Turning Torso and the West Harbour, Malmö’s future

By this time, it was becoming apparent to me that despite its small size, many different worlds exist in Malmö and they were separated not by natural geography but by perspective, perspectives shaped by culture, background and economics.

I had stepped out of the charming and historical old town full of fascinating tales about Malmö’s Danish and Swedish past and entered the completely international Möllevången within 10 minutes, a district filled with Middle Eastern, South Asian, East European and Southeast Asian stories. Pushing down a few more minutes saw me enter a different world, this time one of refugees and economically depressed populations. These were clearly different worlds with nothing in common except the city they resided in.

This is not be surprising if you live in large cities, but what threw me off was how close these districts were to each other. In many large cities, the geographical separation tends to be more stark, as I explored previously it tends to be based on which side of a river you lived on.

And I was going to cross the metaphorical river again, this time though across an economic gap.

My first impression was that this wasn’t a river, it was an ocean of difference.

The collapse of the shipping and manufacturing industry in Malmö brought with it a lot of despair. But like the eagle on its provincal crest the city rose up and reinvented itself. The economic collapse could be seen to be a neccesary precondition for the city to change direction and focus on different industries – knowledge-based, culture and creative industries. Industries that have revitalised an economy.

Symbolic of that shift from the hardware and arm muscle to software and brain muscle was a change in the icon of the city. Where the Kockum shipyard once dominated the Malmö skyline was a new city icon – the Turning Torso.

No one could go to Malmö and not see it.

I certainly couldn’t afford to miss it.

The Turning Torso is a twisty skyscrapper – the only true skyscrapper in Scandinavia too. It is however not a commercial property but a residential one located in the west harbour. The fact that it is a residential building may sound strange but is instead strangely apropo, since people and creativity are the future drivers of the city. It is said that you can see all of Malmö and Copenhagen from the top, not that anyone would know without living there though.

Designed by the controversial but flamboyant Santiago Calatrava, who is known to design beautiful structures with unfortunately a poor taste of materials leading to leaks, slippery ground on a bridge etc, the Turning Torso has been surprisingly controversy free. Although the inability for the general public to get to the top to enjoy the view generates more than a little grumbling on the ground.

The Turning Torso is located at the western harbour, where the future of Malmö is being built. This is a picture of a Sweden of the future (a similarly futuristic one is located in Hammarby, Stockholm), driven by ecological and sustainable living, where quality of life is at the forefront of design.

The fact that there waterfront housing faces the Oresund Bridge is clearly a fancy touch.

Beautifully designed apartments at beautiful locales are emblems of what this city intends to be, a draw for people in the knowledge-based and creative industries who work in both Malmö and by extension Lund or Copenhagen. You can see it in the various advertisements of the investing in Skane, or the Greater Copenhagen area.

The future in this area looks bright from those advertisements, and clearly if you stay within the West Harbour and the old town areas the Malmö that you know wil certainly be a veritable mini-paradise. As we have seen in the previous posts, the fruits of this massive new economic shift however have not, and probably will not, benefit all the inhaibitants of the city. Certainly not those living in the low-income areas, a challenge that hopefully the politicians solve.

This area though, is however a statement of intent. A statement that this city will rebuild and redevelop itself into something, shedding the economic woes and lost industries of the past for renewed income and new industries of the future.



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