What happens between buildings is what creates society

11.07.2018 / Hedda Sæther Rosenlund

In order to plan for a more sustainable society, we need to design our cities with a goal of reducing climate change and its negative effects. An important and rather critical step towards achieving this goal is to create an interdisciplinary approach to the construction of cities. COWI Try and this year's innovation project opens the doors for this.

The world is facing changes that affect how we will live and transport ourselves in the future. Global warming and urbanization are among the challenges that are almost impossible to plan for. However, if we do it right today, we can improve the quality of life for future generations.

A growing need for smart city planning

My education in urban and regional planning is largely about managing and structuring physical development in cities to make them more sustainable and viable and better to live in. Today, about half of the world's population lives in cities and the number is growing. This also increases the need for smart city planning.

Usually when building new, it is done in built-up areas. There you have to make the town denser without compromising on green spaces, playgrounds and the quality of life. The innovation project the other COWI Try students and I work with this summer starts with a completely new town - Sollihøgda Plussby - where expansion will take place from scratch and on green areas without existing buildings. The cities of the future must be based on environmentally friendly transport methods and collective transport opportunities should form the backbone of the city structure. At the same time, the city should have an environmentally friendly urban structure and good places to stay.

Sollihøgda Plussby will be laid out so that no one needs to own a car and the transport modes must be environmentally friendly. In order to create efficient transport, it is necessary to place homes and businesses near good transport hubs. We have the ability to influence how people move through the surroundings and environments we create. As a city planner, I hope to be able to contribute to this.

Planning is future oriented and is about establishing a model for the future, as the project at Sollihøgda aims at doing. The cities of the future must be "smart" cities. They must use resources better, be energy efficient and have smart solutions for homes, transport, buildings and infrastructure. We need to make sure that the cities, while becoming denser, are places where people have access to what they need; good streets for walking, local shops, accessible transport, schools and parks, to create a good quality of life. If we only set up buildings and forget about what happens between them and what creates a society, we will soon see that the quality of life disappears as cities change.

What does the urban future hold?

In the future, will we stop going out, sit at cafes, relax in parks or do the things we do in our spare time today? I do not think so. I rather think that the cities of the future will help us to do these things even more. A city with shorter distances between important tasks and functions allows the creation of outdoor environments that promote walking and cycling, play and recreation. I think this will have a positive impact on the health of citizens and that it raises the quality of life in the city in general.

The future will offer a significant concentration of self-driving electric vehicles that will reduce the need for parking and traffic. This will change the way a city and its infrastructure work. One can imagine a city that is shaped to the rhythm of its inhabitants - cities will become healthier, easier to move in, safer and more productive.

Sollihøgda Plussby is an opportunity and a learning area for conversion to a more sustainable urban community, both socially, financially and environmentally. It has the potential for developing and implementing new solutions. Cities are important for economic development and growth, new knowledge, creativity and innovation. At the same time, they must facilitate a good quality of life. The challenges must be solved through cooperation across sectors and areas of expertise, and this is what we get the opportunity to do through COWI Try.

I am looking forward to spending the summer together with other students from other disciplines to work together on a challenging and exciting innovation project. I look forward to both learning from them and being inspired to think outside the box. I think that this work will be important in the coming years.

Read more about the COWI Try programme

Hedda Sæther Rosenlund

Hedda Sæther Rosenlund

25 years


Urban and regional planning, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

COWI department:
Spatial planning and landscape architecture (Oslo)