Transforming urban space part IV

Time: 10:15 - 11:45, Wednesday October 27
Room: Periferien, Holbergs gate 1, 4th floor

This subpanel is part of the four-part session “Transforming Urban Space: Design, Democracy, Dwelling and Pandemic Urbanislm”. The four-part session argues that attending to the multiple social and ecologically crises the earth is currently facing requires different kinds of relationships between citizens and the spaces we design, construct and inhabit.

Dwelling is the process in which we inhabit urban space through practical engagements with each other and our lived-in-environments. The neighbourhood is a place and horizon for rethinking how we dwell, for example in terms of how we collectively handle challenges and create meaningful frameworks for everyday life.

Neighbourhoods represent the sum of everyday places we share with one another: The streets, squares, bus stops, kindergartens and schools, the places where we shop and meet – when possibilities allow. The neighbourhood is where communal activities take place and where we ask ourselves what it means to be a good neighbour.

This question invites us to think not only of how we share space with other humans, but also of how we can be good neighbours to nature and other living beings. From such a position we may develop relational understandings of dwelling in and for multispieces communities that put a long-term commitment to planetary care as the most important perspective for how we dwell in the 21st century. The question, then, is how can we develop neighbourhoods that promote forms of dwelling that are socially and ecologically just and sustainable?


  • 10.15 – 10.25: Introduction to the session by Cecilie Sachs Olsen and Christian Pagh 
  • 10.25 – 10.40: “Dwelling” – Christina Juhlin 
  • 10.40 – 10.55: “The social performativity of the urban floor” – Per Gunnar Røe & Milla Skjeklesæther Bjerkestrand 
  • 10.55 – 11.10: “Blueberries and Builders – Pro-ecological development in expanding Nordic suburban neighbourhoods” – Tassy Ellen Thompson 
  • 11.10 – 11.25: “Creating Multispecies Neighbourhoods in the Oslofjord: Challenges and Opportunities” – Elin Tanding Sørensen 
  • 11.25 – 11.45: Discussion 


Paper 1: Dwelling, Christina Juhlin, Copenhagen Business School

As a contribution to the question of how we can adapt our ways of designing, regulating and inhabiting urban space, this paper looks at practical engagements (sometimes as organized resistance, other times simply as a walk) in maintaining places in which we cannot dwell. It takes up dwelling as a general quality and good in the city that cannot be reduced to ‘how we live’ but must be assessed more generally as the possibility that comes with open territories: That dwelling – human and beyond – might take place here. 

With this abstract I therefore propose to explore the attachment to places that barely count as ‘neighborhoods’ if neighborhoods are understood as local communities of buildings, infrastructure and people. I ask how such attachments to ‘non-neighborhoods’ contribute to feelings of belonging that reach beyond one’s habitual environment and the immediate needs it fulfills. 

Empirically, I explore this through recent debate around the development of three new neighborhoods in Copenhagen Refshaleøen, Lynetteholmen and Amager Fælled) and the different ways in which people try to safeguard these places from becoming ‘something’. What needs for the development of the city are expressed in this insistence that we do not turn everything into neighborhoods? Or, to put it more practically, what do we take with us when we return from these open territories back into our neighborhoods? 

Paper 2: The social performativity of the urban floor, Per Gunnar Røe and Milla Skjeklesæther Bjerkestrand, University of Oslo

The urban floor, “bygulvet”, has emerged as a design concept in urban develpment and re-development projects, describing the spatial interface between commercial activities on the first floor of a building and the adjacent pavement, street, plaza or public space. Subsequently the urban floor has also become a property object and an investment for real estate companies.

In this paper we present an investigation aiming at scrutinizing the production and implications of such privately owned public spaces (POPS), for social practices, and practices of inclusion and exclusion in the public realm of redeveloped urban spaces. How are such urban floors designed and negotiated as semi-public categories and relational spaces? What are the performative implications of this category for the practices of public space. 

Paper 3: Blueberries and Builders – Pro-ecological development in expanding Nordic suburban neighbourhoods. Tassy Ellen Thompson, University of South East Norway

Researching from what I am calling a ‘neighbourhood epistemology’ (Thompson 2021 forthcoming) this paper contributes to new knowledge in surveying, planning and developing urban landscapes for shared neighbourhood use in pro-ecological ways. Designing urban spaces for play, pro-ecologically and dynamically, is an active approach for sustainability, (as defined by I. Stefanovic 2000, 2013) which acknowledges and addresses the rights and relationality of all, human and other than human, in a situated, local ecology. (Eco-systems TC 2019 on Odum 2007).

This case study focuses on Norwegian urban and semi-urban landscapes and includes a new municipal urban forest playground project using an action research framework (Grant et al 2007, Mackewn 2007) and a deep mapping (Springett 2015) method. The researcher’s perspective, one from extensive professional and practical experience in designing and building outdoor play spaces, is networked and collaged with perspectives on the process from project collaborators; children, planners, builders, developers and others, toward a dynamic strong objectivity (Harding 1992, 2015).

Municipal playground planning favours quantative, inert and increasingly remote terrain survey methods toward commercially profitable fixed designs. However the partially planned and partially improvisational methodology of this urban play forest project appears to support the idea that more locally-facilitated, qualitative, dynamic surveys of, and ongoing neighbourly relations with, landscape offers affordable, sustainable and ecologically beneficial possibilities in planning urban neighbourhoods.

Paper 4: Creating Multispecies Neighbourhoods in the Oslofjord: Challenges and Opportunities
Elin Tanding Sørensen, Independent Researcher and Practitioner in Art and Marine Landscape Architecture

Multispecies neighbourhoods are about making inclusive neighbourhoods where all local species can grow up and have meaningful, healthy lives through their lifespan. To tackle the ongoing nature- and climate crisis, multispeciesness—as a mindset and urban development practice—play an important role.

The planning community uses concepts such as ‘shared space,’ ‘the life between buildings,’ and ‘multi-use.’ ‘Inclusive cities’ are defined to comprise spatial,- social- and economic inclusion. As a highly social species humans rely upon co-operation to survive and thrive, and so, we form neighbourhoods with our own kind.

But, today, our inflicted stress on the ecosystems triggers a need to negotiate a new contract between Earth and its inhabitants. The prevailing human-centred world view is a main obstacle. By example, to reach multispecies awareness for the blue environment, we must overcome the disconnection and neglect towards life below the surface of the sea: we must get acquainted with marine life.

Next, to make change, we must join forces with a wider range of collaborators: we need to be more creative in our diversity- and inclusion-practices.

Thirdly, humans tend to think in linear ways and with short term perspectives. But the nature itself operates on longer time scales than our imaginative abilities: as we all know, nature operates in circular, organic ways.

In my marine landscaping research, nature’s own problem-solving capacity is the greatest inspiration. From nature-mentorship we can learn new ways to design urban blue neighbourhoods that facilitate for the co-creation of urban life. To act wisely as urban designers, we need to forge new ties—across disciplines and between species. The key lies in diversity in the broadest sense: regarding nature dynamics, in the research process and team composition. 


  • Christian Pagh, Oslo arkitekturtriennale 
  • Cecilie Sachs Olsen, NIBR, OsloMet