A Place for All

Global Goal 11 states that sustainable cities and communities are “inclusive, secure and resilient” and that urban development should take into account the needs of women, the disabled, children and elderly. Yet the needs of young women and girls are rarely considered. This issue is something White raised in 2016 with our project Places for Girls.

From the night-lighting and landscaping of public space to the facilities on offer in our parks and towns, these young women we spoke to often feel alienated and excluded. If parks don’t seem safe, ball games are not appealing, and the only other available public space is a shopping mall, then where can you go?

Culture is a driver for innovation and integration and, as architects, understanding the different cultural, economic and social issues of different demographics helps us to provide the right environments – to be catalysts for positive social transformation. How can we create more places where all individuals can interact and thrive, enriching the soul and substance of their community?

A home for everyone

In Sweden, the housing shortage has reached crisis point: there is a need to create 700,000 new homes over the next 10 years. But how do we create the right home for everyone? What is ideal for one person may be far from it for the next.

Family constellations fluctuate: divorced parents may have no children one week and a full house the next; grown children leave and then come back; an elderly family member needs care and moves in. In Sweden 35 percent of children of separated parents now live alternate weeks with each parent*. Housing must be flexible enough to accommodate different lifestyles as well as stages of life.

We recently had the chance to create The Dream Apartment in Linköping, where we put all our research and insight to work to create the most flexible and space-efficient home. This apartment can be transformed from five rooms to one room thanks to its moveable walls. Rooms can be configured in a variety of ways, to adapt to everyday needs, or the expansion or contraction of the family.

Nordic countries have the highest numbers of single-person households in the world. In Sweden, it is 38 percent of the population which is 1.7 million people**. Loneliness and isolation are also increasing. If more people found a way to cohabit – if homes could balance perfectly the need for sociability with privacy – it would reduce pressure on housing while offering improved social support. In our proposal “The Collective Living”, we are exploring how to create desirable, modern cohabiting spaces.

To ensure a home for everyone we also need to challenge the stereotypes that exist around affordable and social housing, while dissolving conventional boundaries between public and private space. There is an unfortunate stigma attached to social housing: the stereotypical idea is of a huge, grey, generic building surrounded by car parking. In our winning competition scheme Housing Allerød in Denmark, we decided to let nature lead the way. Nature is dynamic and resilient, just like we want this neighbourhood to be.

Health and wellbeing

Health is a human right and an important driving force for social and economic development, especially today, in light of the challenges to mental and physical health raised by modern, sedentary lifestyles. Good architecture and well-designed environments can contribute to wellbeing in our homes, workplaces and cities by reducing stress, increasing recovery and inspiring physical movement.

In Scandinavia, a new generation of hospital planning has emerged focusing on human needs, sustainable design and the influx of new technologies. White is at the forefront of this healthcare evolution, with designs that also consider the urban context and community. During 2016 we finalised some of the largest hospital projects in Scandinavia. The New Karolinska Hospital in Solna, at 300,000 sqm, is Northern Europe’s largest hospital development for decades. However, through building designs and layouts our masterplanning and architecture aims to create the best possible environment for staff and patients, and an integrated and welcoming presence within its neighbourhood. Meanwhile, in Linköping we have designed the Hospital of the Future, with spacious single-patient rooms, increased daylight and an uplifting atmosphere.

Ensuring a healing environment for children requires extra creativity and playfulness. The Queen Silvia Hospital for Children, Gothenburg, will create a safe environment for children and their families, where they can escape the intensive, clinical atmosphere of a traditional hospital ward.

A project that we hope will make a difference and ensure healthcare for women who are living with conflict is the The Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. The aim for Dr Mukwege (the founder and medical director) is to develop a new centre where women will be cared for and can give birth in a safe and professional environment. It will become a benchmark for modern maternity and neonatal care in DR Congo. With this project, we can – by offering our knowledge and skills – support human and women’s rights for better healthcare.

* Statistics, SCB.se. Nr 2014:8
** Statistics, SCB.se. Nr 2015:144

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