, they will stay to 7 hours and spend more than £150. The ‘Economics of Experience’ is the type of economy that creates the need for ‘juicy’ store fronts, such as Fabrique, an artisian bread retail chain in Stockholm.

The modernists  relied  too  much  on  the   rationale  of  humans  —  we  really  have  two   parts  of  our  brains.  We  also  want  fun,   experience,  challenge,  temptation,   surprise.  

Behind the ‘Economics of Experience’ are the ‘Economics of Meeting’. Elizabeth Currid’s research (The Warhol Economy) shows that in New York, the most important partners within a certain creative economy sector are located within walking distance of each other. The networkeconomy requires places to meet, a warm and welcoming environment for pedestrians and a good experience. With IT and social media making this economy footloose, it will select places that have good City at Eye Level qualities and ignore other places (or cities) that don’t. Of course, the urban economy is not created by good plinths alone, but The City at Eye Level is one of the factors that have become important. Third, the housing environment and demography. The combination of a cleaner and healthier urban environment and the economics of meeting and experience leads to a different demography, among others with more families with children staying in the city. This is one of the factors behind Stockholm’s growth, too. The new city-oriented families want to live in mixed areas with a peaceful home and the hustle and bustle just around the corner. They want family-friendly areas and that includes a high quality public realm. Moreover, the areas with a great experience on the street are the areas gentrifying most. Fourth, sustainability. Good plinths make a city ‘breathe’. Who knows what demands the city will have 20 years from now? Who would have thought, in the 20th Century, that this space (right) would first have a small work space, then a shop, then would become storage and living after the war, and would now be an Italian takeaway? (See


Street level desires, discovering the city on foot, F.D. van der Hoeven, M.G.J. Smit en S.C. van der Spek, 2009


also the chapter on the Frans Halsstraat in the book The City at Eye Level). So, good plinths are an important contributor to the city’s true sustainability.

From public  space…  

   …  to  public  realm,  the  city  at  eye  level  

So for a great experience of the city’s residents and users, for the urban economy’s meeting places, for an attractive urban demography, and for the city’s sustainability and long-term functioning, it is important to handle the public realm as a realm of experience. It is important to make a distinction between ‘public space’ and the ‘public realm’. Public space is based on ownership: the street, the pavement, the horizontal surface that the city owns and maintains. Public realm is based on experience: it includes the façades of private buildings (and sometimes, what is directly visible inside the façades). Of these façades, it is mostly the ground floor – the ‘plinth’ – that we experience from the street. The plinth may be only 10% of a building, it determines 90% of the experience. The experience of the public realm is a shared responsibility of the city and private owners and renters.

The plinth  may  be  only  10%  of  a   building,  it  determines  90%  of  the   experience.  


Good Plinths,  Bad  Plinths   What are the secrets behind good and bad plinths? We should start answering this question simply by observing (‘what you see’) and sensing what we feel is good. Let’s have a look.

A good, welcoming, warm plinth in Rotterdam. It shows that modern architecture can very well be combined with great plinths.

This street in Amsterdam, Haarlemmerdijk, could be called ‘plinth heaven’. The historic structure creates a new function to visit every 4 meters on both sides of the street. There are a few larger spaces, but most shops are not large enough for big retail chains, sustaining the street’s unique character. Twenty years ago, this still was a rundown street, with empty buildings, drug shops, and prostitution. As the city became more popular, the area became wealthier. One of the residents started to interfere with the property owners who were making the wrong tenant choices. She became one of the first ‘street managers’ and helped turn the street into a success. It was


voted the best shopping street of The Netherlands in 2012. It shows that good plinths cannot be seen loose from their surrounding areas and from organization structures to actively improve the street.

Good plinths are not only about retail. In residential areas we also want to experience a good quality public realm, with buildings rich in detail, greenery, and a great ‘hybrid zone’ as a transition between private and public. This is an example in Amsterdam.

Or it might look like this, in Haarlem, perhaps not everyone’s taste, but as a pedestrian, you feel comfortable and at home. If someone thinks the street is safe enough to leave their belongings out, we feel that this is a neighbourhood that can be trusted. The City at Eye Level is not only about façades, but also about the ‘hybrid zone’, the transition area of 50 cm between private and public. The question we always ask ourselves is, that why, if we know all this, good plinths are not self-evident? Why do we see so many terrible plinths? It is important to examine the reasons for bad plinths, for they show us the beginning of our action. A great example is the historic city of Haarlem. As you leave the train station, expecting history, this is how you are welcomed.


What happened? There must have been architects involved here. What decisions did they make? Was it the property developer, finding it cheaper to build the parking garage here instead of underground or even hidden behind a good street front? Were they so afraid of crime that they made this defensive architecture?

Let’s have a look at some more negative examples. On the left a typical residential street in the 70s. Parking and cars became dominant in planning. On the right the 80s, a shopping mall, drawing all the programme to the inside of its ‘urban container’, leaving the streets deserted. It is interesting to see that today similar more and more malls are demolished and are renovated into “urban” streets with shops and apartments above.

An example from the 90s: single tenant office buildings, with only one door every 200 meters. The ground floors are usually used as large foyers, since office owners find it difficult to aim for smaller users, a whole different market. They are satisfied if they can rent out 90% of their property, leaving the ground floor fairly empty. Also, their tenants never know what to make of the ground floor, either putting meeting rooms with blind facades there, or archives. This is a terrible street to walk through during the day, and even more at night, in the dark, when the office buildings are empty.


Unfortunately, the examples continue in more recent projects. Above we see two recent projects from the late 90s. The right one is in the middle of the historic centre of Amsterdam, and the façade faces south. Just imagine if one door was installed with a unit behind it that could have been a cafe with a terrace outside. How different would the street feel then? Why are good plinths not self-evident? It requires understanding the logic of architects, developers, users and property owners. Many times architects are focused more on their buildings than on the street. Property developers make short-term budget cuts to make their project more profitable, cutting on the aspects that make good plinths: smaller units, higher ceilings, flexibility in use, separate doors to the streets. Property owners often do not know how to manage plinths, supermarkets taping the windows, renters pulling down the blinds. Commissioners do not necessarily ask for good plinths, or forget to make clear demands.

The result is often destructive for the street. Historic blocks often have better plinths because before the war, the city’s economy was based mostly on walking distances, so the outcome was a highly mixed structure. This changed with the introduction of the car from the 60s. However the new trend is getting back to those traditional urban roots of highly mixed uses, walkability, bikeability, and diversity.

Common changes in urban fabric before (left) and after (right) the war.


Left: London pedestrianizing streets. To the right: newly opening up plinth spaces, creating pedestrian friendly streets.

