Sweden's 'one-minute cities' replace car spots with community hubs

Sweden's 'one-minute cities' replace car spots with community hubs

By Lucy Jones  February 9th, 2021

Planning streets around people instead of cars.


Imagine if every city block had its own thriving community hub — a place to meet for coffee, grow your own food or just sit and watch the world go by. This is the vision of a project in Sweden that is replacing parking spots with shared public spaces in an effort to build 'one-minute cities'.

Called Street Moves, the project is a collaboration between the Swedish government's national innovation agency Vinnova and design think tank ArkDes. Its aim is to make every street in Sweden healthy, sustainable and vibrant by 2030.

So far, parking spaces have been replaced with street furniture kits designed by ArkDes at four trail locations in Stockholm and one in Gothenburg. Where parked cars once sat, benches, bike racks and e-scooter parking stations have taken over.

“What we really aspire [to do] is to slow down the pace on streets for them to work more as the public spaces they are,” ArkDes project manager Daniel Byström told Fast Company.

“We believe that streets can be more optimised considering the needs of humans and nature. Today, streets are mainly designed for cars, leaving little or no space for other activities. It’s not sustainable.”

By shifting the design focus of streets from cars to people and nature, the project hopes to create mini hubs or 'one-minute cities' within every neighbourhood of every city in the country.

The one-minute city concept is a hyper-local version of the 15-minute city planning approach which has been adopted in Paris. The idea: to design urban space in such a way that residents are able to access everything they need on foot or by bike in 15 minutes or less.

A 15-minute city “is made of lots of one-minute cities,” Dan Hill, director of strategic design at Vinnova, explains.

“This is a shared space, in which you can take an active part, for which you are responsible, in a shared sense, with your neighbours, and the municipality, the wider city. It’s a space in which you can grow tomatoes or grapes, hold a street party, host a community meeting, play basketball with your kids, bump into a neighbour, feed the birds, or just sit on the stoop and watch the unfolding ballet of the street."

So what do these mini-cities look like? That all depends on what your neighbourhood needs. A new Street Moves unit planned for Helsingborg will feature sofa-style seating designed to cater to the needs of college students from a nearby school. Based on community feedback, ArkDes is also expanding its offering to include bird boxes, greenhouses, community meeting spaces and drop-off points for e-commerce deliveries.

“As most greenhouse gas emissions occur in cities, by far, we need to demonstrate how — in a show-don’t-tell kind of way — we can switch out old systems and cultures for new ones, retrofitting our existing environments,” Hill says.

“This means we need to look at what we all do, as well as the tech we use to do it. Simply swapping out diesel cars for electric cars won’t cut it; we need to take advantage of technologies new (mobility-as-a-service) and old (bikes, live-work spaces) in order to produce new patterns of living, working, and playing in cities. We need to understand how things like the European Green Deal are social and cultural endeavors, not simply technological.”

Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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