Seth Thompson on Gothenburg, Sweden
Travel Week Bulletin: Fall 2019
At midnight on the third night of our trip, our ferry passed the southern tip of Finland, en route to Stockholm from Helsinki. At the time, however, we couldn’t have told you what direction the boat was sailing, let alone our longitude, as we were in the middle of the eighth-floor deck in the aft-side lounge watching a German magician perform card tricks. The twelve of us—five Post-Pros, five M.Arch I students, Alan Plattus, and Andrei Harwell—had 16 hours to kill as the MS Mariella completed its daily overnight journey between Finland and Sweden, plenty of time to recount our favorite Alvar Aalto buildings in Helsinki and figure out our next steps in Stockholm and Gothenburg.
The plan was to visit Stockholm, meet with the national innovation fund, and get a feel for the cultural and metropolitan attractions of the capital, including Gunnar Asplund’s public library, of course. Then we would head to Gothenburg and figure out how Sweden’s second-largest city and the largest port in the Nordics, stacked up. Our studio brief was to revitalize the Lindholmen neighborhood of Gothenburg, home to decommissioned shipyards, industrial buildings, and a new science park composed of local technical universities and a number of large technology companies making cell phones, smart cars, cameras, and new media.
When the ferry finally pulled into the Stockholm archipelago the next morning, we hit the ground running…or, more accurately, scootering. Since the Stockholm city-center spans multiple islands, bridges, hills, bluffs, and neighborhoods, some of us took advantage of the ubiquity of Lime scooters to take in as much of the city as we could in 36 hours at 18 km/hr. From Josef Frank’s beautiful textile designs to the fully-intact 17th-century ship Vasa, Stockholm’s downtown and museum district had something to offer for every interest.
By Wednesday night, we were packed and ready to head to Gothenburg, a 3-hour train ride away. This was it—the moment when two weeks of Google Maps research met the reality of the real place! We walked through the lively old town, past the canals and another Asplund masterpiece, the City Hall courthouse extension. After a short ferry ride, we finally reached Lindholmen, our site itself. Under the towering presence of the shipyards’ iconic red harbour cranes, we toured the area with guides from Älvstranden Utveckling, the state-owned development company in charge of turning Lindholmen into the hottest neighborhood in the city.
The rest of our time in Gothenburg was a blur. We split into our studio groups and traversed the neighborhood and the city in pursuit of site visits, interviews, and local research. Some groups took the ferry to the archipelago, others visited industrial areas including Frihamnen and Ringon, and still others stuck downtown to do some “research” at Arket, which had a 50%-off sale on all manner of Nordic sweatshirts, fleeces, and wool jackets. The trip ended the only way it could have: Alan and Andrei took us to a blues concert and we were serenaded as we collected our memories and prepared to head home to our paprika-colored Hall.