When the inner city mix changes

What happens when schools and dentists move into shopping centers? Per Aage Nilsson is an architect at FOJAB with long experience of working with shopping districts in city centers. He sees a trend towards a wider range of activities in the same building.

You use the term mixed-use, what does that mean?

- In simple terms, the mixed use principle refers to developing an urban quarter that has a mix of housing, services, offices and shops. By integrating them, the site can be used more efficiently and new qualities are created in the city.

What trends do you see in the development of commercial districts?

- Today, for example, many shops are moving to the ground floor. The premises must be both easily accessible for customers and manageable for staff. New requirements and wishes for store design are partly due to competition from online shopping, but also because inner cities have become more difficult to access by car.

- At the same time, we see a new type of player who wants to take advantage of the center's attractiveness and customer flows. These include health centers and dentists, but offices and schools are also moving into the floors above the shops. This gives the inner city a new mix of activities. It requires logistical understanding and frequent rebuilding to ensure that people with different errands can meet - or not meet - smoothly. School pupils should preferably not disturb shop visitors, for example. Loading and waste management should not be noticeable. Different entrances may be needed for activities at different times of the day.

- Our job is to use good, thoughtful architecture to create the right conditions for a mix of activities so that city centers can maintain their attractiveness. We create vibrant environments where people want to spend time.

What are the benefits of mixed neighbourhoods?

- There are many benefits to creating neighborhoods with a mix of housing and businesses. Mixing different functions creates areas where people want to spend all hours of the day and all days of the week. This is important for the attractiveness of cities.

- Co-use is another important aspect. By having several different businesses share the building, we can build more efficiently when it comes to common needs such as parking and logistics. The different activities can also share rooms and areas. For example, school premises can be used for other activities in the evening.

- From a climate perspective, it is good to have mixed neighborhoods. Those who live in the middle of the city do not have the same need for a car. An additional advantage is that shops and public life create security for residents. The property owners also see added value in being able to offer residents proximity to services and shops, etc.

How do we at FOJAB work with mixed-use?

- FOJAB has many completed mixed use projects where we have seen the co-utilization benefits of many activities in the same place. Examples of projects include Hansagallerian and Mobilia in Malmö and the Studenternas football arena in Uppsala. In the Hansa project, we have worked to refine two blocks into a modern and attractive shopping area in the center of Malmö. The neighborhood has a mixed-use character where shopping, restaurants and cafes are mixed with offices, schools, medical centers and housing.

- In the work with Mobilia, the task was to transform Malmö's oldest shopping center into a vibrant urban quarter, as part of Malmö's growing inner city. Based on the urban approach, new streets, bicycle paths and squares were created around the new buildings. Shops and housing together with restaurants, cafes, fitness and cultural facilities that have different opening hours than the shops have contributed to life and movement both in and around the area almost around the clock.