Gothenburg: How can social sustainability be achieved in practice?

Social inclusion, place identity and participation – these are three themes on which a plan for social sustainability can be developed. In Gothenburg – one of the EU-GUGLE projects associated cities, human geographer Maria Strandberg along with development leader in Urban Development Wenche Lerme, have had a closer look at what is required in the area Hammarkullen to achieve social sustainability.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

– The housing situation in Gothenburg today gives poorer living conditions for residents in certain areas, says Wenche Lerme. This is a downward spiral that reproduce stigma to the point that people feel they cannot live in certain areas. There is also an impression that the problems are in the physical area. At the same time, we can see that some things are actually missing and that some areas are being neglected, problems associated with the fact that the funding is being invested elsewhere in the city.

One of the challenges that have been identified for Hammarkullen is how to transform the mental image of the area and to get people to experience it as an equal and integral part of the city. The report mentions the distance as an example of how the picture can be misleading. The district is generally regarded as situated far from the center of Gothenburg, but a tram ride from the Central Station to Hammarkullen takes about 14 minutes. The same amount of time that is needed for a tram ride to other parts of Gothenburg, generally seen as central parts of the city.

– What we have done is an analysis based on the current research on social sustainability, housing segregation and sustainability in urban development, says Maria Strandberg. When we started examining the concept of what social sustainability is all about, we soon came to the conclusion that sustainability must be defined locally. Social sustainability is always context-bound – what is the location and to whom should it be socially sustainable?

The method used in this report has been developed by the Swedish Delegation for Sustainable Cities and can be used in other contexts as well. Based on a number of urban development projects, the delegation has defined three themes: social inclusion, participation and place identity.

Social inclusion concerns issues like finding ways to finance the renovations without having to raise rents too much, preventing homelessness and overcrowding, but also to break the stigma of the area so that people want to stay there even if they have the opportunity to move elsewhere. The place identity can concern issues as improving the area’s aesthetic qualities, but Maria Strandberg and Wenche Lerme emphasizes the importance of maintaining the local identity of the district.  Working with the place identity can also include the creation of new venues and to develop those that already exist. One such place is Hammarkullebadet, the Hammar bath – an indoor swimming pool and training center in great need of renovation, which will be in focus for the project renovations.

The next step for the project EU-GUGLE in Hammarkullen will be a number of workshops during the autumn, about the foreseen renovations.


The report Towards a sustainable Hammarkullen can be downloaded here.
Read more about the Gothenburg district Hammarkullen here.