How the Redesign of Kungsbacka Square Respects the History of a Site
Article by Miriam Judith González Bolívar
Kungsbacka Square , by White Architects, in Kungsbacka, Sweden
Some places embed strong roots in the memories of their inhabitants. Unfortunately, over time, these important places may be replaced and forgotten. The memory remains dormant, waiting to resurface to help new generations understand the meaning those places once held for their community. Awakening this history and restoring it to the social and visual environment is no easy task.
How do we revive the nostalgia of the past?
Kungsbacka is a municipality in Halland, located in southwest Sweden. It is a picturesque town characterized by its wooden houses from the Nineteenth Century.
In the heart of Kungsbacka, a church that had once been the heart of the community had been replaced by a parking lot. White Architects took on the challenge of revitalizing the dead square and honoring the place.
Back in the 1980s, the city of Kungsbacka had big plans for square, including shopping malls, a food hall, and an underground parking lot. By the 1990s, the project was close to being developed, but city officials had rejected the plans as unsightly.
The final project, completed in 2012, consists of three important layers: The Square, the Cherry Copse, and the Pedestrian Street.
The plaza covers a total of 7,500 square meters revolving around the site of the old church. Paving plays a central role in the design.
A checkered pattern defines the entire square, respecting the town’s grid of roads. The checkered grounds provide the versatility to host different events, meetings, and functions of this public space.
Another ground pattern delineates the contours of the former church. Benches have been arranged to remind visitors of religious services, filling the center of the square. Flowerpots in the corners mark the boundaries of the church space.
These two different paving textures are made out of quarry by Hallindens Granite model Tossene gray bohus. This mineral has as its main components the shells and skeletons of so-called fossils, tested by SP, the Swedish National Testing and Research Institute. This mineral has a matte surface and is slip resistant, making it ideal for open spaces.
At night, the center of the square is the principal attraction. The church benches are illuminated and the altar acts like a lampshade on the floor, becoming the only bright spot in the whole space. This creates a really nice and warm ambiance for pedestrians.
For this special transformation of Kungsbacka Square, Nola Industries, a Swedish company that has created award-winning designs for the urban landscape, had the assignment of designing custom urban furniture to commemorate the old church that once stood in the square.
This furniture includes two kinds of benches:
- Church bench: This bench has a contemporary design that combines with the outdoor space. The streamlined benches have a versatile design that can be arranged in different sizes. The dimensions of these benches are 140.5×0.50×0.55m, 0.45m. They are made up of individual panels of steel plate, zinc-electroplated gold-chrome and powder-coated of 5 inches thick, pain slats have a 40mmx92mm measure. The seat is made of pine. These benches are low maintenance and able to withstand harsh weather conditions.
- Kajen bench: This bench was created from wooden slats. This bench can be adapted to other Kajen series, with back-head and footrest or standard bench with backrest and armrest, making it a versatile bench. Dimensions vary as with the church bench; lengths vary from 1.20 to 3.00 m, height, 0.46 m and depth 0.40 m. Seat and backrest are crafted in slats made from alkyd oil enameled pine.
The square itself has a strong presence in the city. In contrast to the tough, checkered paving of the square, a simple but lovely copse of cherry trees has been added to smooth the contrast of textures. The function of the canopy works as a seasonal transition; the cherry trees are a guideline that announces the changing of the seasons. The perimeter of trees also works as a border for the square.
The renovation of the square has meant an increase in pedestrian traffic. Pedestrianization has become something very popular and friendly to the environment and inhabitants.
With the renovation of the square, it was natural to revitalize the surroundings to give a different aspect to what it was. The municipality decided to convert Norra Street, at the northern end of the square, into a car-free road. Now, pedestrians can move freely from place to place. This allows for outdoor spaces for commerce, such as open-air cafes and benches where people can sit.
The decision to convert Norra Street into a pedestrian zone triggered a series of disagreements with local shop owners, because of the introduction of new rules related to the square. They said the square was too much “empty space”. However, the municipality bet on the appeal of outdoor spaces. (Well done!)
Modernization Reconciling with History
The successful integration of modern elements into a historical place blurs the limits between them, integrating them harmoniously and aesthetically. Taking back forgotten places without leaving behind traces of the present is important when revitalizing sites.
Once again, Kungsbacka Square is a space for reunions and meetings. It is a place that respects history, and where this history meets the present, it brings back the place Kungsbacka Square used to be, giving residents a new space for recreation, relaxation, and something very important: the reintegration of the square to the community. Now, new generations will know part of the history of their town.
Do you know a renovation project that respects the history of a place?
Full Project Credits For the Kungsbacka Square :
Project Name: Kungsbacka Square
Location: Kungsbacka, Sweden
Landscape Architecture: White Arkitekter
Client: Kungsbacka Municipality
Project Date: 2009-2012
Area: 7,500 square meters
Cost: 22 million SEK
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