The location
Vårbergstoppen, south of Stockholm city, is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. The area offers a variety of activities such as hiking, biking, picnicking, and enjoying the beautiful views. In the winter, the hills are perfect for sledding and skiing. It consists of two heights next to each other, with a breathtaking view of Stockholm and the water surrounding the city. One of them, Vikingaberget, “Viking mountain” is Stockholm’s highest natural point at 77 meters above sea level. The other one is an artificial land formation whose highest plateau measures 90 meters above sea level.

Starting in the 60s several hilltops like these was built on fill from the expansion of the subway and the housing construction by the initiative of the well-known architect and city gardener of Stockholm, Holger Blom. The peaks were given sculptural forms that would contrast with the natural landscape and were intended to be used as recreational areas, for winter sports, walks and as viewpoints. The construction continued between 1965 and 1982.

The assignment
In 2017, the mission to equip the area as more of an urban park began. The refurbishment was the single largest investment within Stockholm City’s initiative “Greener Stockholm”, a vision which, in short, aims to ensure that the city’s green qualities are maintained and developed as the city grows. The assignment included refining the natural and recreational values ​​that already existed on the site by adding a playground area for children, youngsters and families.

The development was carried out in two parts:
– The adventure, which is the larger new landmark and meeting place with play and activity area.
– The fairy-tale forest, which is next to the adventure and is a more small-scale nature-adapted play environment.

The ideas
There was already a lot of qualities and play-value at the sight. The contrast between the steep man-made slope and the natural forest next to it created a special atmosphere. Two different landscapes, with different age, spatiality, scale and vegetation. We wanted the additions connect to the existing structure in a natural way but at the same time to pop out and arouse interest.

The adventure challenges the visitor to experience the land formations – exploring, climbing, playing and hanging out on the slopes, which were previously relatively inaccessible with bushes and thickets. The green character of the slope was preserved and integrated in the play area, consisting of stairs, ropes, nets, huts, platforms, and slides, including Stockholm’s longest. At the top, the view is magnificent.

The fairytale forest integrates elements of the forest into the playground. Materials such as stones, boulders, stumps and tree trunks are used and refined into play equipment. There is for example the forest restaurant with a stove, pots, chairs and tables, and the tree trunk leopards made of trunks from the site.

A more eye-catching recurring feature is the spheres that appears in both the Adventure and the Fairy Forest. Abstract enough, one can imagine them to be anything from UFOs to large acorns or bird nests.
An area for people to gather, with benches and tables, grills, and a stage for performances connects to the different play-areas along with an open grass field for picnics and ball games.

Preserving the existing greenery and vegetation was a major focus of the work. Pine trees and aspens in the bramble zone to the forest, meadows with roses and sloe berries in the slopes. It was a challenge to be able to layout the playgrounds without making large wounds in the landscape.

Some additions of trees and bushes where also made, preferably species with beautiful leaves, unusual cones, berries, or flowers to play with. A few unexpected features such as exotic pines and topiary shaped bushes gives the feeling of visiting a slightly magical world and enhances the contrast between the natural and artificial landscape which is a large part of the park’s identity.

The process
During the design process, we prioritized site visits , to sketch on a scale 1:1. We also wanted to get to know the area as much as possible, how the landscape shifted with the seasons and how it was utilized by people at various times throughout the day.

At an early stage in the process, we held a citizen dialogue, which was carried out in collaboration with the district administration. Among other things, we organized public meetings on the site for visitors to give their opinion on the parks current and future use.

Overall, the refurbishment of Vårbergstoppen has not only added new recreational opportunities for residents and visitors but has also contributed to the overall green vision of Stockholm City. It serves as a model for how urban parks can be reimagined and revitalized to better serve the needs of a growing city while still preserving and enhancing its natural qualities.

The playgrounds were nominated for the Swedish Landscape Architecture Awards, Landmärket, in 2021.

Client: Trafikkontoret Stockholm Stad, Jean-Louis Dessalles

Photo credits: Clement Morin & Ulf Lundin

Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape: Tyréns (lighting and other parts of the park)

Architecture offices involved in the design: AndrénFogelström (spheres),

Location: Vårberg Skärholmen, Stockholm, Sweden. 59.272633560952556, 17.879527297420516

Design year: 2018-2019

Year Completed: 2019-2021


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