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(Muslims as Zoo attractions) Concrete jungle: Sweden's suburbs become cool
www.thelocal.se ^ | 02/09/2007 | Christine Demsteader

Posted on 02/09/2007 6:53:10 AM PST by WesternCulture

The article below is interesting, although somewhat misleading. 1 out of 4 Swedes live in DIFFERENT kinds of housing properties built around 1945-1975. True, but a minority of them are depressing, soviet-like concrete constructions outside of big cities. Few native Swedes live there and immigrants who manage to make enough money often move out.

Furthermore, the phenomena of "slumming" in Muslim concrete jungle areas in Sweden is not just a "vision for the future" as is suggested below. This already exists. I've made trips to such areas in Gothenburg and Stockholm myself and I must say it's a fascinating experience.

I don't want more Muslim immigration to Sweden or to Europe in general, but just like many Germans who voted for Hitler didn't want WWII and The Holocaust, most European Muslims are law abiding and are willing to work hard - and their traditional cuisine is great!

On the other hand:

PC multiculturalism means simultaneously undermining EVERY existing culture.

The article:

"They provide homes to one in four of the Swedish population, but the brutalist architecture of Sweden's 'Miljonprogram' suburbs has long had a bad press. Yet now the impossible seems to be happening: the suburbs are becoming cool. Christine Demsteader reports.

A million to one. Those were the odds someone gave me on finding a place to live in Sweden

Days before I’m due to arrive in Stockholm and I’m still theoretically homeless. Miraculously, the mysterious Norse god of housing answers my prayers at the last minute with the offer of a “three-room apartment, 90 square meters, close to the city.”

Had it not been a dodgy second-hand rental, the ad would have most likely read: “Two-bedroom apartment, with fully-fitted kitchen. Large bathroom (heated floor) and extra WC. Plenty of storage space, no carpets in sight and triple glazed. All in all, in pretty good nick.”

I did, however, miss the small print: “70s design and concrete mass come as standard.”

Turns out I was going to reside in one of the areas built as part of Sweden’s much-debated Million Homes Programme (Miljonprogrammet). These neighbourhoods, hailed residential heaven when they were built in the seventies, were soon to become viewed as the nation’s housing from hell.

And I was living in one of the more respectable places. Reputation precedes the most notorious neighbourhoods: Rinkeby, Tensta and Skärholmen in Stockholm, Hammarkullen, Angered and Bergsjön in Gothenberg and Rosengård in Malmö.

Built for integration

To understand why these suburbs were built, you need to go back to the 1940s, when the country is had one of the lowest living standards in Western Europe. The government put their hands in their pockets and pledged that everyone should have the right to good living conditions. Sweden was almost unique in its decision not to make public housing just a low-income affair.

But the country’s real building boom began in the 60s. The year was 1964 and a general election was looming. Housing remained a hot topic; the economy was good, people were moving from the countryside to the city and local authorities desperately wanted more homes to attract new industry.

In their manifesto, the Social Democrats vowed to build 100,000 new homes every year for ten years - the foundations for the Million Homes Programme were laid. The people voted and homes were built, but the promise was pure spin says Lisbeth Söderqvist, a Stockholm University researcher and expert on the Million Homes Programme.

“In 1962 and 1963, almost 100,000 apartments were built each year,” she says. “The programme was decided upon way back in 1959 but it was election year and it was clear message to the Swedish people. There wasn’t really a Million Homes Programme, it’s just a myth.”

Still, new towns were being manufactured across the country, with concentrations largely in big city outskirts. New, modern living for good democratic citizens was the message. “These homes were built for everyone, not just poor people,” says Söderqvist.

“There were apartments, family dwellings and terraced houses and the idea was to blend different people from different backgrounds. By doing so you would have a society that was stable and a society without conflict.”

Integration was key, and this was to be achieved by including a good range of local services in the planning – transport, schools, nurseries, community centres, libraries and public space.

“People started to move and everyone was happy,” Söderqvist says. “It was an expression of the welfare state that people had a modern functional home, with three rooms and a kitchen."