Criteria for  good  plinths   What criteria for good plinths can we derive from our observations? First of all, there is something to be said about the number of plinth units in a street. Counting doors, we found that the best streets have a new public function on both sides every 4-8 meters. The streets that have been defined as great streets by people like Allan Jacobs and Elizabeth Macdonald, such as Regent Street in London, Boulevard St. Michel in Paris and Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona have an average of 7 units per 100 meter; every 15 meters on average. Streets that feel desolated may have nice buildings, but will only have public functions every 100-200 meters.

But there is more than just the physical appearance. At the end of the book, from the contributions, we drew 75 lessons. Every street is different, has a different location in the city, and a different meaning. Throughout all the stories, we can however derive that a combination of software, hardware and orgware is vitally necessary. The software is the use: the type and quality of functions (shops, cafes), the way users experience the street, and the most important pedestrian flows in the area. The hardware


is the building design, street design and the quality of the hybrid zone (the zone between private and public). These two must always be seen in connection with each other, requiring economists, researchers, designers, property owners, key functions and the city to collaborate in some way. The orgware is the organisation: good streets are often based on area coalitions that take care of portfolio management – always adapting the street to its time – and have tools for demanding good plinths and intervening if necessary. Looking only at the buildings is not enough. Separate buildings are always part of a street that has an experience of its own. And again streets are fed (or not) by its direct surroundings, so it cannot be seen loose from its context. As the English saying goes: ‘you cannot build a snowman unless it’s snowing’. Areas must be analysed on three levels, to understand the plan of action that is needed: building, street and context.

Criteria for good plinths Good context: 1.

Pedestrian flows, purchasing power


Program: special urban functions (market, museum, galleries)


Public realm: link to squares and parks


Partners: owners and renters


Position in the urban fabric: history, fine grid, bicycle networks

Good streets: 1.

Pleasure to walk in, balance car-pedestrian, comfort (wind, sound, sit)


Definition: height > half width, congruent street sides, tree canopy


What helps: green, parking, density

Good buildings: 1.

Many units, variety functions and reasons to visit


Transparency, rich material, vertical orientation, hybrid zone


Flexibility, plinth height >4m, flexible land use plan

The context determines what is possible. An area can be well known in the rest of the city because of the presence of a special museum, a cluster of antique shops, something that is on the ‘mental map’ of all citizens, will have a different position from other streets. The purchasing power of the people living in the direct surroundings means a lot for the street, as the street’s daily functions are mostly supported by the people living in the neighbourhood. On the street level, an important question is the balance between cars and pedestrians. Cars are not necessarily a bad thing – many shops need the stop-and-shop function and streets without cars can be dead at night – as long as the noise of cars does not dominate the pavements. On the building level, there is the question of transparency, the right functions, and quality that binds the eye. Horizontal architecture lets the view ‘escape’ to the horizon, vertical architecture makes you shift your attention to the façades.


Case Studies:  The  International  Perspective   Throughout the world, we researched case studies that exhibit well-rounded plinth improvements and interviewed their key project managers. Cases relevant to Stockholm are San Francisco, HafenCity, Copenhagen and Rotterdam. San Francisco focuses on transportation: bikeability and walkability, also key parts of the Stockholm plan. In the Mission District, a vibrant multicultural neighbourhood in the process of gentrification, traffic collisions were an important issue. Cars needed to slow down, and cyclists and pedestrians needed more space. Also, merchants wanted a hybrid zone for their businesses to enjoy. The Better Streets Team (within the Department of Public Works) created an interagency expert team to tackle traffic issues, merchant needs, and landscaping. In the end they took away space for cars, added a proper bike lane, and an additional 1m of sidewalk space. The main challenge they faced was to get the residents on their side. Their trick was back-up plans. For every proposal, they had a strong back-up plan. It showed residents that the team cared about them and that they were flexible.

Sluseholmen in Copenhagen is south of the harbour and a former industrial site that needed major environmental mitigation. The master plan included 1300 new units on a complex canal system. Together with 25 architectural firms, 3 developers, and the city offices, they created together a Design Manual for the project. The manual outlined guidelines for design but also required the plinths to have large windows and the corner spaces higher ceilings and mixed use land-use designation. HafenCity in Hamburg highlights the impact of programming the plinths. HafenCity is made up of about 175 hectares of form industrial, port land. The City is owned and managed by HafenCity GMBH. Plinths were a part of the strategy from the very beginning. Hafencity develops plinth regulations on a plot level and developers bid on


the plot with their own designs. Plinth functions and programme must be included in the plans. The city also set up deliberate networks and coalitions, some among retailers and merchants others for developers, investors, planners, engineer and even others for residents. Networks provide a platform for information sharing and prevent problems from arising. Rotterdam shows that after analysing specific areas, generating ideas for quick wins, and taking care of an approach that is hands-on and gets first results quickly, it is important to take the strategy back to the level of the entire city, or at least larger areas. In Rotterdam, we helped develop a plinth strategy for the whole inner city area.

Left: a  map  of  the  functions  on  the  ground  floor,  showing  how  much  the  Rotterdam  inner  city   consists  of  monofunctional  areas  caused  by  the  modernist  planning.  The  shopping  streets,   for  instance,  are  so  dead  at  night  that  women  avoid  the  streets.  To  the  right,  an  analysis   of  pedestrian  flows  by  day  and  night.  These  are  important  to  understand,  to  know  the   potential  of  streets.  Streetscape  in  Stockholm  delivers  similar  research.  

The citywide  strategy  requires  a  new  language  of  maps.  To  the  left,  a  map  of  “let’s  meet   at…”  –  which  public  spaces  function  as  the  ‘third  places’  that  people  use  to  meet.  To  the   right,  a  map  of  the  missing  links  (red)  in  continuation  of  pedestrian  flows.  


Residential plinths  and  flexibility   Plinths are not static, yet we often plan with strict zoning for plinths, and from behind the planning table, planning shops is then the answer. However, in newly built projects, it is not possible to fill all plinths with shops and cafes. Especially since the need for retail is decreasing because of internet shopping (taking away at least 30% of retail space) and there is a tendency to put retail in ‘urban containers’ like shopping malls that draw away good public functions from the streets. New formulas offer new opportunities for plinths. The internet creates new hybrid formulas that have started to sell on the internet but after some time need a real space. Co-working leads to less demand in terms of the space needed; but also creates a new need for good meeting places on the street level. Social functions are often drawn inside so-called multifunctional buildings, but schools and kindergartens can also be great plinth functions. But most of all, we need to consider the quality of residential plinths. We must think long-term and leave flexibility, aiming at living in good plinths first, and allowing other functions to appear over the decades. After all, who knows what functions will be necessary in thirty years? Besides this flexibility, a crucial element is the hybrid zone.

The Hybrid  Zone:  Human-­‐scale  Residential  Plinths   We were asked to emphasize the possibilities for better hybrid zones in Stockholm. The hybrid zone is the transition zone from private space to public space. Let’s first walk the streets once more.

Harsh plinths  vs.  the  hybrid  zone  making  residential  streets  much  more  welcoming  and  humane.  

