The Briggen Park Passage, situated behind an existing food market (named Saluhallen Briggen), could be described as an opportunistic project. The budget was extremely low, resulting in partially pro bono design work and making the building process a long one. But it also contributed to several simple yet creative solutions that give the notion of sustainable design a new dimension.
The food market Saluhallen Briggen is situated in central Gothenburg. The district is known for its bars, restaurants and bohemian nightlife with all the positive and negative aspects it brings to the residents there. The project area, an inner courtyard behind the food market, was during daytime a car park and at night a dark back alley frequently visited by the police. The neighborhood itself dates to late 19th century and has very little public greenery. Therefore, the main task for this assignment was transforming the courtyard into an inviting and safe urban oasis – a welcoming park passage through a city block. Although the initial ambition was to transform the whole courtyard, financial strain meant that only a part of it could be focused on, hence the name of the project Briggen Park Passage.
Despite both the municipality and the landowner (a municipal company itself) being interested in the courtyard being transformed, the project had a very low budget. In order to meet the financial strains, the team approached the assignment in another way. It was agreed that the landscape architects would initially make just an overall concept for the passage and thereafter step by step produce more drawings on the benches, lighting posts and planting schemes that were often simple hand drawn sketches. On the other hand, the municipality would use their own employees to build the landscape and the furniture according to the drawings and sketches. The construction team included people that for one reason or another had difficulties getting back to working life, and this project provided an opportunity of work training. Most of the materials used in the project were leftovers from other municipal projects. For example, the timber used for the benches, lighting masts, edging and partially for paving, as well as for the play sculpture were produced from storm fallen oaks. Waiting for the wood to dry and then cutting it to correct size required time too. The granite cobbles were second hand material from other rebuilding projects in the city. Through this approach the low budget was met, but it also resulted in the construction to drag on for nearly two years. The construction team kept changing as workers came and went, they had to prioritize other projects with a higher budget causing more delay, and in the end a few more planks of oak had to be ordered as there wasn’t quite enough good quality storm fallen timber left. During this long process our role as simply being architects and designers transformed into being something of a link between several construction stages and different workers through actively visiting the construction site and participating in meetings. But in the end, it resulted in a good and honest collaboration between all involved parties.
One of the positive aspects of the long construction process was that it gave us time to find a bit more funding to realize additional important details. First, it was possible to sketch and build a small raingarden that filtrates water from the food market’s roof. Second, thanks to a newspaper article we got in touch with a Chilean mural painter named charquipunk, who was visiting Gothenburg for another event, so we requested a painting from him to encapsulate the urban jungle where the park passage is set.
The idea of a hidden pocket of jungle in this urban neighborhood is reflected in the newly planted shrubs and perennials too. The new plantings are species rich and wild in their character – through this biodiversity is increased while the maintenance costs can be kept low. Wood is used as the main material for details such as benches, edges and lighting posts. It is sustainable, creates a wholeness in the passage, adds softness and warmth, and complements the surrounding brick walls.
We started the description by calling this project opportunistic – whenever there was a piece of material, information or knowledge lying around, we’d pick it up and use it. But it is equally a story of personal engagement, passion and drive of the core project group to change a forgotten corner of a neighborhood into an urban oasis.
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: charquipunk (mural painter)
Project location: Nordhemsgatan 28, 413 06 Gothenburg, Sweden
Design year: 2013-2016
Year Built: 2015-2017