But the bubble soon burst when academics unexpectedly started to point to the problems they saw. The press and politicians soon jumped on the bandwagon. A big new shopping centre in Skärholmen in 1968 caused unprecedented uprising.

“For the left-wing commentators, this kind of commercialism was a disaster,” Söderqvist says. “It was said there was nothing to do in Skärholmen but shopping.”

The end of the honeymoon

The Skärholmen debate opened the floodgates for further criticism of the Million Homes Programme. In the seventies, liberal thinkers poured their scorn and the right-wing press took up the campaign, portraying the areas with disturbing images of social deprivation. The suburbs' reputations declined as a result and residents started packing their boxes.

But the political and media crusades weren't the only cause of decline, Söderqvist says:

“In the early 70s there was a change in the tax system, making much cheaper to buy a house.” Private developers were rubbing their hands and the exodus began.

“At the same time there was an influx of immigrants coming here,” Söderqvist adds. “They moved into the newly-emptied apartments and even more Swedes started to move out.”

Nowadays, these places are largely viewed as immigrant ghettos. “What is tragic is they are used as a symbol in the segregation debate in Sweden,” Söderqvist says. Ironically, it seems, the once celebrated housing project, which aimed to integrate the nation, has only served to fuel a divided society.

The extent of the decline in these areas became a political embarrassment during the 90s, with employment rates going down and criminality and drug use on the up. It was time for the Social Democrats to renew their promises.

The answer was to pour more money into areas in bad repair, with the intention of improving not just the physical but also the social fabric of the estates. The two billion kronor Metropolitan Development Initiative (Storstadssatsningen) began in 1998, aiming to improve educational standards and reduce unemployment among immigrants. By doing so, the state believed social segregation could be better fought.

“There was a lot of criticism from the start,” says Professor Sven Hort, who evaluated the project for the Stockholm region. “Many suspected this kind of state involvement was not really serious.”

The project had its successes: the number of teachers in schools was increased, local job training centres were set up and leisure activities were established for young people.

Many of the programme's successes turned out to be double-edged swords: the majority of those who did manage to gain employment moved out, only to be replaced by a new wave of immigrants.

Another of the programme’s aims was to make these urban concrete jungles more aesthetically pleasing with a lick of paint, new plants and playgrounds. Planners also made some interesting architectural modifications, says Lisbeth Söderqvist.

“Instead of having a straight path, they made it curvy,” she says. “It looks nice of course but it won’t break segregation. No Swedish family will move in just because there’s a curvy path.”

Rosengård: Sweden's next tourist destination?

The original architects of these neighbourhoods did not believe they were building grey, depressing housing estates.

As Söderqvist says: “The housing style was a trend at that time. In the original drawings, the sun was always shining and the trees were green. It was fashionable and visionary, even though we have a hard time understanding it today.”

Indeed, even today some commentators proclaim their love for buildings that many see as concrete monstrosities. In an article for Plaza magazine in 2002, architectural writer Mikael Askergren asks: “Why do people have such problems loving the concrete architecture of Sweden’s structuralist residential suburbs of the 60s and 70s?”

He advocates a greater appreciation for these inner city creations. “The future of these suburbs is not to be lived in,” he adds. “But - much like the castles, palaces and other monumental artworks of ancient times - to be emptied, restored to their original splendour and become the subject of tourism.”

It might sound far-fetched for Rosengård to become a tourist destination, but Askergren is serious:

“Fifty years ago, architects, planners and politicians would travel half across the globe to study the new suburbs of this Lilliput nation's Lilliput capital,” he says. “Årsta, Vällingby, and Farsta were featured in architectural reviews internationally, and generally considered successful in every respect.”

After decades of debate, fear and loathing, Askergren believes such neighbourhoods are enjoying a stylish revival. “The Million Homes Programme is becoming heritage and memory; the trauma is being forgotten and the planners and architects are being forgiven. The general public is once again embracing the architecture because, when all is said and done, to so many people these buildings are, or once were, home.”

