Ola Melin

As media partner of Hong Kong’s Business of Design Week, Design Anthology was privileged to speak with some top designers. Well-known Swedish landscape architect Ola Melin shared his thoughts on green space with us

Design Anthology: How important do you think it is for a city to have parks that are not just beautiful and functional but also accessible — for people’s health, mental wellbeing, sense of community and for people to identify with the city they live in?

Ola Melin: I work in a city that historically has identified itself with its parks and green spaces. It’s even known as ‘The city of Parks’ in Sweden. Early on in Malmö, our officials realised the benefits of securing large green spaces in the expanding industrial city. One of the more central parks is Pildammsparken (‘The Pildamm Park’) of 55 hectares that was built in 1914. Today it is an important green lounge for the city. If they had not invested in this park 100 years ago, it would have been impossible to create something like it today.

Among our politicians and citizens today there is a consciousness of the importance of green spaces.

The idea of residents of a city being allowed to affect and shape their public spaces (using the example of youth in Malmö creating their own skateboarding routes) seems radical. But what effect do you think this has on the overall happiness of citizens, and the pride they have in their own city? And expanding on that, how does that affect things like crime rates and vandalism?

The effect is quite obvious when it comes to enabling our residents to contribute with their ideas. The results in different projects actually improve as a result. Instead of building urban space that might be used and appreciated, we strive to create urban space that we know will get used and appreciated. By being permissive the city as a whole also stands out in the midst of other Swedish cities as a young, bold, inclusive city.

We have been fortunate enough not to see much vandalism connected to our built space. If we invest both time and effort creating these spaces together with our citizens, the feeling is that everyone in a much higher state will care for urban space.

How do you go about planning parks for the future? What factors do you have in mind when deciding the size, location and facilities?

When we develop new areas, we plan them with green space from the beginning. The aim is that no one in the future Malmö should have a long walk to their nearest park. These parks can be both big and small, but it is certainly imperative that a larger green park should still be within walking distance.

We always try to build in flexibility when it comes to how the residents will use the parks. However, we try to avoid placing buildings within the parks and green areas. It is important to offer enough open spaces for an array of potential activities. Doing nothing and being able to escape the dense city is one of them.

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