Vällingby in Stockholm is teaming up with the KTH School of Architecture for the organization of a lab that investigates the transformations of the post-war built environment and its social milieus over time – from the so-called ABC-town of work-dwelling-centre (arbete-bostad-centrum) of the 1950s, to a town with more diverse population and less workplaces in the 1980s, to a contemporary town characterized in part by international migration and with a revitalized centre. During the workshop, we will develop insights and formulate strategies with professionals, users, and residents to analyse how the former structures of the mid-20th century Swedish welfare state are being used today. We will also question how these structures and infrastructures can be transformed and adjusted for the future and for new organizations of everyday life, especially with respect to the area’s highly diverse residents.
Vällingby was inaugurated in 1954. It was one of the satellite towns along the newly expanded subway line from Stockholm city centre to Hässelby in the westernmost part of the municipality. Vällingby was an ABC-town, which stood for Arbete, Bostad, Centrum or Work, Dwelling, Centre. The ABC model was developed from the concept grannskapsenhet or Neighbourhood Unit – an idea originating with American planner Clarence Perry in the 1920s – with the notion that a good city was built on semi self-sufficient neighbourhoods that each contained the very basic services needed for daily life within walking distance. With dedicated schools, shops, post and bank offices, social services, and beyond, the neighbourhood unit would provide a sense of belonging and security for residents. The concept had previously been used to plan Årsta in southern Stockholm in the 1940s, and it was scaled-up and broadened in Vällingby, especially to expand the number of local employment opportunities. Vällingby was planned to accommodate between 25,000 and 30,000 inhabitants, who were imagined as socially and economically independent from central Stockholm and the surrounding urban areas.
The three parts of A, B, and C are distinctly present in the town plan. Work (A, arbete) should be localized in close proximity to people’s homes and the town centre, and two industrial zones were planned to the west and south. Workplaces should also be located in the centre. Besides the employment opportunities offered by the shops, restaurants, and various public institutions, offices were located above the stores and restaurants and in a few higher buildings. Dwellings (B, bostäder) were planned in a variety of typologies, from low-rise and high-rise multifamily apartment buildings, to single-family houses and rowhouses, all with the maximum distance of 800 meters from the centre. And finally, the centre (C, centrum) was located in the middle and provided commercial, cultural, social, recreational, and religious services and institutions. It also was also intended to act as a hub for transportation, with a subway stop (30 min to Stockholm Central Station), bus station, and a large number of parking places placed underneath and around the town square. Cars and buses were separated from pedestrians and cyclists. Within residential areas, cars were only allowed on one side of the buildings, while cycling and walking paths were generously provided throughout the town; they connected Vällingby to the nearby areas and to the centre of Stockholm.
The city of Stockholm is divided into 14 districts based on geographical area. Hässelby-Vällingby is one of the Western districts in the municipality. Hässelby-Vällingby has an area of 19,6 km2 and comprises sub-districts such as Grimsta, Hässelby Gård (farm), Hässelby Strand (beach), Hässelby Villastad (garden city) Kälvesta, Nälsta, Råcksta, Vinsta and Vällingby. The abundance of green space and water also distinguish Hässelby-Vällingby. For instance, Grimsta nature reserve, including Råcksta Träsk, is considered valuable for outdoor activities. A popular walking course runs along Lake Mälaren, which connects the seaside resorts of Canaan and Maltesholm. In these diverse and easily accessible green areas, there are good opportunities for both relaxation and exercise. Residents and visitors can walk in the woods, pick berries or mushrooms, ride, and swim. Hässelby-Vällingby district administration is locally responsible for maintaining these areas, as well as providing certain municipal services. These include preschools, elderly care, support and service for people with disabilities, urban environmental work (such as the maintenance of parks), social psychiatry, individual and family care, consumer guidance, and leisure and cultural activities.
This is indeed an asset for the district. These areas are be planned, designed, and maintained so that 1) they complement each other and 2) can handle an increased population without losing their value. Easy access to nature in different forms offers a number of proven positive health effects, which also makes social and cultural integration easier. In many parts of the world, however, nature is dangerous and something to avoid. Therefore, it has been considered important to inform immigrants that Swedish nature is safe and a resource for everyday life. Thus, the Hässelby-Vällingby district has a unique chance to plan and design its parks and natural areas with the goal to remove barriers between different socioeconomic areas and to create places and spaces for spontaneous interaction between people with different backgrounds. This can have positive effects on larger work to counteract segregation and alienation among newcomers to the area and to the country.
In December 2015, the larger district of Hässelby-Vällingby had more than 72,500 inhabitants, of which only around 10,000 people live in the Vällingby neighbourhood. The population is expected to increase to 82,500 inhabitants by 2025. In Hässelby-Vällingby 43,3% of the residents have foreign background (born abroad or born in Sweden with both parents born abroad), which is a higher proportion than the average of 32,8% in Stockholm as a whole (as of 2017).
Households and residential structures
In Hässelby-Vällingby, there is a varied range of residential types, with 32% of the population occupying single-family houses and 68% living in apartments in multi-family buildings. Leasehold units (hyresrätter) represent 70% of the housing in the multi-family buildings, and the remaining are tenant-owned apartments (bostadsrätter) in tenant-owner associations.
In order to help new arrivals to integrate into Swedish society and to make easier use of national and municipal public services, newcomers are offered social guidance, access to cultural and sport activities, parental support and parent groups, and language lessons and services. During the summer of 2018, approximately 85 new arrivals have visited the Hässelby municipal offices and received support with respect to private financial matters, community orientation, and practical information. In order to assist newcomers living in temporary housing in finding long-term housing solutions, the municipal administration has offered residents support in a variety of languages, including Persian, Somali, Arabic, and Tigrinia. Up to 46 new arrivals, of which 56% were women, received information about reliable websites that advertise apartments, how to write housing CVs and letters, as well as information about their rights and obligations when renting a home. The participants were satisfied with this resident support, as expressed in the following quotes: "I really needed to learn things that I never heard about” and "That information should be given to all as soon as you arrive".
Population in the Hässelby-Vällingby: 72,500 (2015)
Population with a migration background: 43,3%
– Good collaboration with a wide variety of non-governmental organizations
– Good educational level (e.g. high school) for many immigrants
– Well-developed green structure within and outside housing areas and easy access to nature of high quality, which could contribute to better health and integration
– Arranging accommodation for immigrants
– Social and economic integration of immigrants
– Keeping up with changing policies and regulations of immigration
– How have work (A), dwelling (B), and centre (C), and the perception or view of these elements, changed over time, and what does it mean for the physical environment?
– Are the concepts of ABC still central in regards to social and physical planning, or have they become obsolete?
– How could the physical environment’s ability to adapt to changes (over time) be understood and discussed?
– Are there certain types of buildings, areas, or environments that are more flexible or more rigid in regards to changes of function and use?
– Do we need to rethink each component of the A-B-C model to reflect the new forms of working, living, and gathering happening in the 21st century and in a more socially and culturally diverse Sweden?
– Do we need new letters – an E-F-G, for instance – and what would these new functions be?
– Migration policies (in Sweden) are often predicated on a misguided notion that only legal citizens contribute to the economic development of the nation and of society. How are immigrants and unemployed affected by such definitions? What does the localisation of workplaces mean with respect to integration?
– How could we understand housing and the home in relation to migration and temporary forms of housing?
– What is the role(s) of public places for the integration of newly arrived migrants?
– What do town centres and meetings places mean for the sense of belonging in a city district, area, or block?
– How can social and physical planning for such gathering spaces be coordinated with the work with issues of migration and integration?