Making the suburbs hip

Popular culture has brought the buzz back to these suburban areas. Askergren points to a 1997 music video directed by Sweden’s sought-after director Jonas Åkerlund. The visuals to the James Bond Theme remix by Moby are filmed with the backdrop of Sergels Torg and Hötorget – “Stockholm inner city modernist core.”

“Slowly but surely, architects and art historians are becoming less alone in their interest for the Million Homes Programme,” Askergren adds. “Others are starting to share this interest; in the media, in movies, in fashion photography and also in situ.”

Visit Kämpingebacken 13 in Tensta for a case in point. The Stockholm City Museum took a typical Million Homes Programme apartment and restored it to its original splendour as a living exhibit. Inaugurated in August 2006, it was open for ten days and welcomed 15,000 visitors through its door.

The kitchen, with its green plastic tablecloth and orange-brown patterned curtains is a genuine throwback to the era.

“It was very big and modern for its time” says Piamaria Hallberg, from Stockholm City Museum. Apparently, the freezer compartment in the fridge was a big draw. “And the rent was 660 crowns per month which was reasonable back then,” Hallberg adds.

“The Million Homes era is very important;” says Hallberg. “It changed Stockholm significantly and many people still live in these types of apartments.”

Indeed, it’s worth remembering that a quarter of the Swedish population live in a Million Homes Programme apartment or house today. “During the last ten to 15 years we have seen changes in opinion,” says Lisbeth Söderqvist. “If the image of the Million Homes Programme was black before, it’s more grey now.”

Christine Demsteader


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: eu; eurabia; europe; multiculturalism; muslimimmigration; muslims; scandinavia; sweden

1 posted on 02/09/2007 6:53:11 AM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture

Very interesting example of govt. social engineering and it's unintended results.


2 posted on 02/09/2007 7:00:46 AM PST by TheKidster (you can only trust government to grow, consolidate power and infringe upon your liberties.)
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To: WesternCulture

Could we place cartoon pictures of mohammad on their cages so we could watch the muzzies go ape?


3 posted on 02/09/2007 7:03:00 AM PST by From One - Many (Trust the Old Media At Your Own Risk)
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To: WesternCulture

Watts is hip and trendy, too. /s


4 posted on 02/09/2007 7:12:41 AM PST by Spirochete
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To: TheKidster
"Very interesting example of govt. social engineering and it's unintended results."

Yes it is.

Apart from the role of the politicians in this case, it's also strange how this architecture was once "beautiful" to a majority of Western architects.

A big, gray, concrete box is nothing but a big, gray, concrete box.

I lived in such a house for one year, namely my first year in life, 1969-1970. Then my family moved to a nice place to live. Much to the disappointment to politicians and architects involved, most other Swedish families in our situation did likewise after having lived for a short time in these kind of areas. Then the Italians, Yugoslavs and the Greeks arrived. By today, most of them have made good money from working for Swedish industry or running small, family owned, private businesses which have allowed them to buy houses/attractive condos elsewhere. The Swedish concrete "ghettos" are safer than one might think, although a rather large degree of petty crime exists. The most infamous such area in Sweden is Rosengård in Malmö. Large parts of Malmö is very nice though. There are several articles about Malmö here on FR I've noticed (search them by using "Malmo" as keyword if you're interested).
5 posted on 02/09/2007 7:23:00 AM PST by WesternCulture
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To: From One - Many

"Could we place cartoon pictures of mohammad on their cages so we could watch the muzzies go ape?"

- Great idea! Lot's of people here'd love to see such images!


6 posted on 02/09/2007 7:24:46 AM PST by WesternCulture
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To: Spirochete

"Watts is hip and trendy, too. /s"

- Just like South Central and Compton has become hip. Everyone in the world know them and regard them as exiting.

When I and my ex-girlfriend went to Miami in the 1990's, I was told several times to avoid certain areas.

Well, we did NOT and we found out people there were very friendly - just like they were in tourist and middle class parts of town. When they found out we were tourists from Sweden, they seemed proud that we would bother to have a look at their neighborhood while in the US.

