Western Harbour is an obligatory area to visit if you ever find yourself in Malmoe, Sweden. It stands out with modern, semi-sustainable housing always close to the sea. It is perfect for warm summer days, with sunbaths and refreshing swims, or windy autumn days, trying out some of the cafés or restaurants.
Growing up in Malmö in the 1990s wasn’t a thoroughly pleasurable experience. Following Sweden’s efforts to isolate itself from the increasingly interdependent global economy hit bringing a financial crisis with it. The industrial part of the city was bleeding and unemployment and bank rates hit the ceiling. Bank loan interest rates changed from a steady 5% to 15-20% in 1990.
The Western Harbour was very industrial and the home of Kockum Shipyard and factories such as SAAB. Malmö City lost 27,000 jobs in between 1990-1995, left this area of the harbour almost completely empty. Nevertheless, Sweden adopted a more international financial approach, joined the EU, and the tide started to turn. Malmö integrated itself with the Copenhagen region, building a bridge between Sweden and Denmark, and started a University, trying to turn an old industrial city into a younger and hipper place to be.
Fairly spoken, not all efforts should be seen as a success, but one interesting bit was to turn the old abandoned shipyard into housing characterized by cosmopolitan architecture and sustainable living. Bringing in architects from all over the world, some parts of the area sure look interesting. A lot of effort has also been put to making the area energy independent, turning food waste into biogas, building green roofs and so on. The first sets of buildings were ready as an exhibition 2001. From a critical eye, one can naturally ask how building houses that need complete refurbishment in less than 10 years are sustainable. Nevertheless, at least architecturally wise, it is an interesting place to visit. The cream of the crop is the Santiago Calatrava building, Turning Torso. Maybe not the prettiest building around, but it sure looks interesting in a soft focus lo-fi camera lens.
Visiting this area on a rainy autumn or cold Swedish winter day can be quite a challenge. The weather out there is quite rough to say the least. On a hot summer day, it can be very refreshing, especially being so close to the sea, and people swim just about everywhere. So if you ever find yourself in Malmoe, Sweden, make sure you don’t miss out a visit to the Western Harbor area.