x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Gritty port city of Malmo reborn as a seaside idyll

The Life: Malmo in Sweden has transformed itself from a dirty industrial town into green city that is offering inspiration to planners worldwide

Malmo, a Swedish port city that once belonged to Denmark, is transforming itself from a grimy industrial hub into a spick-and-span centre for eco-design.

Success in reclaiming contaminated land has brought the community a spruced-up reputation as Sweden's "park city", as well as an unexpected flow of visitors.

They come to experience the new look and feel of the community whose name was once synonymous with Swedish heavy industry. Urban planners flock here, and visitors this month included a delegation from Masdar City, the Abu Dhabi Government's flagship green community development.

Malmo's metamorphosis began after the 1980s recession closed down its shipyards.

An iconic 138-metre-high crane, built by Kockums Industries in the 1970s for lifting ships, no longer towers over the city's Western Harbour. Its last European job, in 1997, was to lift the foundations of the high pillars of the Oresund Bridge, the visually stunning fixed link between southern Sweden and Denmark.

"The symbol of the old wharf, the Kockums crane, is now standing tall in South Korea," Malmo's municipal environment department comments in its guide to the West Harbour district. In its place, the port community has gained a new landmark: HSB Turning Torso, an award-winning office and residential tower created by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

This tower, at the heart of Western Harbour's first redevelopment project, is extensively equipped with energy-saving appliances and controls. The building has its own intranet, on which residents can check their energy and water consumption and view conservation tips.

Malmo also has its share of Gothic architecture and statues of past Swedish monarchs, but its unique attractions are as modern as Turning Torso.

Visitors venturing out on foot or bicycle in Western Harbour are in for a treat. Between the low-rise apartment buildings are pocket gardens, streams, small ponds and fountains fringed with rushes and wild flowers. Children run and laugh in playgrounds well shielded from commercial streets. Even urban wildlife has been taken into account, with wooden boxes for birds to nest and bats to roost adorning many exterior walls.

The boardwalk is a popular venue for residents and visitors to relax by the sea. In summer, hardy Swedes jump from the dock into Baltic waters no warmer than 18°C.

The Quote: "A Scanian is only Swedish during the ice hockey world championships." A modern proverb from the region around Malmo

tcarlisle@thenational.ae