Of course, severe crime exists in the US like elsewhere, but sometimes I think Americans wacth too much American movies.


7 posted on 02/09/2007 7:33:32 AM PST by WesternCulture
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To: TheKidster
As usual, when government interferes with the areas that should be left to private business, it either fails or inefficiently uses resources. In the USA cities built huge housing projects that became hell holes, gang ridden centers of crime and poverty. Better let private firms build that people want to live in or purchase. Communities were destroyed in the 60s with urban renewal.
8 posted on 02/09/2007 7:35:50 AM PST by GeorgefromGeorgia
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To: GeorgefromGeorgia

"As usual, when government interferes with the areas that should be left to private business, it either fails or inefficiently uses resources. In the USA cities built huge housing projects that became hell holes, gang ridden centers of crime and poverty. Better let private firms build that people want to live in or purchase. Communities were destroyed in the 60s with urban renewal."

In principle, I agree with what you're saying, but isn't there many areas in the US where people built hoses of their own or private companies developed rather appealing areas which later on deteriorated.

I've understood that Compton was once an attractive area in LA, even if it isn't today.

Anyhow, I think we all agree politicians often make more mistakes and also make more severe mistakes as decision makers than free individuals and private businesses do.


9 posted on 02/09/2007 7:50:26 AM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture

Thanks for the insight. It's funny how social engineering always banks on people accepting mediocraty when, invariably people tend to work hard to better thier situation and move up the socioeconomic ladder. Social engineers also seem to always believe that culture remains static within a society (architecture in this case) and people won't abandon the old and used for the new and shiney.


10 posted on 02/09/2007 7:51:13 AM PST by TheKidster (you can only trust government to grow, consolidate power and infringe upon your liberties.)
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To: GeorgefromGeorgia

Yep, something given freely is usually less regarded than something earned personally.


11 posted on 02/09/2007 7:53:09 AM PST by TheKidster (you can only trust government to grow, consolidate power and infringe upon your liberties.)
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To: WesternCulture

In principle, I agree with what you're saying, but isn't there many areas in the US where people built hoses of their own or private companies developed rather appealing areas which later on deteriorated.

I've understood that Compton was once an attractive area in LA, even if it isn't today.

I would say that is just the nature of urban sprawl. It seems that as cities expand so does the crime/ghetto/urban blight problems.


12 posted on 02/09/2007 7:55:56 AM PST by TheKidster (you can only trust government to grow, consolidate power and infringe upon your liberties.)
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To: WesternCulture
There are generally cycles for housing. Go to most American cities, you will find areas that are called "slums." Take out the urban ghettos created by public housing. What you generally see is that the older and probably more rundown modest housing areas became slums to some degree, because of the low cost for those "poor" moving into the area. In Atlanta, South Dekalb County, East Point, College Park and North Clayton county included homes that were generally older and lower middle class or middle class homes. People from poorer areas moved into these affordable houses. Houses that were in some cases 50-70 years old. The people that once lived in these areas moved out into newer and probably somewhat superior housing. Eventually, the areas that deteriorated, like in Atlanta, the midtown area, become gentrified, because the land is close to downtown and valuable for condos, apartments, townhouses, for people that don't want to commute. The cycle continues.
When government gets involved it tries to engineer this change by accelerating the cycle. Most of the time if it doesn't consider the real market, it does more harm than good.
13 posted on 02/09/2007 8:05:04 AM PST by GeorgefromGeorgia
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To: TheKidster

We built them too. They are associated with the civil rights era. Now that 70% of blacks have moved out of poverty they demand that the projects be demolished. They are blown up amid cheers.


14 posted on 02/09/2007 8:06:03 AM PST by ClaireSolt (Have you have gotten mixed up in a mish-masher?)
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To: TheKidster
"I would say that is just the nature of urban sprawl. It seems that as cities expand so does the crime/ghetto/urban blight problems."

I guess you're right.

The difference between areas like Compton or Harlem (that were developed by private business initiative) and the Swedish concrete suburbs from the 1960:s (that were planned by "social engineers") is that while an area like Compton gradually deteriorated, the Swedish concrete suburbs became unattractive after a very short time.

