It’s not easy to make a great urban waterfront and many cities have made numerous mistakes that they regret later. For example, adjacent land uses that are private versus public, the size and location of  roads limits pedestrian access to the water,  the design of the open spaces along the waterfront  provides few opportunities for activities to occur, all of which limits the potential for the waterfront to add to the identity and image of the city.

The site of the Slussen Urban Redesign Competition is an opportunity to reinvent Stockholm’s center, for better or worse.

Alexis Pontvik, a Stockholm-based architect will share his insights and ideas about why the Stockholm waterfront is so successful and how its potential for improvement could easily be missed at the Waterfront Synopsis Conference in Stavanger, Norway this September 15-17, hosted by Project for Public Spaces (PPS) and the Nordic Urban Design Association (NUDA). He will use the Stockholm waterfront as a case study to talk about some of the “rules” for successful waterfront development today. Ponvik believes that when these rules are broken, a city’s waterfront is lost in terms of its identity, image and meaning for its citizens.

Stockholm, Sweden currently has one of the most successful waterfronts in the world.  It has a pedestrian promenade along the harbor and a wealth of destinations that include a combination of transportation, cultural and commercial uses and activities. It is also an exciting example of a fast growing city with big plans for its waterfront.  In just 20 years, the city expects its population will increase by 150,000 people. To satisfy the need for more housing, workplaces and infrastructure, the city is planning several new developments in sites across the city, including a new waterfront.

One of the most controversial and complicated new projects is the Slussen Urban Redesign Project, a proposal  to create a major multi-use destination and transportation hub on the central part of the Stockholm waterfront.  Many futuristic designs were among the finalists and Foster and Partners ultimately won the competition.

Alexis Pontvik

Pontvik believes that issues such as architecture clearly play a role in waterfront development but what is often missing is a broader vision clearly defined by the city at the outset that details the way the project fits into the surrounding area and how it addresses the unique issues that exist there. Pontvik will discuss ways that cities can use unique assets to define the vision for a project instead of relying solely on design solutions. PPS outlines this concept in its ideas for the city of the future. As PPS President Fred Kent says, even renderings reveal a design-driven rather than a people-driven approach.

Pontvik is both a local resident and architect: he founded his architecture studio in Stockholm where he is currently at work on a wide range of international projects, from a master pan for a Palestinian border crossing to a new art gallery in Uddevalla.

At PPS’ Conference in September, Alexis will join a group of speakers, including PPS President and Senior Vice President Fred Kent and Kathy Madden as well as the executive director of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the founder of Urban Space Management, and the Chief Executive of the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau who will share their “out of the box” ideas about sustainable development practices.