“BO01?…Oh you mean the future city. That way.” Pointed the woman at the tourist information center. Not many urban dwellers even appreciate new developments in their city, let alone celebrate them however that’s not the case in Sweden’s Malmo. A highly walk-able children’s play heaven with a stunning waterfront promenade teaming with activity, this town filters storm water, hosts a diverse range of plants and addresses its social and ecological context beautifully, providing a shining example for urban designers all over the world.
At the center of the development is Calatrava’s Turning Torso skyscraper which provides a useful means by which the development can be identified from afar. The town is arranged around water. It is traversed by a canal and a series of informal play spaces. For a country which does not appear to have an issue with water shortages or pollution, this place considers it very carefully. Public toilets are waterless and the large areas of conventional lawn for sport and recreation are part of a larger bio-swale water filtration system. Storm water is directed into above ground channels which are connected back into a central canal containing reeds and grasses to assist filtration. Permeability is a key landscape feature. A varied palette of surface treatments including gravel, sand and grasses are used. Storm water drainage systems are exposed with down pipes leading into pebble filled aqueducts.
The scale of the urban fabric is similar to that of a medieval town. Pedestrians and bikes are prioritised and vehicles are kept to the outskirts. Charging stations are provided for electric cars. Despite the lack of an ordered grid it is difficult to get lost here but there could be better way-finding signs to assist visitors. Winding lanes unexpectedly open up into plazas, each of which has its own distinctive and memorable character. Sheltered seating and shade is abundant.
Offices, Shops, restaurants and cafes open onto the main waterfront promenade, and inland around two enormous supermarkets. Recycling stations are provided within the supermarkets and packaging is kept to a minimum with ‘by the kilo’ buying available for a wide range of products.
Bo01 residential area is surrounded by a port, industrial buildings and large corporate offices. Unfortunately though, this urban fabric is more conventional, akin to the docklands developments in Melbourne or London. Transport Connections are good and the residential part of town is only 2km away from Malmo Central Station, connecting it to mainland EU. Western Port Malmo university campus opened in 1998 and was the precursor for the urban development that now exists within Bo01.
The exquisite detailing of the urban realm is what makes Bo01 so unique. Within the ground plane, corten steel, granite and timber have been masterfully wrought into seating, retaining walls, edging and paved areas. These materials are robust and have weathered well over the past 15 years. Granite sets and shallow kerbing are used extensively in road and bike lane sections, wile pedestrian areas are decked out with a varied palette of bitumen, red and yellow brick. Timber boardwalks are laid in a variety of patterns and open storm water drains are filled with large pebbles. Cover plates in corten steel allow wheelchair access for the less-able bodied.
Buildings read as being of the same contemporary language but are individualised through colour and detail. They average 4-6 stories in height. While lacking in maps and way finding signage, there was perhaps an over-abundance of signs telling drivers what they couldn’t do, and that they were entering a walking priority zone.
Overall, BO01 Western port Malmo is a benchmark which urban designers can hold up as an example of economic, social and ecological sustainability resulting in a highly responsive and liveable urban environment.