My father and mother decided to move out already after one year although the building standard as such was ultra modern and building projects like these got a good deal of international recognition at that time (around 1970).
15 posted on 02/09/2007 8:13:39 AM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture

Yep, they bettered thier situation financially and moved on to reap the rewards, one of which is to get a nicer home.
It's an example of the American dream that's not exclusive to America and impossible in a fascist/communist/totalitarian state.


16 posted on 02/09/2007 8:33:09 AM PST by TheKidster (you can only trust government to grow, consolidate power and infringe upon your liberties.)
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To: ClaireSolt

Is that a good thing or bad thing in your view?


17 posted on 02/09/2007 8:34:49 AM PST by TheKidster (you can only trust government to grow, consolidate power and infringe upon your liberties.)
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To: GeorgefromGeorgia

That sounds right to me and the general blunder of big govt., unnaturally stimulating or retarding socioeconomic cycles without preparing addressing the obvious and not so obvious negative repurcussions.


18 posted on 02/09/2007 8:36:40 AM PST by TheKidster (you can only trust government to grow, consolidate power and infringe upon your liberties.)
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To: GeorgefromGeorgia

I see what you mean.

Your description of the development in Atlanta, GA seems to be a good example of what I've understood to be the case in many big cities in the US.

Some differences between European cities and American ones is that

- In the US, you often find the least attractive areas rather close to downtown, even if there also is the phenomena of gentrified midtown areas like you mentioned, while in Europe, especially Northern Europe, the least attractive areas are rather newly built concrete suburbs far away from the city centre.

- "Downtown" in the case of US cities often refers to a corporate dominated area in the US, while the central part of most big European cities often consists of a combination of shopping areas, business/financing activity, expensive condos and cultural treasures like palaces, monuments, parks, museums, ancient structures etc.

- The most expensive single houses in the US are often large, newly built ones in the outskirts, while in Europe, the most fashionable way to reside is often living in a large old villa not too far from the city centre or even better, in a palace of your own IN the historical city center (but now were're talking things that very, very few Europeans can afford).

Anyhow, an interesting thing here is that while Harlem of today again has become an attractive area, I doubt a concrete suburb like Bergsjön in my home city, Gothenburg, will ever become attractive. Today, some people there are among the poorest in Sweden. Others who live there work for Volvo, SKF and other big employers here in Gothenburg and earn $70 000 a year. If the regional economy continues to develop in the right direction, the latter group will move out instead of using money "improve" their home.

A place dominated by immigrants called Angered here in Gothenburg is a bit of an exception. Many people originating from Chile, Finland, Iran, Iraq, former Yugoslavia etc, who've been successful here in Sweden have built really nice single houses close to the former ghetto like housing structures they once lived in. Partly, I think this is due to the fact that the nature in that area is really beautiful with forests, small lakes and so on, but apart from that, I think Angered, the place they once settled in after fleeing war and mad rulers like Khomeini, Saddam and Milosevic or unemployment (in Finland) has a special meaning to them. It gave them a new start and now they don't desire to "flee" a second time in life. Perhaps Bergsjön will develop like that too. Rosengård in Malmö however will not, there's no room to build single houses.

In the end, all healthy urban development depends on healthy companies and sane local government. Many large corporations around the world have managed to provide their employees with attractive housing. In my home city there were several such areas built in the 19th century and even later on (and they're still attractive).

I suspect that if a large Gothenburg employer like Volvo would've have been allowed to take care of these things in close cooperation with its employers in the 1960 - 1970 period, they would have achived something much better than the concrete suburbs government "social engineers" did. Probably small single houses that were mass produced, yes, but also very affordable and built in a manner that still would attract people of today.