Great hybrid  zones.  It  is  not  necessarily  actual  humans,  but  more  the  idea  of  people  trusting  the  space   enough  to  put  belongings  on  the  street,  that  make  us  feel  safe  and  welcome.  


In both  situations  the  land  ownership  remains  public,  the  city  allows  for  people  to  use  the  hybrid  zone   under  the  condition  that  things  are  well  maintained.  “This  would  never  work  in  Stockholm,  because  we   need  strict  rules,  and  the  entire  street  from  façade  to  façade  is  owned  by  the  traffic  department”.  

These examples  of  a  more  clearly  demarked  residential  hybrid  zone  could  work,  also  in  winter  time  when   snow  plows  need  to  be  allowed  to  easily  clear  snow  on  the  pavement.  

Two examples  of  poor  hybrid  zones  in  Stockholm.  In  both  cases,  there  is  not  a  strong  enough  connection   between  the  inside  and  the  outside,  so  that  residents  lose  their  idea  of  ownership.  


These are  both  flower  shops  in  Stockholm.  The  key  difference  is  the  hybrid  zone.    

Examples  of  good-­‐  and  well-­‐functioning  hybrid  zones  with  residential  plinths  in  Stockholm.  

As a part of the City at Eye Level, Stockholm needs to develop a strategy for hybrid zones, both in newly built (mostly residential) and in existing (more mixed) areas. In newly built areas it requires new demands for the architecture of new blocks, taking the specific Stockholm situation such as the winter climate into consideration. In the existing areas it is more a question of rules allowing street use for the first 50cm and street management.


2. Results of  the  Stockholm  Plinth  Game   The Stockholm plan idea of a Walkable City needs a more concrete translation, requiring concrete street changes, but also the development of new tools and strategies. The City of Stockholm and Stipo set up a two-day plinth game, during which we held interviews, and most of all went to the streets in 12 areas of the city, analysing the current plinths, exchanging ideas of ways to develop new criteria and tools. The groups were interdisciplinary, involving city planners, housing and land experts, researchers and project developers. To analyse the quality of Stockholm at Eye Level, we followed Jane Jacobs’ advice: “Walk the streets!” We became ‘urban anthropologists’, understanding the streets from the insider’s perspective, interviewing locals and shop owners.

Jane Jacobs:  Walk  the  Streets!  

Become urban  anthropologists  

The game led to a highly condensed energy and many new insights to follow up.

Interview Highlights   To obtain a better understanding of the Stockholm context, we interviewed several key stakeholders prior to the two-day plinth game. The following are a few highlights from the interviews. Thomas  Hellström,  developer  at  Niras  Sverige  AB   What is the economic significance of 'walkable city'? The question is whether you should focus on hardware (architecture, buildings, infrastructure) or software (user requirements). The three selected archetypes each require a specified, concrete economic approach, and each a different type of co-creation. Co-creation is not currently used by the city. The more important urban and social issues lie on the edges of the city (high unemployment, decay). His hope and expectation is that the city focuses awareness through workshops and resources with developers and builders and enforcing a high quality street level. Niklas  Svensson,  Deputy  Director  at  the  department  of  City  Planning   Niklas’ role straddles the planning department and the political world for the City. His insights regarding this inbetween role were very meaningful. The important issues for him are translating the Walkable City into practice and building consensus between the needs and wishes of the political leaders and the planning department. Joanna  Berg,  developer  at  Riksbyggen   As a part of a major development corporation in Stockholm, Joanna was very helpful in giving an overall picture of the Stockholm real estate system, their goals as a company and as ally of the City, and the ways in which Riksbyggen play a role in the continued development of the city. She made it clear that their goals align with the city’s in terms of sustainable development, in-fill, and strategies for densification. She also mentioned that it is often difficult to communicate their needs as developers and that the end discussion usually involves the bottom-


line. As for plinths, she told us they are always a part of the planning (design) process; however, this does not mean their function, programming, and management are part of the process. Per Hasselberg,  artist   During this interview, Per talked mostly about the image of the good society and the history of social evolution and the critical capacity for social change. This requires more understanding of the Swedish Social Democratic history and ambition to achieve democratic citizenship. He is involved in neighbourhood planning as a counterweight to the prevailing city planning methods, especially in disadvantaged suburbs and as a practice of local democracy. He advocates the use of test sites for new bottom-up initiatives. Bo  Bergman,  City  of  Stockholm   He believes that the manner of thought and work on the city must change. The current focus on production leaves little time for reflection and quality work. He believes more discussion between the teams needs to take place, and something like a “quality team” should be implemented where a variety of disciplines can participate in a meaningful way. Furthermore the social dimension of planning is loosing importance, especially for project designs in the suburbs. Lars  Fyrvald,  Architect   Lars showed us visuals from the Sodermalm development project and we openly discussed ways, in our opinion, would lead to better plinths. We also came to agreement on which types of residential plinths could and could not work in Stockholm (both inner city and suburban areas).

Stockholm Street  Analyses   With the help of The City at Eye Level Spidergraphs, we analysed three archetypes of streets in Stockholm: 1) Low density post war suburbs, 2) Recent block developments and 3) Traditional city centre. Each of these archetypes has such a different context that they require different approaches. The modernist archetype needs reuse and reopening of ground floors that are often shut or garages. Plinths can be reused for local start-ups and ethnic shops, for instance, the way it already happened in Rinkeby in Stockholm. The newly built areas need sets of criteria and mechanisms for actual delivery by property developers. This can be achieved partly by, as Alan Jacobs calls them, ‘non-negotiable rules’ and partly by tempting market parties and rewarding good behaviour, for instance letting them building higher if they provide good plinths. The traditional centre is more about restructuring existing plinths, and obtaining a type of management on the street level, instead of on the level of individual buildings. This was for instance done at The Meent in Rotterdam, where one building owner bought up several buildings, and could manage portfolio more on a street level. This leads to different behaviour, perhaps allowing for nicer functions with a somewhat lower rent for individual buildings, thereby reassuring


the image and the income levels of the street in the long run. Or in the Haarlemmerdijk in Amsterdam, where a street manager was employed by the city and the shop owners together, to replace better shops for old ones.

Area Outcomes   During the 2-day plinth game, four diverse groups analysed 12 streets—both within the city centre and in the suburban areas as chosen by the City. The twelve sites were divided into three archetypes: city centre, post-war suburb, and recent block development.

