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Kieran Long on the Swedish government’s new policy for designed living environments

The Swedish government’s new policy for designed living environments (Politik för gestaltad livsmiljö (Prop. 2017/18:110)) introduces new national goals for architecture and design, and makes these fields of central importance in the creation of good places. ArkDes director Kieran Long comments here on what the policy means for Swedish urbanism and for ArkDes as a museum and research centre.

“With the publication of the proposition today, Sweden has become one of the most ambitious countries in the world in its belief that design can improve people’s lives. In some places this has become an unfashionable view: here it is now the government line. The proposition describes an approach to shaping cities that demands that municipalities, government authorities, construction companies, developers and professionals put design at the very top of the priority list in all their decision making processes.

The three governmental ministries involved should be congratulated on bringing their varying demands and requirements into line with this holistic concept of design as a tool to improve cities. Achieving good living environments demands this kind of collaboration and structural relationships. In many other countries this has not happened, but the participation of all three departments of the Swedish government in this proposition gives the proposition tremendous weight and importance.

ArkDes is ready to embrace a twofold role to support the aims of the proposition. First, we are a national platform to gather and spread knowledge about architecture and design, both in professional circles and to a broad, museum-going public. We will bring the best international work to Sweden, and to provide a platform for Swedish architects and designers to demonstrate and develop their engagement with the public realm. This work begins in June, with a major exhibition called Public Luxury, which is a show about how design is shaping the Swedish public realm today.

Second, we are strengthening our in-house expertise and aiming to create a vibrant research culture and a better place for debate between professionals and the public. We are excited about the potential of our new research resources, which we will use to bring to Sweden a wide variety of researchers and to augment and lift forward exemplary projects around Sweden. ArkDes stands ready to support municipalities and authorities as they search for ways to fulfil their role as exemplars in the creation of better buildings, streets and neighbourhoods.

We are also thrilled about the forthcoming collaborations with other agencies in the field, particularly Boverket, Statens Konstråd and Riksantikvarieambetet. We already have very positive dialogues with all these partners, and are fully committed to collaborating with them on developing the goals of the proposition.

Finally, the proposition is also a challenge to architects and designers to demonstrate how their work can have an impact on citizens’ lives. Professional architects, urbanists and designers will need to move beyond good intentions and develop concrete approaches to the challenges of Swedish cities today. ArkDes can be a platform for that thinking. It is also clear that Sweden can not meet all challenges by itself. We must invite in the best architects, designers and thinkers from across the world to help us reach the potential that this document has created.”

Kieran Long, director

The proposition (in Swedish)