From industrial estate to small town
The Järla Sjö district is developed on a site of industrial historical importance at the Lake Järla in Nacka, Stockholm, Sweden. The district plan is founded on a small town structure, scale and contents – a proper basis for attaining a human and socially tenable urban environment. We can find this plan in many beloved sites in Sweden, often by the water, for example in Norrtälje, Arboga, Strömstad and Trosa. These sites have many visitors, from tourists to local strollers, at the same time as they are among our most valued and popular environments for living and work.
The plan for Järla Sjö
Järla Sjö has a mixture of housing and business premises. This provides a rich and varied environment; the site is populated both during day and night. The businesses make the district vital with shops, handicrafts, schools and established companies. In Järla Sjö the “neighbourhood principle” prevails. Our entire daily needs can be found within walking distance.
In the plan for Järla Sjö new buildings are incorporated with the old settlement. The basis is that all the old buildings are kept, which means that one has to justify the pulling down, not the protection of buildings. Pulling down a building has to be justified by strong reasons, for example contamination. As a result of the industrial enterprises the ground has partly been polluted and has been cleared of slums.
The goal in designing the new houses has been to make them varied, full of nuances and inspiring.
The streets emanate from the original structure. The plan pattern has also been influenced by the structures and the trees. By that means the historical traces are kept for future generations and the urban environment becomes substantial and exciting.
One ambition has been to take advantage of the existing nature. This means minimising interference with the ground, making room for greening everywhere, allowing gardening as far as possible and other recreation close to people’s houses. It is a custom of the people living in Järla to go swimming on the edge of the site, so a beach has now been provided for them.
People’s outdoor movement is concentrated on the streets, the market and the park. The placing of the houses up to the street alignment makes the street spaces sheltered. The entrances are facing the public streets. It should be easy to make contact in places where you can talk, for example seats and cafés. In Järla Sjö the street and the market make a meeting place, a shopping space and a traffic space for different kind of vehicles.
The main street goes round the whole area. It is suitable for public transport; it has a separate pavement and curbstone parking. Broad-leaf trees are planted along the street.
The streets enclose blocks. The blocks have secure yards to the advantage of the children. Here the people on the lower floors have a small private garden with patio with plant growing possibilities. In the middle of the garden there is a common space for play and social intercourse. Many of the houses have a private forecourt facing the street.
The blocks have low houses. They can contain detached houses, semi-detached houses, terraced houses and apartment blocks. A rule of thumb is that the houses shouldn’t be higher than the crowns of the trees, as high houses make the neighbourhood windy. Low houses (the average number of floors in Järla Sjö is around 3), yards surrounded by buildings, closed street rooms and plenty of vegetation creates a good local climate. Small-scale also improves the requirements for security, the feeling of homeliness and social control. The buildings have a human scale, which means that they are not higher than you can open a window and talk to someone on the ground. Nobody should feel small and dejected because of the size of the houses.
The distance between the buildings facilitates eye contact. You can say hello to your neighbour in the house just opposite and the children in the yard are in full view from the kitchen window.
Around every yard there are maximally 40 flats, so that everybody knows their neighbours and where they live. Furthermore, every entrance shouldn’t include more people than it is possible to get to know. This creates a feeling of community and group affiliation.
The buildings should allow a mixture of age groups and housing categories. For this reason the flats within each block have different sizes.
The kitchens are facing the yard. You get to the garden on the ground floor from the kitchen, which makes it into the centre of private life, a place where you can work and be together and a natural link between indoors and outdoors. Patios and cultivation of your own garden-patch gives grown-ups a reason to be outdoors. They meet other people and it is safe for children to have grown-ups near by.
The living rooms are located towards the street, which means there will be a light on in many windows in this direction in the evenings. This makes the street more pleasant in the evenings. Houses with the entrances and windows facing the street create a cosier and safer street environment, as the people in the houses get an open view of the street.
The parking places will be used both for business premises and houses. The parking places in blocks with mainly houses are small, isolated and connected to the buildings. It is easier to incorporate small parking spaces without dominating the townscape.
There will be clear boundaries between private space, ground common to everybody in the neighbourhood and public areas. This facilitates the understanding between people and increases their participation, sense of responsibility and feeling of homeliness. The boundaries between the different spaces are defined both legally and by markings on the ground. This is accomplished by vegetation, pathways, fences, natural formations, and the organisation of the buildings etc. In this way everybody will know which space they are in. There is an explicit system for who is responsible for the maintenance of the different spaces in the neighbourhood.