White Arkitekter, Stockholm, Sweden
White Arkitekter is one of Scandinavia’s leading architectural firms and the third largest in Europe. Their research and expertise encom- pass architecture, urban design, landscape architecture and interior de- sign. They create people-centered architecture, inspiring a sustainable way of life. In 2017, they completed the project Flickrum i det offentliga (translated into Girls’ room in the public) where they worked with young women on how they want to take place in urban public spaces.
There is an obvious lack of public places for girls in contemporary cities. Norms and social structures shape how people’s needs are prioritized, hence reinforcing inequality. One example of this is the mobility factor as transport priorities and infrastructure are directly sprung from existing gender norms. We are often prioritising roads when planning cities, but when exami- ning statistics on car use, it is a mjority of men that are car owners in Sweden. Also, large parts of public funds are used for activities that are dominates by boys rather than activities that are equally accessible for both boys and girls.
Good practices & solutions
In the project Flickrum, White architects gathered a multidisciplinary team with sustainability specialists, designers, architects, and pedagogues, as well as invited young girls to act as place ex- perts in a reference group. This enabled them to target questions of gender and power with the ones concerned, creating an eye-opener for stakehol- ders within urban planning. They also built models of an actual urban space to explore urban form. However, in conversations with stakeholders about questions of equality, the firm experienced prejudices. Public officials ques- tioned the girls’abilities to express their needs and the relevance of exposing them to the planning practice. The initiators of the project want to show that all are experts in being themselves here and now, and everyone’s subjective experiences of the public space is relevant, regardless of age or gender. Additionally, Flickrum used theatre as a tool to communicate the girls’ expe- riences of city spaces. Using art as a tool is a convenient and efficient way to raise awareness, understanding and empathy on the subject.
Outcome & opportunities
The architecture firm realised when working with the project Flickrum that no major financial investments are required to meet the needs of these girls. They do not demand much, they only wish to be able to be outdoors with friends regardless of weather, they want to sit and talk, as if the public space was their living room. If you live in a small apart- ment far from school, you may not be able to bring home several friends. If you have many siblings and parents at home, you may simply want to get away from home for a while. Compared to the costs of giant arenas, sports halls, and malls, this is not a financial issue at all.
Lessons learned & recommendations
It is essential to work with capable and humble architects, urban planners and decision-makers that dare to listen to the various needs different social groups express. We need a more democratic process with a more heterogenous working-force, so more people are heard. It is crucial to be inclusive from the beginning of every planning process. There are two essential fundaments in building something so complex as a city; knowledge and representation. Every time someone new contribute to the process, the knowledge increases. In this perspecive, co-creation gives a new impression of a site, which has a significantly positive effect. Hence, co-creation is a planning method applicable to every context globally. However, as city planning is market-driven, especially with regards to what can become public places, or rather what remains to be public places, the project economy determines the outcome of a city’s public spaces. If there is to be a change in that area, a strong political is needed.
Related SDG targets
- 5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
- 10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political in- clusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
- 11.3 By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries
- 11.7 By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities
- 16.7 Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative deci- sion-making at all levels
- 17.17 Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships
- Urban Girls Movement
- United Nations Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform
- Engage for the SDGs
- Gender Responsive Urban Planning and Design, UN-Habitat
- Global Public Space Toolkit, UN-Habitat
Photo: © White Arkitekter
Project: Urban Girls Movement