Group 1:  Sjöviksvägen,  Årstavägen,  Pontonjärgatan   Participants   Charlotte Rydahl, SBK; Josefin Westerlund, SBK; Gustaf Schneidler, Exploateringskontoret; Anders Jonsson, AJ Landskap; Torleif Falk, Primula; Brita Lindqvist, Fabegé; Nancy Mattson, JM; Thomas Hellström, Niras; Max Goldstein, SBK (spokesperson); Maria Sahlstrand, SBK (take notes); Marcelo Rovira Torres, SBK; Jan van Teeffelen, Stipo. Sjöviksvägen     Modern, new. Overall, a good street. The street is oversized and the fact that it is a dead-end (at the end of a hill) makes for little traffic. The position of the sun on the street is not the most logical for entrepreneurs, as they are in the shade. We spoke to one entrepreneur who said that he wanted to have tables on the street (a good hybrid zone solution), but at that location, he did not have much sun. The blocks along the street all have very different character from one building to the next, contributing to a feeling of incoherence. The street would greatly benefit from a separate cycle path and wider sidewalks. Also larger, more developed trees would add to the landscape and greenery of the street, giving it more character and breaking up the somewhat monotonous modern building character.

Left - right: full image of the street. The building character is quite different on either side and

Årstavägen   An older, quiet residential neighbourhood street. This street has a very wide right of way—too wide for the height of the buildings. Only a few facilities are concentrated on the street. Visually, the street becomes narrower because gardens buffer the sidewalk and front doors of the buildings. The street is beautifully landscaped but shows that densification has taken place with the addition of more modern blocks.


Pontonjärgatan   Waterfront district with high quality and expensive housing. The street has beautiful hybrid zones and the water is a principle part of the street. Because of the busy road, parallel parking spaces and recreational green area along the water are at odds with the blocks that are open on one side. The main road has a variable quality: a park, a commercial strip with potential, very open and very nice blocks and also some closed blocks.

Group 2:  Annedalsvägen,  Frejgatan,  Wergelandsgatan   Participants   Carla Hedberg, SBK, Planner; Niklas Zetterberg, SBK, Planner; Hillevie Jernberg, Exploateringskontor Landscape Architect, Land Office; Göran Lindberg, Nivå Landskap, Landscape Architect; Josa Lundback, Abacus Bygg, Housing Developer; Åke Stenlund, JM, Housing Developer; Alexander Sundberg, Alecta, Commercial Developer; Anna Rex, SBK (spokesperson) P2, Planner; Ann-Sofi Rundquist, SBK (take notes) P4, Planner; Tobias Lidman, SBK, Intern/Architect; Jeroen Laven, Stipo. Annedalsvägen  (Archetype  III,  recent  block  development)   Annedalsvägen is a new area in the city. The area is still under construction. On one hand, it’s a pleasant middle class area with broad pavements, green spaces between buildings where children can play, and corner plinths in some buildings that are multifunctional and can be used for shops or (which is the case) kindergartens. On the other hand, if you look at the long-term perspective you can ask questions about the quality of the architecture and the flexibility of the plinths. In a big part of the plinths are “hidden”. For financial reasons the ground floor is lifted (a half floor), making the basement higher. Due to the lifted basement, this leads to a non-existing plinth where no good contact exists with either the basement or the ground floor. The low balconies function as kind of (poor) hybrid zone. If you walk to close to the building you can even bump your head! The main problem of the street is that it is lacking life: it is too tidy, a bit too sterile.

Left: Unfriendly  side:  “the  hidden  plinth”  is  used  for  bike  space.  Blocks  prevent  walking  and  bumping   your  head.  Right:  Friendly  site:  Pleasant  street  with  broad  pavements.  Some  nice  shop  fronts  in  housing   blocks.    


Left: An  area  under  construction.  Right:  Green  courts.  

Life seems to be there around the corner though. Around the blocks near Annedalsvägen, there is a variety of high-quality (child-friendly) public spaces. Maybe the streets do not have the potential to be lively. It is most of all going to be the courtyards, seeing them from the streets. This leads  to  the  following  criteria  for  good  residential  plinths:   1.

Avoid hidden plinths. The first layer of apartments must not be lifted, it must be on the street level. If truly necessary, it can be lifted a bit, but it is crucial never to loose the eye contact between the inside of the building and the outside pavement.


Whenever possible, pedestrians on the sidewalk should be able to see inside of buildings.


Balance the life on the streets (and in the street plinths) with what’s happening around the corner in the courtyards. If there is too little life on the streets, the streets become sterile and unattractive.


Long-term flexibility in use of plinths can give extra quality to a street. Plinths that can be used for housing, offices, shops or other functions help. A guideline for the quality of the plinth can help.


In residential blocks it helps to add at least one non-residential plinth, to make blocks more lively.


The hybrid zone can be used by residents and owners to create a special place, to bring life to the streets. Plants, benches, bike parking, children play grounds, are a few options.

Frejgatan The area is architecturally well designed, historical. The street plan, the architecture of the buildings, the accessible courtyards, and the diversity in functions all make the area a pleasant one. Still, street life in quite low some parts. Why? Partly because there is little continuity in the plinths. Good plinths, where the building connects with the streets, are mixed with closed plinths where the backside of bookcases or other elements stop you from looking inside.


Left: Good  and  plinth  use  adjacent  to  each  other.  Right:  Not  much  street  life  because  of  lack  of   continuity  in  plinth  use.  

New qualities that can be added are things like trees, bike parking, a more diverse street pattern. The streets and parking spaces are not used well. Options we discussed are to learn from examples such as Park(ing) Day (ReBar), and parklets. It’s an area where we believe there is a high potential for people taking initiative for using the streets in a more intense way. The threat for the area is the slow decline in the use of the qualities. Windows closed with permanent curtains, inaccessible courtyards, high-speed traffic pressure. It’s easy to let the existing and potential quality of the street slip away. This leads  to  the  following  criteria  for  good  mixed-­‐use  plinths:   7.

Avoid a broken plinth-structure. A rhythm of good plinths and plastic covered plinths does not stimulate the streets and giving it a pleasant atmosphere.


The hybrid zone, and empty parking spaces are an opportunity for temporary or permanent functions. Openair cafes in the summer or small parks, such as internationally made famous by Park(ing) Day.


Cherish and optimize the link between streets and beautiful neighbouring areas, such as the courtyards. Good signage and way-finding are important.

10. Establish a coalition of people who can claim the streets and the plinths. With suboptimal plinth use in central areas with high-quality architecture and moderate market pressure, a coalition of parties varying from property owners, shops, residents, government organisations and investors, can use acupuncture solutions, not necessary expensive, that help create better plinths. 11. A diverse plinth portfolio makes the area more attractive. Wergelandsgatan Wergelandsgatan is a street with two very different sites. On one side, well maintained attractive housing blocks and good hybrid zones; on the other side, the backside of a shopping centre, with an unclear mixture of warehouses, offices, parking spaces, landscaping, and stairs to the shopping centre.