19 posted on 02/09/2007 9:17:28 AM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture
Interesting hearing about Sweden. I have never been to Sweden, but my Wife and I were married in Denmark. We loved Denmark and its people. Also, we lived in Germany for four years and traveled extensive in Europe.
American cities generally have a business center, surrounded by poor areas, then suburbs. There are differences. Cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco are not like this. Much of the close to the business center areas are expensive, "Tony" areas that demonstrate wealth. Also, compare Houston, Texas, to Portland, Oregon. Houston has no zoning laws and development is on the lassez-faire model, while Portland has severely restricted (through zoning) development. In Houston, housing is very inexpensive, while Portland expensive (also with small living areas).
I remember hearing the tour guide in Paris explain why there were no slums near the beautiful city centers. Apparently, at one time the government essentially eliminated the near center slums, and moved the poor out to the city's edge. Now that is where all the Muslims acted out, burning cars, etc.
20 posted on 02/09/2007 9:49:08 AM PST by GeorgefromGeorgia
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To: GeorgefromGeorgia

Likewise interesting hearing about the US. Just like there are differences between American cities, there of course are differences between European ones as well, although general patterns are visible in both cases.

One thing I think would be a bit surprising to an American visitor who haven't seen much of the major European cities is the absence of a skyline. Few European cities display a downtown concentration of skyscrapers. Cities like Copenhagen and Stockholm have more or less banned "real" skyscrapers, while some other European cities have allowed a few.

I guess Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, is the closest thing to an American city in this respect. Warsaw, Poland have some skyscrapers too, but it's not exactly New York or Chicago.

Paris and London have some skyscrapers but they are scattered around.

Here in Scandinavia, I'd say we have ONE(!) skyscraper:

Turning Torso in Malmö.

I like it a lot. It's really unique in the way it actually is a turning, twisting, high rise structure. Furthermore, these construction principles will be used when erecting
"World Trade Center Tower 1"/"Freedom Tower" in NYC.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turning_Torso

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_tower


21 posted on 02/09/2007 10:12:16 AM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture
You are right about Frankfurt it was the most American city that I saw in Germany. I don't remember a major European City with large number of skyscrapers. Many of the city centers are still historical centers with medieval or Renaissance buildings that call for preservation. I know that many of Germany's cities were bombed extensively by Allied warplanes in WWII, destroying many of the historical buildings. Cologne was virtually destroyed except for its famous cathedral. Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Frankfurt as well. Nuremberg was a beautiful medieval city and much was destroyed, but when rebuilt, the new building were modeled on the original. Same with Augsburg (where I lived), about half the buildings in the city were damaged or destroyed in WWII (There was an ME-109 factory there), but you would not know it today.

I am interested in ancient history and note that whenever a new building, subway or structure is excavated in Rome or Athens, that archaeological ruins or artifacts almost always are discovered. I know the Greeks ran into serious problems trying to build new subways and facilities for the Olympics.

One thing about living in Germany, many more people there live in rented apartments. In the USA about 68% of people live in their own homes, most are single family. I know that space is at a premium, and there is only so much space in Europe.
22 posted on 02/09/2007 11:46:31 AM PST by GeorgefromGeorgia
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To: WesternCulture

Amazing how areas such as Skärholmen and Tensta can become "cool" at least in the minds of stockholmers who probably only read about it Dagens Nyheter. Probably takes some of the edge off the guilt of knowing that the "folks" from those outlying districts have a bit of a hard time getting into the "chic" hangouts downtown. If they even bother.

As an aside I got dropped off in Rinkeby one time to avoid sitting in traffic. Now I've been to the South Bronx, East New York, and around the metro New York area (yes, even Newark) but nothing prepared me for Rinkeby. Bet that isn't much of a "cool" area, especially after dark.

Been here 15 years and the place is falling apart socially, fundamental break down. Check the crime rate and lack of police. But put a "cool" front on it...


23 posted on 02/09/2007 2:39:11 PM PST by torquinus (if they say they want to kill you and you don't believe it are you a dead optimist?)
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To: TheKidster

Seems like a waste to me, as many live in much older housing. However, they were trashed and abused from the beginning and became symbols of oppression rather than good will. I guess only high end condos will do for the poor.


24 posted on 02/09/2007 4:47:30 PM PST by ClaireSolt (Have you have gotten mixed up in a mish-masher?)
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