Europe’s third longest bridge is in Scandinavia and connects Malmö, in Sweden, with Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city. This spectacular bridge created a bi-national city-region, connecting Sweden’s third largest city with the rest of the world. For Malmö, it was a crucial step to improve the city’s attractiveness after its population declined following the shipyard closures in the 1980s. The shipbuilding area has since been transformed into a sustainable neighborhood with expensive condominiums and is home to the Turning Torso, another impressive architectural project, replacing the huge cranes of a once busy port in the city’s skyline.
This model neighborhood – Västra Hamnen (Western Harbor) – is now home to an upper-middle and high income population. But the Western Harbor is not the only industrial site that has been redeveloped. In the southern district of Limhamn a quarry was transformed into a national nature reserve. The quarry closed at the end of the 20th century and might have met the same fate as Västra Hamnen, since among the first considered options was posh housing and a golf course.
L.A. Sandberg has written a great study on the Limhamn quarry that you can find here.
Limhamn was once a working class town, but by the time of the quarry’s closure, most of the workers had already left. While the area surrounding the quarry now features high-priced condos, including the first gated community of Sweden, nature has taken root within the quarry. Urban wildlife refuges are not specific to Malmö, as the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge in Denver and the transformation of the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island show. Yet these projects are prime examples of what can happen when local post-industrial landscapes are transformed to create the post-carbon cities of tomorrow.
The redevelopment of two neighborhoods that have been mentioned above are now home to the wealthiest people in Malmö. But we don’t want you to think that the city lost everything of its strong social traditions. Augustenborg Eco-City is located in the eastern part of Malmö and suffered from frequent flooding as well as a severe socio-economic decline. Between 1998 and 2002, the area underwent an extensive regeneration which resulted in a storm-water management system, the installation of green roofs, and the refurbishment of a number of buildings. This wasn’t a top-down strategy since the city collaborated with a public housing company and, most important, the residents of the community.
Augustenborg now boasts a 9,500sqm publicly-accessible Research Centre Botanical Roof Garden, 90% of storm water is collected by the water collection system, and energy efficiency has improved by 20%, compared to 1995. Of even further value for the development of the post-carbon cities of tomorrow is the participation of the 3000 residents in the design of the projects.
It is precisely this culture of participatory politics and development that also opened the way for the quarry to become a national nature reserve. It was a group of city ecologists that battled for the quarry to be recognized as a nature refuge and achieved this with a media campaign and by taking advantage of Sweden’s tradition of listening to the voices of experts rather than the rhetoric of politicians.
Mats Wirén, a key figure among the city ecologists, produced a documentary film about the relationship between humans and nature in which the quarry takes center stage. The film, which won an award at the Nordisk Panorama Film Festival in 2012, reminds us not only of the tracks society leaves behind, but also the ability of nature to adapt. The POCACITO cities are learning to take their cues from their environments, letting nature transform urban wastelands into vibrant ecosystems.