I have been through the Västra Hamnen area of Malmö a few times now, and written about it before, but this was my first time visiting with a design perspective, and without the welfare of 30 undergraduates on my mind. Daniaparken is one of my favorite places on the planet, it shaped the way I view urban development and in a large part inspired me to pursue environmental design! It’s also an incredible place to get tan, swim, and people watch in the summer.

Daniaparken was designed as part of an international competition in 1999 by Thorbjorn Andersson  and PeGe Hillinge with Sweco Architects. The first few times I visited this park, it was in the summer when it was packed full of people sunbathing, picnicking and pushing baby strollers around.

During my most recent visit in late September the park was nearly devoid of people, which gave me the opportunity to reflect on the tremendous way in which the space is layered.

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Plan sketch of the northern part of Daniaparken, exhibiting how the park is ‘layered’ from east (top) to west (bottom/waterfront)
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Section sketch through Daniaparken

The park has several paths that bound the lawn, each with either half-walls or shrubs that create moments of privacy. The plantings at different heights create a sense of privacy between the restaurant patios, apartments, as well as each set of paths and the lawn. There are also a series of elevated and walled-off seating areas along the lawn and waterfront. The design creates so many places for people to be on display (lawns, walls, benches), or for more private moments (behind shrubs, walled-off seating areas, tree cover).

Not to mention that the fall colors are so rich and gorgeous! Dusty greens, grays, golds, purple, and shades of red and maroon capture the restrained and refined palette that I have come to associate with Scandinavia, and Sweden in particular. This park feels like the centerpiece of the development to me, and with good reason — it is gorgeous and restrained, but still complex in the ways it allows the body to inhabit the different spaces it creates; and despite the number of layers and textures, nothing detracts from the real focus — the water. The cross-section is really incredible in the way that it provides so many different ways to see and feel the water.

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Gorgeous fall plantings

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A series of swimming platforms

This lawn north of Daniaparken exhibits the way in which a pared-down design can be very successful. This lawn allows the Øresund strait to be the focus of the space. The lawn has lots of open space for lounging, but the little grove of trees toward the southwest provides an opportunity for shade and privacy, and shelters the homes from the hustle and bustle of summertime crowds.

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To the south of the waterfront there are more plazas and seating steps; like William Whyte told us — if you give people places to sit, they will sit there… And while it’s not apparent in these photos, this place is swarmed in summertime.

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More waterfront seating opportunities

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Houseboats! Probably the fanciest in all the land…

I chose to be based in the Skåne region because I just really love Malmö. It is charming and has many of the big-city things I like without the big-city bustle of Copenhagen or Stockholm that can make me anxious. Västra Hamnen, canals, and architecture that spans the 1400s to now. It also only takes about 15 minutes by bike or bus to be in the countryside!

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Lilla Torg, Malmo

However, I still think that the turning torso is a little ridiculous — an incredible architecture feat, but still so incredibly… upright… on the skyline.

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From the northwest,  around the central train station
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From the south end of the Vastra Hamnen development

And on my ride back to Alnarp, I witnessed a first: Swedish rush hour. Even Swedes have to deal with rush hour it seems.

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