Quick Facts

  • Hammarby Sjöstad was originally meant to become the Olympic village for the 2004 Olympics
  • It is the first eco-friendly district in Stockholm
  • The district has been under construction since 1997

Once upon a time, there was a dirty, polluted, and somewhat dangerous harbour just south of the inner city of Stockholm. Do not go looking for it just yet, though. Based on the description it might be pretty hard to find today. I have presented quite a few different faces of Stockholm on this blog already but in this post, it is time to discover yet another one, as beautiful and unique as always.

Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm

In the 1990s, the City of Stockholm was planning extensive construction projects in numerous areas of the city as they expected a rapid growth of population in the coming years. One of the key issues the authorities kept in mind was the intention to avoid mistakes made by their predecessors when they had designed city plans earlier in the century. Suburban areas built in the decades following World War II are not only visually unattractive but often also ended up being places with a higher concentration of underprivileged communities due to their unpopular location and other factors.

This time, instead of building new suburbs, the city planned to revitalise several unused industrial zones into extensions of the city itself. Hammarby Sjöstad (‘Hammarby Lake City’), which we look at in this post, is one such area. However, the plans for the to-be district surrounding the Hammarby Lake had a unique twist.

Sickla Canal in Stockholm

Originally created as a part of Stockholm’s bid to host the 2004 Olympics, Hammarby Sjöstad was designed to be an eco-friendly district. Although the plan to host the most environmentally-conscious Olympic Games ever fell apart when the bid was won by Athens, Greece, the intention outlived this setback.

Instead of an Olympic village, the area was now meant to become the first Ecocity district in Stockholm. The City Development Administration and the City Planning Administration together with a number of architecture firms and around 40 contractors worked to deliver a masterplan for the development of the area. When completed, it described how 11,000 new apartments shall accommodate approximately 25,000 inhabitants in a district leveraging ultra-modern technologies to reduce its environmental impact and, at the same time, improve the lives of its residents and those who work there.

Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm

Among the features that made the district deserve the attention it has gotten are the integration of infrastructure and interdisciplinary planning of physical flows of energy, water, and waste. For instance, the road network in the area was designed to decrease noise pollution, two new bus lines with vehicles running on biogas were introduced, and for the first time in Stockholm in several decades, a tram was built as the primary mode of transportation for commuters. To complement these modes of transportation, there is also a carpooling system in place, a ferry operating between Hammarby Sjöstad and Södermalm, and of course, an extensive grid of routes for cyclists.

Thanks to the automatic waste suction system, there is no need for garbage collection lorries to ever enter the residential areas in the district. Together with locally generated heat and electricity, harvesting and filtration of wastewater and stormwater, these measures were intended to reduce heat and water consumption of the residents by 50% compared to the average Swedish household.

Today, 20 years after the development of the area started, everything is nearly finished and Hammarby Sjöstad has not only become one of the most pleasant districts in Stockholm but also an often referenced and admired eco-friendly urban development project. Researchers, cities, and organisations from all around the world study the district and use it as a role model for future development of modern urban areas.

Eco-district Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm

While cooperating with forty different contractors might have been a logistical nightmare, it helped the city achieve something they might not have been able to do otherwise. Thanks to the competition between these firms, both the designs of buildings as well as their technological foundations are top notch.

All of these details are great and knowing them can take your experience to a whole new level when visiting Hammarby Sjöstad. However, what is perhaps most important for you and me, as visitors of the district, is the fact that despite (or maybe thanks to) all this, the area offers a beautiful environment where eye-catching modern architecture meets waterfront promenades and stunning lake views. All of that combined means that ever since I visited the district for the first time, I have not missed a single chance to go for another walk along the canal.

Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm

When you get the chance to visit the area, make sure to not miss the inner courtyards between the residential buildings that were also cleverly designed to let enough sunlight in while keeping the cold wind out by the lake.

As always, not everything is perfect and this project has found its critics, too. While the reduction in energy consumption of the households in the district is substantial compared to the average Swedish household, the original objectives have not been met yet.

Others have pointed out the socioeconomic issues the area faces. As you can imagine, the property prices in the district are high and although a different demographic than the authorities had expected has taken over the area, diversity is rather low here compared to other city parts.

Sickla Canal in Stockholm

All in all, if you are looking for a pleasant modern place for a weekend walk in Stockholm, I can highly recommend you visit Hammarby Sjöstad. If you like it as much as I do, it will certainly not be the last walk you take there.

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Sources:
Ignatieva, Maria, Berg, Per, 2014. Hammarby Sjöstad — A New Generation of Sustainable Urban Eco-Districts. [thenatureofcities.com].
Hammarby Sjostad, Stockholm, Sweden, 1995 to 2015. Building a `Green’ City Extension. [futurecommunities.net].
Sustainable district creates inspiration worldwide. [tengbom.se].
Title photo: Photo: K-A Larsson, tenbgom.se.
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