The two sides are divided by an unclear street. Is a street for lorries bringing the supplies for the shops and warehouses? Is it a street for a residential area? Most of the attention in the discussion in the group went to the backside of the shopping centre. It is clear that the architectural quality is low. The functional mixture of crafts, warehouses, offices, etc, is a functional quality for such a space. In central parts of the city, it is rare to have space for a concentration of crafts and warehouses. Internationally there is a rise of these functions in central parts of the city. If a better plinth and (even more important) hybrid zone would be created, these functions could flourish more. These are functions with often a low financial investment potential; improving the plinths in a financially unrealistic way would be a threat for the longterm potential for these functions. An opportunity for the street is to make a combined program with the adjacent shopping centre to make a chain of functions (from crafts to consumption) in the area. A next step would be to meet the people who own property in the street, who rent and use the property in the street. A coalition for a financially realistic plan with a long term perspective and short term action. This leads  to  the  following  criteria  for  good  mixed-­‐use  plinths:   12. Use the unique qualities to combine plinths and functions (such as crafts and warehouses). 13. Build a coalition of parties investing in better plinths and streets. 14. Don’t neglect the importance of the street. An unclear target group for the street (industrial or residential or mixture of unclear) is threat. 15. Cherish the existing plinths that are already of good quality.

Group 3:  Gubbangen,  Sickla  Kanalgata,  Dalagatan   Participants   Thomas Hellander, SBK, Building Permits; Mattias Olsson, SBK, Planner; Karl Gylje, Exploateringskontoret, Land Office; Agneta Schill, Exploateringskontoret, Landscape Architect, Land Office; Britta Blaxhult, Veidekke, Housing Developer; Cecilia Wallin, Byggvesta, Housing Developer; Stefan Axelsson, Svenska Bostäder, Commercial Developer; Anna Forsberg, SBK (spokesperson), ABK, Building Order; Anders Berg, SBK (take notes), Planner; Henrik Nerlund, Skönhetsrådet, Skönhetsrådet; Meredith Glaser, Stipo. Gubbangen  (Archetype  II,  Low-­‐density  Post-­‐war  Suburb)   The Gubbangen site visit made it clear to the team that this street has loads of potential. We also found some key lessons for good plinths, especially around the use of hybrid zones, residential plinths, placemaking in the public realm, plinth functions, and basic criteria for good plinth design. This is a prime suburb location of Stockholm, and the area has a metro location within easy walking distance from most residences. The retail, commercial and


office space is underused, unattractive, and likely also under-performing. In-fill between and on top of the current properties, coupled with investment in the small retail street and secondary commercial area on Gubbangen could drastically change the area for the better.

Left: unfriendly:  lack  of  transparency  in  the  plinths  hide  the  functions  and  do  not  take   advantage  of  hybrid  zone.  Right:  friendly:  one  of  the  two  high-­‐potential  squares  adjacent   to  retail  and  commercial.  

Left: unfriendly:  single-­‐standing,  antisocial  residential  buildings  with  no  ‘eyes  on  the   street’.  Right:  friendly:  wonderful  green  area  with  potential,  adjacent  to  commercial  area.   In general, the building stock of this street is in good condition. The post-war design is apparent: large 3-4 story buildings, separated from each other by at least 20+ meters. The buildings are mostly single-use with the exception of a couple buildings that are moderately mixed-use, with retail or office spaces that underutilize their plinths. The  use  of  the  hybrid   zone  does  not   function  well  here.    

This street is very quiet with little to no activity. The right-of-way is too large for the level of service in this area and the pedestrian space is

limited, unattractive, and has few amenities like benches or bicycle parking. The landscape is simple and evident, but not in the public realm. Trees and grassy areas are exclusively within the boundaries of the private buildings, with the exception of the small retail block that has a cosy, but underused, open area. Hybrid zones are not well-used. There are few entrances on the ground level (as shown in the photo above), and therefore the commercial uses in the plinth (or the residents on the 1e floor) take no ownership of the hybrid zone.


Additionally, the commercial and retail plinths have barriers in their windows such as non-transparent film, metal bars, posters, etc. Passers-by often perceive these barriers in a negative way. Why not remove them? This leads  to  the  following  criteria  for  good  plinths:   16. Focus retail and placemaking activity in and around the public squares. Enhance the squares with amenities that allow people to linger. 17. Align the functions of the plinths with programming near the public squares: adjacent to the squares, allow for cafes and restaurants instead of offices. 18. Pedestrians should be able to see through the plinths, even residential plinths but especially commercial or office plinths. Remove unsightly barriers like mirror film, posters, and metal bars. 19. The width of the street should not be more than half the height of the buildings to feel comfortable for pedestrians. Sickla  Kanalgata  (Archetype  III,  Recent  Block  Development)   This area is a desirable, waterfront, higher-income neighbourhood adjacent to the city centre. Young families are known to locate here. Stockholm planners and architects are very proud of this neighbourhood. It is an attractive area with well-groomed streets, nice residential building character, plenty of natural greenery, and art. The streets are very quiet, comfortable, and its best asset is the accessibility to the waterfront along public pathways.

The streets  are  very  quiet  and  its  best  asset  is  the  accessibility  to  the  waterfront  along  public   pathways.  

Despite the assets, the streets and plinths have their downsides as well, mostly on two levels. First with the mixed-use functions located on Sickla Kanalgata. There are about 4-5 plinths dedicated to commercial use on the street. Density is rather low and the location of Sickla Kanalgata is not ideally positioned in the urban fabric for retail or other businesses. The locations of these businesses are spread out. Separating the businesses in this way dilutes their potential as a stronger retail ‘hub’ for the neighbourhood. On the positive side, it appears that the locations were built with flexibility in mind (though we were not sure about their land use designation); maybe one day they can be redesigned as residential plinths. If the 4-5 businesses were located closer together, even adjacent from each other, this could create a more efficient hub of businesses for the area. Functions like childcare centres and co-working offices could operate successfully in this type of area, plus play a role as gathering and social spaces for the neighbours.


Above: a  very  empty  Japanese  restaurant,  one  of  the  few  businesses  on  Sickla  Kanalgata  ring  

The second problem we saw with the street plinths were the residential plinths both on the street front and the water front. On the street front, the level of the ground floor was often raised a half-level above the street. As with other sites in Stockholm, this gap displaces the pedestrian from the building, and the apartment dweller from the street. This gap also creates an impossible hybrid zone because the resident is not connected to the street life. This was not the case all the time, however. There were also good examples of Sickla-style hybrid zones, where the street passer-by is able to directly see the resident’s semi-private space (like a small terrace). Below are a couple of examples.

On the  left,  a  well-­‐functioning  street  side  residential  ‘plinth’  –  its  curtains  are  open   and  it’s  obvious  the  residents  take  pride  in  their  small  outdoor  space.  The  photo  on  the   right  displays  the  opposite  example.    

