New Faces: Torleif Falk

Photo: Lennart Johansson

In the fall Stockholm got itself a brand new City Architect. After four years with Karolina Keyser, Torleif Falk became the new head of direction for Stockholm. It’s a title that comes with both a certain degree of prestige as well as opportunity.

You recently took office in the new role, having started a couple of months back. What’s the most exciting part of being Stockholm’s City Architect?

Stockholm is a great city with a long history that has clearly been marked by various periods of development. The city has its particular identity due to its location in an archipelago landscape, with houses and districts placed in such a way that the topography is elucidated and can be observed from many directions through the great rooms with floors of water. To protect this strong identity and its culture-historical values during a time of rapid development, and to use the force from these developments as support for contributing to new changes – while still keeping in sync with history – will be the biggest challenge as well as the most exciting part of this task.

A housing shortage, sustainability, futuristic ideas, iconic front edge architecture, life between buildings – there are a lot of different things and aspects to juggle. How will Stockholm evolve to safeguard all of our needs?

We always have to relate to what already exists and what we create. The planning has to be made with a societal perspective where we weigh all sides such as social, organic, economic, technical and legal issues. The formation of the city has to come about with the human as the starting point – sensual, beautiful and filled with experience but certainly also practical and functional. Within the city we are developing overall strategies and guidelines that we then retain, which creates a predictability and assurance in our processes. In certain projects we will be doing assessments with the specific needs of the project in mind and we’ll have both the those specific requirements and the overall strategic perspective as equal starting points. The democratic process is safeguarded through various forms of dialogue during the projects, as well as through the political commissions where the decisions are made.

What feels like the most pressing concern right now, in your mission to give Stockholmers as high a quality of life as possible?

The concerns vary depending on where you are on the scale of need. For many people it could be to just get hold of a place to live, while for others it might be to enhance the quality in an already good living environment. Generally, I think that by developing environments that stimulate interaction and encounters we create a higher quality of life. This means we have to plan towards this when we plan how streets, squares and places should be modeled and designed. Good public transport is important, so it’s easy to move around the city. It is equally important that social resources like schools, pre-schools, sports facilities and so on are within reach in order to have a functioning everyday life. Furthermore I think we need to have environments that affect your senses, and that can surprise us.

What do you see as the most exciting things for Stockholm during 2017?

We have several new areas of development, whole districts of the city that are popping up. We will see how some parts of the city grow together, how new parks, new places and areas spring up. By 2030 we will have about 30 percent more buildings of different kinds in Stockholm. It’s exceptional growth. Fundamentally, the city has a strong identity and that is a prerequisite for it to be able to cope with this growth, but as I said it will be both exciting and challenging to keep it together as a whole.