Stockholm Suburb Is Transforming Public Square With Women in Mind

Feminist urban planning a la Sweden.

Metro entrance in Husby's central square

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A Stockholm suburb is redesigning its main square with a “feminist, equality-based” perspective in mind. Housing company Svenska Bostäder (SB), which is overseeing the transformation, is aiming to address a gender imbalance among visitors and help women feel safer, according to The Local.

SB’s social sustainability coordinator in the district, Nurcan Gültekin, told The Local that the square in Husby, a northwest suburb, tends to be dominated by men.

“We need to get more women into the public spaces,” Gültekin said. “It’s above all about having an equal public space where everyone, both men and women, feel welcome.”

Husby isn’t the safest part of the region. Riots broke out there in 2013, and it’s one of 15 places the Swedish police consider “particularly vulnerable.” SB has been holding workshops since 2009 to talk to residents — particularly women — about where they felt unsafe and why. Through these conversations, it became clear that women felt uncomfortable walking through the square and around the metro station there.

Changes in the works include improved street lighting, upgrades to the metro station entrance, and the transformation of a cafe in the main square that “tends to attract mostly male customers” into a more female-friendly meeting place.

“The cafe has become a natural meeting place for some Husby residents, mostly men,” Gültekin said. “Today, however, women don’t have a natural meeting place in the centre. There is an imbalance. Our ambition is to create harmony, where both men and women dwell in and move around the centre.”

SB hopes the project will spur more discussions and projects centered around feminist urban planning in the future.

The conversation around designing for women is also taking place outside the progressive bastion of Sweden. There are movements in New Orleans, South America and beyond to raise awareness around how street harassment can lead women to alter their paths through a city, or avoid going to certain regions or out at certain times of day at all.

“When we talk about urban planning today, so much of it is about infrastructure, such as highways and power lines,” Alice Junqueira, of Chile’s Observatory Against Street Harassment, told Next City in 2015. “But what about instead, planning to make cities good places for the human relationships that will happen in them?”

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Kelsey E. Thomas is a writer and editor based in the most upper-left corner of the country. She writes about urban policy, equitable development and the outdoors (but also about nearly everything else) with a focus on solutions-oriented journalism. She is a former associate editor and current contributing editor at Next City.

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Tags: urban designpublic spacepublic safetystockholm

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