Above: On  the  left  you  see  what  seems  like  a  nice  pedestrian  alley.  The  group  decided  that   it  was  actually  poorly  designed.  It’s  landscape  is  unbalanced;  it  is  not  well-­‐maintained;   little  seating  is  available;  and  again,  the  plinths  are  raised  a  half  level  so  there  is  no   connection  between  the  residents  and  the  street  level.  On  the  right,  this  is  the  view  as  a  


pedestrian on  the  water  front  walkway.  Yes,  it  seems  like  a  nice,  natural  landscape;  but   again,  ownership  of  the  space  is  lacking  and  ambiguous.     What  we  learn  from  Sickla  Kanalgata  for  future  plinth  criteria:   20. Cherish existing, especially natural, amenities like the waterfront and the pedestrian connections to and from such places. 21. Strategically position commercial, office or flex-space as hubs of activity within communities, especially using corner spaces with extra high plinths. Designate these spaces as mixed-use, with future flexibility in mind. 22. Place residential plinths on the ground level to enhance the connection between the resident and the street life, especially on pedestrian-only walkways. Dalagatan Dalagatan is a street located in the city centre. It is a main thoroughfare for public transit, city traffic, and also a main street for this neighbourhood. Traffic is generally constant and at higher speeds than other city streets. There is a mix of uses on the street and the streets surrounding Dalagatan are mostly quiet, residential streets. The building stock on the street is of high quality and wonderful character. Important to note is that Dalagatan is surrounded by important city and regional institutions, such as schools, academies, a large teaching hospital, a city park, and on the street itself is the only advanced children’s dental clinic in the city and region. People from all over the greater Stockholm region access this street for its institutions. Recently the street was updated with a wider sidewalk on one side of the street, more street trees and a few updated facades. Unfortunately, the one-sided wider sidewalk creates an unbalanced atmosphere, especially pertaining to pedestrian streams: people obviously prefer to walk on the side with a wider sidewalk and more street trees. Of course, the plinths on this side of the street are (for the most part) better than the ones on the other side of the street. There are a few exceptions, like the large grocery store, which covered its windows with posters. The photo to the left shows that the parking garage entrance is located on the street level—taking up a very valuable plinth on a desired street.


Top photos:  An  uneven  street  for  pedestrian  streams  and  plinths;  on  the  wider  side,  trees  and  bikes  are   obstacles,  store  signs  and  hybrid  zones  are  inconsistent.  Bottom  photos:  (left)  The  parking  garage   entrance  to  this  grocery  store  is  located  on  the  street  level—taking  up  a  very  valuable  plinth  on  a   desired  street.  (right)  Residential  plinths  are  lifted,  creating  a  disconnect  between  the  street  and   building.  

There are several points along the street that should be noted. In the first part of the street, (see photo below, top left) the group noticed that the bus stop had been terribly misplaced. The stop was is directly in front of a residential (lifted) plinth. For the purpose of the riders, there was a bench placed near the stop. For privacy, quite logically, the residents’ windows are mostly covered. Imagine if the stop was only 20m further down the road, in front of a café where people are already gathering; maybe the resident would open his curtains more often without the passengers waiting out his window. Along the street, several plinths exhibited great potential. One example is below (see photo top right). The vintage design of the awning has a wonderful character. However, all the windows are covered with black film, and its very unclear what is going on inside. Is it vacant? Is a new shop coming? Is one just closing? Are they remodelling? In this instance, a street manager or street association would step in and ask the owners to at post a simple sign informing passers-by of the status of this plinth.

Left: a  misplaced  bus  stop  in  front  of  a  residential  lifted  plinth,  causes  the  resident  to  cover  his   windows.  Right:  a  plinth  with  great  potential,  wonderful  awning  character  but  windows  covered  in  black   film.  

Two more  examples  are  above.  On  the  left  you  can  see  where  the  buildings  were  originally  planned  for   demolition.  These  nooks  are  located  all  over  the  city.  The  indentation  in  the  structure  is  now  used   minimally,  for  advertisements.  It  could  be  used  much  more  efficiently,  especially  if  the  function  in   the  plinth  allowed  for  it.  It  could  be  a  vertical  garden  with  seating.  Does  the  electronics  store  need  


all that  space?  Maybe  they  can  team  up  with  a  local  coffee  bar  and  sell  coffee  from  the  window,  people   can  sit  and  enjoy  the  little  nook  (and  a  vertical  garden).     Moreover, this nook is directly opposite the regional children’s dental clinic (photo right). And around the corner is a large park, and several other institutions. The indentation nook could be a perfect gathering place with services and amenities that relate more to the institutions in the surrounding area. Also evident outside the dental clinic is the inefficient use of space for parking (for about 10 cars). A large-scale parking garage is available beneath the grocery store, about 50 meters away from the clinic. A parking lot does not allow for high-quality placemaking. Other amenities, like a children’s playground, is much more suitable and also flexible for local events and people gatherings (rather than car gatherings).

What we  learn  from  Dalagatan  for  future  plinth  criteria:   23. High speed and high traffic streets are a threat to adjacent small businesses. Street traffic can continue to be efficient at slower speeds, even with public transit routes. 24. Establish consistency with commercial hybrid zones, especially concerning how far businesses can infringe on the sidewalk. Usually 50-100cm is plenty of space for an effective hybrid zone. 25. Locate bus stops, and other publicly used amenities (street maps, etc.) in front of plinths with public functions, rather than private residence. 26. Utilize historic building indentations to an advantage, either aesthetically for interactive art or landscape or as nooks for public gathering. 27. Obstacles in the sidewalk should be kept to a minimum. Street trees can act as parking buffers, instead of as obstacles in the sidewalk. 28. Locate entrances to public parking garages in discrete locations, preferring not to use an entire plinth on the main street. 29. Consolidate parking accessibility for local institutions and prefer to keep parking lots away from street life.

Group 4:  Björnsonsgatan,  Swedenborgsgatan  (2x)   Participants   Nina Åman, SBK, Section Chief, Planning; Torbjörn Johansson, SBK, Planner; Christina Winberg, Exploateringskontoret, Land Office; Monika Mundt-Petersen, Järntorget, Housing Developer; Lennart Fahlström, JM, Housing Developer; Bo Wintzell, AMF Fastigheter, Commercial Developer; Hans Andrasko, SBK, Planner; Åsa Dahlin, SBK, Strategic Planning; Liselott Luhr, Land Office & Traffic Office; Hans Karssenberg, STIPO, Advisor, Urban Planner. Björnsonsgatan  (Archetype  II,  Low-­‐density  Post-­‐war  Suburb)   Björjnsonsgatan is an interesting street to learn about good residential plinths. The street has two sides, one of which feels really friendly to pedestrians, the other side does not. The key difference is that the apartments on the residential side have been lifted, placing storage rooms on the ground floor with blind facades. A green hedge was put in front of the house, with grass between the hedge and the house. However, since there is no sense of ownership, this feels like an unused, empty area, only meant to look at. Both the first window and the hedge are so high up that a pedestrian cannot look inside. All the windows on the first floor had shut curtains or blinds, thereby destroying the last possibility for the sense of human interaction walking on the street.


