In my previous post, I wrote about our current atlas workshop, in which we were to individually do analysis on different given locations throughout the Øresund region. Since we were four students whose locations were on the Swedish side of the Øresund region, we decided to follow one another to our locations. The first student, Helge, was given the site of Jakriborg, which is located directly between the coastal city of Malmö and the university city of Lund.

Jakriborg was Helge's site, but nevertheless I found it so fascinating, that I simply had to document my experience there. By looking at the picture above, when do you think this town was planned? The 17th century? The 18th perhaps? Wrong again. The Jakriborg residential area was built from the late 1990'ies till 2003! This urban development is a perfect example of the New Urbanism movement, which focuses on urban planning for pedestrians rather than vehicles. The most interesting in this certain project, is that the architects chose to built the entire area as an imitation of a pre-industrial Hansa town. At the arrival from the station, the town area is even surrounded by a fortress wall, built in a way to truely look medieval! Furthermore, the town features a town square, which almost exactly resembles one of a medieval town as well as details such as overhead passages between the town's buildings as seen below.

What troubles me the most is that I can't really decide on my oppinion of this area. On one hand, there is the obvious. Designing an artificial medieval town is not only amusement-park-esque kitsch, but also somewhat of a sin and taboo in modern architecture. I mean, the architects could at least have attempted to make an abstraction of such a town! The whole medieval theme gives the town a rather fake appearance, and this is litterally visible in parts of the buildings where low-cost construction materials have pealed off and reveal isolation boards beneath the "historic" facades! 

On the other hand, if you (as hard at it may be!) ignore the "aesthetics" of the project, I believe that it has certain qualities to it as well. The entire area is planned for pedestrians, with small paths between the houses and small squares in front of the buildings for children to play. The area is a bit of a labyrinth if you will - one that features a fine variety of outdoor spaces, as well as a fine (but perhaps a bit too huge) diversity between the buildings in the area. Walking around the area, one can observe that the locals have even made their surrounding public spaces a bit as their own by having facade plants and other greenery that makes the public spaces more personal. In general, it seems that there is a strong collective spirit among the local citizens and there is a feeling of a common public space with life rather than autonomous private gardens and empty public squares. I believe the picture below captures this feel quite well.

Below is a map of the development site which shows the plan of the entire project (excuse me for the bad quality of the photo). The only part of it which is actually built, is the southern-most area (the slightly isolated rectangle). What happened is that the developers of the site went bankrupt and the project was discontinued, despite great interest among families looking forward to move in to a rather different housing area. 

The sudden discontinuation of the development has clearly left its marks on the area. Below is a picture that illustrates this quite clearly.

To sum things up, Jakriborg is in my oppinion an interesting urban experiment. On one hand, it boasts urban qualities that, quite litterally, invite life to the outdoor area through small squares, paths and green areas, while on the other hand, it recreates an artificial medieval town in a manner that is just too kitschy. Perhaps the aesthetics of the area may be every contemporary architect's nightmare, but among people who have no specific oppinions on the aesthetics and theories of our line of work, I can actually imagine that they probably see this as a pleasant place to live (especially for families with children I suppose). But again, that is only for people who truely can ignore the artificialness of the area and who perhaps accept replacing real cities with amusement park towns.

Further reading:
- Jakriborg Wiki

- Andy Minchev