Scandinavia Exports Urban Master Planning Expertise


Well-functioning cities require commitment from residents and strong architectural master planning. The capital cities of Scandinavia are role models for the rest of the world. 

Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, the capitals of Scandinavia are international trailblazers when it comes to sustainability according to a joint study by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Siemens, and now rhey offer urban master planning expertise. The three cities are dedicated to minimizing environmental impact, reducing CO2 emissions and improving the lives of inhabitants; three factors that make the cities global models.

Scandinavian urban design is a strong source of inspiration for city planners around the world when it comes to implementing master plans. There is, among other things, widespread interest in Copenhagen’s bicycle infrastructure, which has led to a greater number of people travelling by bike. The purification of the water in Copenhagen Harbor is also a source of inspiration worldwide since it is clean enough for residents and tourists to swim in.

Scandinavia: a role model
“One of the reasons why Scandinavia is a role model is probably that the gap between rich and poor is small – and that people are happy at all levels of 191014_Lars_Ostenfeld_Riemannsociety. The happiness index shows that the Nordic countries are at the very top. People trust each other and expect that cities will be designed sustainably. We are aware of the importance of maintaining positive urban development – and we can help other cities to do the same,” said Lars Ostenfeld Riemann, Director of Buildings in Ramboll.

Ramboll has helped to define many of the sustainable attributes of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, and we are involved in several master planning initiatives including Nordhavnen and Carlsberg in Copenhagen.

These experiences have been applied further afield, for instance at Chicago Lakeside in USA, where Ramboll developed concepts for district heating and cooling as well as waste and water.

More and more complex
“It is difficult to simply copy the Scandinavian model abroad,” explained Lars Ostenfeld Riemann. “Cultural elements vary from city to city as the populations live in very different ways. It is therefore important to understand the cultural elements and preferences, and together with architects, create a logical master plan.”

Innovation Centre, Guthenburg, Sweden
Innovation Centre, Guthenburg, Sweden

“Master planning has become an increasingly complex multidisciplinary task. Today, education, social life, and the healthiness are all taken into consideration. There is also an economic component. Instead of looking at the individual buildings, master planning is thought of as an economic investment for society. Models are changing from being based on costs and revenues to also taking softer values into account,” added Lars Ostenfeld Riemann.

He points out that there are two main challenges when creating master plans. In countries like China, the main priority is to build up huge cities from scratch at the same time as the population moves from rural to urban areas. In the western world, the challenge is to improve the sustainability credential of cities that have already been built, for example, by alleviating congestion and accessibility problems; inefficiencies that cost society huge amounts of money.

We must improve the way we live
According to Lars Ostenfeld Riemann, well-functioning and sustainable cities also depend on a strong social element. In order to solve problems such as deprived areas with elevated crime rates, unemployment and a high number of immigrants, large architectural master plans are required. However, local residents themselves also have to take responsibility for preserving and maintaining cities and neighbourhoods.

“Well-functioning cities are not just about creating sustainability and ensuring that we can continue to live. Sustainability also involves improving the way we live and improving the way we live with the benefits we have today. This requires a strong commitment from the people who live in and use the cities,” concluded Lars Ostenfeld Riemann.

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