Left: unfriendly  side:  the  hedges  take  away  the  eye  contact,  ground  floor  and  windows  are   lifted  too  high.  Right:  friendly  side:  hedges  are  low  enough  to  look  over,  ground  floor  is   on  street  level.   The other, friendly, side has the first floor actually on the street level, enabling the idea of eye contact. There does not have to be actual contact between people on the street and people inside their living rooms, it is mostly the idea that any moment contact could be possible. Because the windows are lower, the hedges are lower too, and more space that can actually be used is left between the hedge and the door, since there is no height difference to conquer. Interestingly enough, everyone living on this side of the street had their windows open. Someone from the group remarked that project developers tend to lift residential blocks because people do not want a window on the street – this is however denied by Björnsonsgatan.

Left: the  hybrid  zone  does  not  function  well,  there  is  no  relation  with  the  lifted  ground   floor  and  no  ownership.  Right:  the  street  as  a  whole  is  too  wide  to  be  comfortable  for   pedestrians,  there  is  vertical  orientation  of  facades,  but  it  could  be  stronger.   Looking at the street as a whole, the blocks seemed to mark quite a nice entrance. However, the vertical orientation of the blocks could have been better, splitting up the buildings into smaller blocks (or using vertical ornaments in the façade, depth and/or different façade colours to do so), thereby catching the eye more. We all felt the street could have been longer, perhaps extending it out to the other side of the roundabout. Also, the street itself felt too wide, using too much space for cars, whereas there were no parking spaces in front of the houses. In this case, this could be worth investigating. This  leads  to  the  following  criteria  for  good  residential  plinths:   30. The first layer of apartments must not be lifted, it must be on the street level. If truly necessary, it can be lifted a bit, but it is crucial never to loose eye contact between the inside outside. 31. Pedestrians on the pavement must be able to see the inside of buildings whenever possible, so the windows in the façade should not be placed any higher than 1,5 m.


32. Hedges and fences should allow the pedestrian to look over them, they should not be higher than 1,2 m. 33. The building should have a strong vertical orientation with different materials, vertical ornaments, colours and/or façade depths at least every 8-10 meters. 34. The zone between a hedge and the building should be handed to the residents for creating their own space, putting in their own plants and benches, thereby creating diversity. However, this will only work if the apartment is actually on the street level. 35. The width of the street should not be more than half the height of the buildings to feel comfortable for pedestrians. The experience of the street for pedestrians should be more important than claiming a wide range of space for cars. Swedenborgsgatan (Archetype  I,  Traditional  Centre-­‐city  Block;  and  Archetype  III,  Recent   Block  Development)   We researched two locations on Swedenborgsgatan: one at Södra Station, at the end of the pedestrian way with Bofills Båge along the way and Medborgarplatsen on the other end. This part of Swedenborgsgatan has been renewed in the early nineties. The street profile has been widened a bit at the cost of the width of the pavements, to allow two buses to pass each other. The second location on Swedenborgsgatan still has the original buildings and profile and is very near Mariatorget, renowned to be Stockholm’s most beautiful public square.

Lots of  hybrid  zones,  juicy  facades,  the  right  balance  between  cars  and  pedestrians,  a  good  tree  canopy  


The difference between these two locations is striking. Not all the buildings at the original site have open plinths, but enough of them do, with juicy functions such as the Konditori, fashion, plant stores, a baker, the famous coffee bar Johan & Nyström (where everything tastes, smells and looks great). The hybrid zones are used by the shops with small benches and well presented goods outside. The tree canopy adds to the pedestrian feeling of the street, and the space for the cars is just so that cars can pass each other but will slow down. This part of the street has great definition, buildings are high on detail, and the reward at the end is the indeed wonderful Mariatorget. The street is a pleasure to walk in: ‘plinth heaven’. The modern part is a whole different story. While in theory it has the same width and a very similar position in the pedestrian networks, right in the heart of Södermalm, the street feels dead. The buildings are low on detail, shop fronts are closed or hidden behind arcades. The station could have good fronts on the street level, but has one central entrance leading to an inside world where a couple of not too well doing shops can be found. There is a striking difference between the plant shop in the original part of the street, with goods beautifully displayed outside, making the street more human; and the plant shop in this building, also located to the street, but with no entrance on the street side, and no way to display goods outside in the ‘hybrid zone’, creating a harsh, dead street. The buildings have much less entrances to the streets, with modern glass mirroring and disconnecting the feeling of transparency. After the crossing with Fatburgsgatan, the trees disappear from the street, leaving a more stony, less human feeling behind; pavements are smaller and the street feels too wide. The part with the arcade takes away the possibility for the shops to present themselves with at window right on the street. The pedestrian strip leading to the Medborgarplatsan is very harsh, with hardly any units open to the street. There is no green and there are no benches to sit on. There is a closed office façade on the one hand, the office lying deeper than the street level, not enabling contact with the street. On the other side of the walkway there is just one entrance to a supermarket with film taped behind it, totally closing the window from the street. There are studies showing that supermarkets sell more when they light the goods with artificial lighting, so supermarkets are bound to shut the windows creating a blind façade.

Arcades hide  the  shop  fronts  from  the  streets  

Flower shop  with  no  connection  to  the  street  

In the modern part, existing qualities to cherish are the car free pedestrian link from the park to the metro station; the kindergarten; the vertical orientation of the residential building and the flexibility of the height of the plinth. What should be changed are the blind facades, the total underuse of potential, and the galleries / arcades. It should remain an area for the people living there. Major improvements could be made by: -

a better user-led design of the square in front of the commuter train station


a space syntax analysis of the pedestrian walk to show the potential for opening up the facades with more functions



make a good rendering in the computer of what this could look like to tempt building owners


wider pavements and smaller car zone


add trees in the street, extending the tree canopy of the original part of the street


add places to sit


open up the plinths of Bankgårdsgången


better stairs to the park lane below


close the arcade and bring the façade to the front of the street.

In the old part, there is a lot to be cherished: the street, the hybrid zone, the trees, the buildings, and most of all: the tenants. Things to avoid are for the street to get overheated with gentrification, with only larger chains able to pay the higher rent and the smaller unique shops, cafes and restaurants being pushed out. To help the street further, needed are: -

initially: very little is needed, perhaps a wider pavement to allow for more hybrid zones and different trees


strict zoning by the municipality, keep units small scale; actively change the land use plan if it is too old and allows too much


a street campaign, possibly branding


employ a street manager in collaboration with the entrepreneurs and the property owners in the street


gradually develop the side streets bit by bit, especially the parts close to Swedenborgsgatan itself


slowly make the profile of the shops stronger, move some shops that fit the profile less to the side streets or the other (new) side of the street, thereby connecting the strategy for both parts of the street.

