The ‘one-minute city’ experiment in Sweden can redesign parking spaces

  • Posted On: February 9, 2021

After the “15-minute city” model that promotes neighborhood-level urban planning, the “one-minute city” experiment in Sweden aims at redesigning parking space in cities.

As the pandemic hit, many cities around the world challenged the assumption that streets belonged to cars. During the lockdown imposed throughout the world to curb the spread of the pandemic, people started to realise the great amount of space that cars had been taking away since their appearance less than a century ago. Is it possible to imagine our streets without cars?

While the city of Paris is working on the “15-minute city” concept and the city of Barcelona on the superblocks, Dan Hill, the Swedish director of strategic design at Vinnova, Sweden’s state innovation agency, is working on a project that can revolutionise street spaces. Together with the architecture curator Kieren Long, director of ArkDes, Sweden’s national architecture and design museum, they are imagining different uses of street spaces. The concept is called ‘one-minute city’ because it operates at the street level, the space just outside the front doors, where people meet with neighbors every day. The one-minute city experiment is part of a government project called Street Moves. The objective is image alternative uses of on-street parking spaces and consider more efficient uses of them.

Photograph: ArkDes from The Guardian

Concretely it consists of modules of wooden strips that can be assembled rapidly to create a larger module covering the street space and that can be used for recreational purposes with chairs, flowers, greenery of all types or as a mobility hub, for micro-mobility services for instance (e-scooters). The space just outside the doorstep proves to be the ideal ground to foster engagement and participation with the community. The experiment doesn’t differ much in its approach from a pop-up “parklet”. However, the overall project is implemented by the Swedish government in the spirit of co-creating the streets’ new look with their residents. The first unit was built in Gothenburg and more are to come across Swedish cities.

One of the challenges that this experiment is posing to cities is the loss in revenues form paid parking. In order to counter-balance the lost budget from paid parking while reducing parking spaces, the project must give people a high-quality new public space that can compensate the parking loss.

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