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Sweden: Stockholm 2041: how co-management of urban space changed the city and its people

De boeren hofstede, Lutkie & Cranenburg, 1848 – 1881

This utopian essay is playing out twenty years from now (in 2041) and is grounded in on-going research (in 2020) on the new urban gardening commons in Stockholm City, Sweden

By Nathalie Bergame|
January 14, 2021


A cry for autonomy and “the right to the city” through gardening

With rather high initial investments for establishing a good soil quality, buying fruit-bearing bushes and other perennials as well as seeds and the looming risk of being evicted from the plot of urban land, residents who were engaged in park management in the 2020s began to demand more long-term based public land leases from the City District Administrations. Viewed from the perspective of the “right to the city,” conceptualised more than seventy years ago in 1967 by urban theorist Henri Lefebvre, the residents performed their urban duty and demanded the full rights to their labor on public land and by that claimed their right to the city.

While they could attain the rights to participate in creating and appropriating the edible produce the community cultivated, they did not own that right autonomously, neither did they own the right to the land. When city districts needed whole or parts of the public urban land for development projects such as new housing, infrastructure, or commercial activities, the commoned garden that had been created by the many gardeners was at risk of facing demolition.

The gardeners of the commoned urban green spaces were successful in inserting their political claims for longer-term leases by referring to the well-established and culturally integrated allotment gardens; Stockholm’s historical allotment gardens date back to the beginning of the 20th century, with the first built in 1905. Despite great popular interest in gardening in Stockholm’s allotment gardens, with 10 thousand residents in the queue in 2020, the last new allotment garden was established in 2002. The demand for allotment gardens coupled with the economic relief when transferring the lease to civil associations (instead of managing public space by the municipality) asserted sufficient pressure on the City that led to a shift in the governance of public spaces after the onset of the global covid-19 pandemic. Not only did people spend more time at home, working in “home-office,” but they also felt relieved to be able to socialise again out of doors when the first waves of covid-19 subsided in 2021. The organisational form of an association required people to meet and discuss, and in union demand rights over public space, activities that they would not have had time to under full employment and with the need to commuting to work every day.

Read the complete article here.


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