In terms of strategy, Swedenborgsgatan appears to be the ideal case to test the concept of street managers, partially paid by the city and partially by the shops and cafes and property owners. The street manager should connect the strategy for both ends of the street. The pedestrian zone is an ideal case for tempting private owners to change their façades by offering ‘city intelligence’ (showing the potential by space syntax research) and by showing a possible future (making a rendering of what the façade could look like). What we  learn  from  Swedenborgsgatan  for  future  plinth  criteria:   36. Supermarkets must in existing situations be regulated to open up their windows. In new situations the ideal is for the supermarket to be put to the inside of a block, leaving the façade space on the outside open to a variety of different functions open to the street. 37. Avoid urban containers such as shopping malls and campuses that have the tendency to draw public functions inside and leave the streets with facades that feel like a backside. 38. Buildings must have a vertical orientation instead of a horizontal orientation. 39. The connection of a building with the street is in the small details, such as small benches, plants. 40. Streets do no necessarily need public functions (shops and cafes) in plinths everywhere, but can have housing between them as well, as long as there is a diverse rhythm and variation of different functions one after the other, with at least public functions on the corners of street blocks. 41. Balconies on the front side of the façade of residential buildings add to the variation and experiencing human activities in the street. 42. Arcades / galleries can work well in climates with high temperatures but must be avoided in the Swedish context as they hide the shop fronts from the streets. 43. Pedestrian zones require a lot of possibilities to rest and sit down. Buildings facing pedestrian zones must contain a high variety of units, preferably at least every 6-8 meters a new unit. 44. Great streets have a balance of space for cars and pedestrians.


World Café  Outcomes   After the site visits and analyses, the whole group came together again for one last brainstorming session. We used the World Café Method for this exercise. In this process, six individuals addressed one question or topic of their choice; that individual ‘owns’ their question and for the limited amount of time. During the brainstorming time, others are free to roam from question/topic to question/topic, giving their opinion and contributing to building a good answer, a possible solution to the problem.

In general, each of the groups was very active and participants moved freely between questions. The questions focused on collaboration and coalition building, creation of hybrid zones from different perspectives (i.e., as a developer), becoming more experimental with initiatives, and flexibility with city plans. The results from the World Café helped inform us for creating a set of conclusions and steps for follow up, presented in the next section.


3. Follow-­‐up Strategy  for  Stockholm   The Stockholm plan, Walkable City, is an intelligent strategy about the quality of the city. However there is a gap between the strategy (formulated in only five short lines in the document), the land use plans, and daily action. What is in the middle? What is it that Stockholm needs to apply a ‘middle-up-down’ strategy? We discussed a few lines for follow up: •

Carrot & Stick - There is the need for a “Carrot & Stick” strategy, including both strictly implemented and maintained guidelines, and tempting of the market by rewarding good behaviour and showing best practice.

Think & Act - In a networked city, it is important that taking concrete action and developing knowledge and strategies interact. We noticed how important it was to combine visiting concrete examples with more theoretical knowledge and insights.

Existing & New - The Walkable City addresses both the 140,000 houses yet to be built, which requires guidelines and implementation in development strategies, and finding and implementing the secrets behind making gradual changes in the existing structures. These both require different plinth strategies.

The question now is, how to translate these analyses into action for the City of Stockholm and its networks. There are many ways to go about making changes. For creating a Walkable City it would be good for you to be able to start a few parallel lines at the same time.

Six lines  for  a  Stockholm  City  at  Eye  Level  Strategy   1.


A better understanding of the ‘Why’, the ‘question behind the question’: -

Involve / interview politicians, other key decision makers


Involve / interview external partners, developers, early adapters


Use story-telling to make an interview brochure.

Develop and deepen urban knowledge -

Develop knowledge through deeper local research


Make more concrete area/neighbourhood translations (what is happening where?)


Create maps and analyses, such as the example of the Rotterdam Plinths analysis (see box) and data (like that from Spacescape)


Develop and adapt instruments: tender on fixed price and compete for quality (instead of tendering for the highest bid and getting into difficult discussions afterwards)


Collaborate with knowledge institutions, but also keep learning separate from practice

Co-create -

Develop area plinth guidelines in collaboration with market parties / private developers, differentiating between:



Main streets in new areas


More residential streets in new areas


Important streets in existing areas


Develop an example book, inviting the city, the best Stockholm plinths


Give special attention to the plinths in the large strategic projects such as the harbour project

BOX - EXAMPLE: PLINTHS ATLAS ROTTERDAM INNER CITY The Atlas is an example of how to develop a more elaborate strategy on the level of the city as a whole. The Atlas was built up in 5 layers. FACTS: - Layer 1 = the area (study area, building period, structure of urban tissue) - Layer 2 = the use (valued and upcoming areas, spread of functions on the ground floor, pedestrian flows day and night, visitors / source points, motives to visit) - Layer 3 = new developments (public space investments, major future building projects, vacant buildings) PRESUMPTIONS: - Layer 4 = validation of plinths (missing links, value of connections; good places with specific qualities; hotspots, city lounge; shopping areas) PRIORITIES: - Layer 5 = combining all layers and making a top 10 choice of priorities (you cannot do everything at once)



Organise pilots -

Use a timeline of a six months test period for a pilot, see it as an experiment


Set up rules for newly built areas


Organise a challenge for the best plinths

Expand the networks -

Involve the professionals and the citizens of Stockholm through campaigns and social media outreach


Link the topic of the City at Eye Level to the OpenLab 2014; create relations with the other strategic programmes such as the park strategy, bikeable city, etc.


With the Stadsdelar establish a system of street managers, 50% paid by government, 50% by entrepreneurs; we can provide you with examples and profiles from The Netherlands if you like


Build a network of ‘early innovators’ cutting through organisations on the basis of equality, start with long-term partners such as Riksbyggen.

Above: a  Rotterdam  Plinth  Safari,  Stipo  and  partners.  



Make the programme event-based -

Do more Plinth workshops / City Safari with different settings, politicians, etc.


Influence education / student programmes


Plinth Award, an annual prize for the most beautiful new / restructured plinth (different categories)


Organize public displays of media criticism for bad plinths


Celebrate and share successes, successful projects


Create an informative and inspiring website with information, such as the booklet with criteria, the documents of others.


Credits  We want to especially thank Eva Minoura and Ewa Wühlin for their generosity, hospitality, and the invitation for the Stipo team to come to Stockholm to conduct the plinth game. We also want to thank the entire City of Stockholm planning office, the collaborators with the city such as Spacescape and the others who offered their time and energy during the interviews, site visits, presentation, and brainstorming sessions. Finally, we want to thank the participants of the game. During two very full days, we were impressed with the intensity, positive attitude, and willingness to learn from all the participants in the game. It was true showmanship of co-creation. Hans Karssenberg, Meredith Glaser, Jeroen Laven, Jan van Teeffelen Stipo, The City at Eye Level, 2014


2014 stockholm at eye level, plinth game report, stipo  

We organized a Plinth Game in Stockholm with the Urban Planning Department of the City. Stockholm City are looking for guidelines for better...