Hyper Islands

Islands are autonomous geographies, usually defined by their isolated location in bodies of water. In the field of Island biogeography, this terms is expanded and can apply to any isolated or separate area of land or water, or “any area of suitable habitat surrounded by an expanse of unsuitable habitat”**. The isolated nature of these islands have commonly encouraged the development of highly specific ecologies. We set out to define and design our proposal around the social and urban ecologies discovered in and around our sites.

Workshop: Islands
During the workshop at Färgfabriken in September, our first task was a dissection of Stockholm, a city built as a clear archipelago of physical and social islands. We cut into the urban fabric in order to generate an understanding of the underlying dynamic patterns and layers of the city, the ‘forces’ that shape the physical city directly or indirectly. But this was also a study of the physical footprint of Stockholm, and the possible development scenarios that might shape the future of the city. Through these investigations, a new proposal emerged, one that engaged with the city on both a mental and physical level. We saw this as a new layer of the city, a hyper intense ‘Second Stockholm’, existing within/above/below/around the existing city.

Starting point: The walkable city
Within the recently concluded study regarding the concept of the Walkable City, we found plenty of nice ideas about the preservation and treatment of green space in the city, but also many problems, especially in terms of the relation between the city and the surrounding nature. Coming from London, a city with many city parks, we found that many of the proposed aspirations to create urban parks in stockholm were difficult mainly because there was not a city surrounding them. Instead the green spaces surrounding Stockholm are vast, empty and heavily underused. Our initial interest in the social and physical Islands that make up the city of Stockholm expanded therefore to also think of the green spaces as Islands in their own right.

What we discovered was a very strong green belt surrounding the inner city, with Hagaparken, Frescati, Gardet, Djurgarden, Nackareservatet, Arstaskogen and so on. We discussed how the expansion of the inner city is made impossible due to the impenetrable ring of ‘untouchable’ green space, and our reaction was to break these green areas up into smaller areas framed by urban development. These new ‘injections’ of urbanity were named Hyper Islands. The name came from the idea of a hyper urbanity, with more intensity, more density and more city-ness. More Stockholm than Stockholm in a way, a Stockholm on steroids.

The Schizofrenic Identity of Stockholm
There are different views of how Stockholm should evolve in the next 30 years and beyond. The Nimby crowd are of course against any development of the city at all, while Yimby and other pro-urbanists keeps pushing for a positive expansion of the city without necessarily losing any of its current qualities. Stockholm is the sixth most livable city in the world, according the the Economist Intelligence Unit. We do not see expansion as detrimental to the qualities listed in the judging of this particular list (green space, natural assets, cultural assets, infrastructure, education etc etc). On the contrary, we think by intensifying the qualities that the city has already got, it will be able to have a positive evolution into really becoming the Capital of Scandinavia, which visitstockholm.com proudly proclaims.

Proposal: Hyper Islands
So, how can Stockholm evolve and grow to accommodate the huge influx of new residents in the next 30 years? Our approach is based on not touching the existing areas, but rather to fill in the gaps inbetween. By forming what we initially called “Urban bridges” between seemingly separated areas, we aim to connect these areas and form larger connected clusters of urban areas as opposed to the current insular arrangement of small satellite communities with little or no relation to their neighboring communities. These ‘Urban bridges’ are thought of as densely populated urban nodes, that will aim to provide housing, commerce, social and cultural functions for the surrounding satellite areas, and as such become new centres for larger clusters of developed areas. Our proposal links back to our original concept of Islands – we ended up making Islands as well in a way, adding to the existing archipelago of urban areas.

These “Hyper Islands” are islands made to connect other islands. They are developed to link, to bridge and to form joint communities through shared activities, services and cultural institutions. We see them as a tool to decentralise the Stockholm structure, and to form Inner City-like areas outside of the perceived border of the urban centre of Stockholm.

Through our project, we have always been driven by the positive idea of urban expansion. We believe that Stockholm can intensify. We believe it can be more of everything, more intensely green, more urban, more linked to the water, more culturally diverse and locally engaged, more global and even more livable.

Text by Johan Berglund & Josep Mias.

* William Gibson in American Scientist
** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_biogeography  

The Group Hyper Islands: Johan Berglund, Josep Mias, Samantha Rive, Ione Braddick, Jonathan Blake, Oliver Leech
Unit 16, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

About the workshop leaders

Johan Berglund, 42 architects  – graduated as the highest achieving Diploma student of his year at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL in 2005. His diploma project won great acclaim both within and outside the Bartlett, winning the UCL Sir Bannister Fletcher Medal for the highest grade in diploma, as well as winning a commendation for the RIBA Silver Medal awards along with the iGuzzini and SOM travel awards. Johan’s work has been published and exhibited internationally. Beside his work with 42, Johan has established a successful academic career, teaching the highly successful BSc Unit 8 at the Bartlett School of Architecture, and recently becoming an associate lecturer at Chelsea College of Art and Design.

Josep Mias – Graduated in 1992 in ETSAB_UPC, Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona_Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. From 1990 till 2000 he worked as Associated Architect with Enric Miralles, developing the following projects: Círculo de Lectores in Madrid, Sports Hall in Huesca, Centro de Alto Rendimiento in Alicante, Library in Palafolls , Parc dels Colors in Mollet del Vallès, Cemetery in Igualada, Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Diagonal Mar Park in Barcelona, Santa Caterina Market in Barcelona and Gas Natural Building in Barcelona. In 2000, Josep Miàs founded his own studio, working in landscape and urbanism projects, architecture and interiorism and industrial design, such as: Banyoles’ old city refurbishment, Banyoles, Barceloneta Market in Barcelona, Golf Fontanals de Cerdanya Clubhouse, Fontanals de Cerdanya, Funicular Station and refurbishment of the Old Historical Building in Tibidabo Amusement Park in Barcelona, Annexa-Joan Puigbert School in Girona and iGuzzini Illuminazione Ibérica Headquarters in Sant Cugat del Vallès.