This Design For A Dense City Lets You Walk From Roof To Roof

Stockholm is growing fast. Is the solution to create new streets in the sky?

As the fastest-growing city in Europe, Stockholm has a basic housing problem: Because it’s built on islands with limited space, there’s little room left to squeeze in the next million-plus residents. And–as in cities like San Francisco–any attempts to build new skyscrapers tend to be met with opposition from people who want the city to look the way it does today.


So when architect Anders Berensson designed a proposal for a new neighborhood of high-rises in downtown Stockholm, he took a slightly different approach than usual. The buildings are lined up over a railway leading to the city’s central train station, on previously unusable land. Each building is at a different height, maximizing light. And a network of paths that cross from roof to roof turns the skyline into a new public park.

“Since we’re building so centrally in Stockholm, it kind of belongs to all of Stockholm,” he says. “I thought the skywalk was a way to sort of give back something to all the people who will not live there. … It’s also a great possibility to look over Stockholm since we’re building a high-rise town.” About half of the roofs in the design are connected to the path, so someone could walk from their own roof garden and take a stroll, several stories above the city.

Unlike a typical city block in Stockholm, each building would get as much sunlight as possible. “Since we’re on the same latitude as Alaska, more or less, the sun is at quite a low angle,” says Berensson. “On a normal block, the sun doesn’t really come down to the street.” The new design divides each block so taller buildings alternate with shorter ones, ensuring that the sun can reach ground-level shops and apartments at least part of each day.

Berensson thinks that making the city denser is the most sustainable approach for the future. “By building in existing parts of the city, you already have the infrastructure, and you don’t have to build it again,” he says. “Also, in Stockholm, there’s a lot of people starting to bike, a whole generation who don’t have drivers licenses. I think it’s really smart to build in the center of the city.”

The local response has been surprisingly positive so far; in a survey of 5,000 residents in a local paper, 85% liked the idea. Sweden’s opposition party, the Center Party, commissioned the design and hope to build it–but if that happens, it won’t begin until 2018.


About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.