A-lab and SEA have been announced the winners of the competition for a new urban development on Skien Brygge in Norway. The project comprises the transformation of a former harbour area into a new urban community. The four hectare large harbour site is framed by the water towards the west and a steeply rising landscape towards the east.
Skien is one of the oldest cities in Norway established around 1000AD. It is the 11th largest city in Norway with approximately 50.000 inhabitants. Historically Skien is shaped by the development of the harbour and the activities on the waterway.
Building a sustainable urban community The city is – and has always been – characterized by changes. Cities are living organisms that develop according to changes in the financial, technological, and social conditions. The strong point of the city is its diversity which facilitates meetings between people across interests, age, social status and religious affiliation. The city is a meeting place. We believe successful urban planning takes as a starting point the social interaction between people.
‘A city is a human settlement in which strangers are likely to meet’ [from ‘Fall of public man’ – Richard Sennett]
We propose a design strategy that focuses on public space – what is the city but the people? A city should be open and inviting with diverse activities and multiple possibilities. Our vision is to create a new neighbourhood in Skien that is sustainable and inclusive – a new city rich in identity. A city that is lively and attractive - and thereby promotes a holistic lifestyle and supports public life.
But how do we support the adaptability of the new city so that it opens up and allow change? And how do we develop a robust planning process that at the same time ensures diversity so that new communites and public life can be realized?
Compact and porous city A-lab and SEA’s vision for Skien Brygge is to create a new sustainable urban community in close relation to the city, the water and the landscape. Compact cities use less energy and natural resources. At the same time the compact city provides accessibility to events, experiences and city life. Some of the most attractive places on earth are also some of the densest. In our proposal for a new development on Skien Brygge we introduce a compact and dense urban plan. A series of new public spaces ties the city together –urban squares, parks, natural landscapes, narrow streets, niche parks, pathways and waterfronts.
Public space network Our design solutions begin with developing a public space network. The overall layout of the project is a grid consisting of infrastructure and urban spaces. This grid is distorted according to the lines and boundaries of the context creating six new urban spaces and twenty building plots. The urban strategy integrates public life from day one – for example by staging temporary urban spaces for events or other temporary activities. City life attracts people – people attracts people!
Blue recreational space Most of the existing industrial areas along Skien harbour front are currently changing into mixed-functions areas. With the new Skien Brygge and a planned bridge across Bryggevannet the harbour area has the potential to become the ‘blue commons’ of Skien - a blue recreational space at the heart of the city. A new network of functions and events will fill the area with life and invite to experiences, enthusiasm and activity for everyone.
The new Skien Brygge community is an important part of this network. With close links to the surrounding city Skien Brygge will offer the city new space and activity on the waterfront. The plan introduces intimate water spaces that provides a pleasant contrast to the wide harbour basins and intensifies the experience of and contact with water. Skien brygge will activate the waterfront as an attractive resource in the future development of Skien – a good place to live and a good place to visit.
The project is a result of a successful collaboration between young architecture firms A-lab from Oslo and SEA from Copenhagen.