Embrace Karlskoga

Karlskoga (SE) - Winner


Associates: Corne Strootman (NL), Christiaan Smits (NL) – landscape architects

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VIDEO (by the team)

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1. How did you form the team for the competition?
We are friends that know each other from University. After working in design offices for a few years we saw Europan as an opportunity to test our design skills.

2. How do you define the main issue of your project, and how did you answer on this session main topic, Living cities?
Karlskoga is situated on the edge of the beautiful lake Möckeln, between forests and open meadows. We propose a new sustainable and inclusive district. This is achieved not by making something entirely new, but by embracing the qualities Karlskoga already has. Allowing for new synergies to develop between nature, the built environment and different social classes. In this way we answer the Europan 16 challenge to transform the site into an ecosystem between nature and culture. 

3. How did the issues on metabolic and inclusive vitalities and the questions raised by the site mutation meet?
The Europan jury was spot on when they identified the qualities of the existing landscape as our starting point. By analyzing the natural conditions from the regional level down to the site, embedding our project within the urban fabric of Karlskoga and latching on to developments in the region like the new railway station we were able to develop site-specific solutions that improve the ecology on and surrounding the site and contribute to a more diverse and inclusive Karlskoga for generations to come.
4. Have you treated this issue previously? What were the reference projects that inspired yours?
We actually did a competition together a few years ago when we were still studying. It was for the transformation of a monument for Belgian refugees during the first world war, the goal was to alter the monument so that it would include casualties of the modern refugee crisis as well. We proposed a strategy that used the qualities of the gardens surrounding the monument, natural processes and the behaviour of the visitors to create a new context for the existing built structure. Although we did not win that time around, we strongly believed in our strategy and design principles. Many of the same principles of site specificity, ecology and connecting to the existing context were applied in ‘Embrace Karlskoga’.
5. Urban-architectural projects like the ones in Europan can only be implemented together with the actors through a negotiated process and in time. How did you consider this issue in your project?
As we mentioned, ‘Embrace Karlskoga’ latches on to developments in the region and in this way embeds itself in the ongoing regional development process of Karlskoga. The proposal should be seen more as a framework, than a masterplan. It could be implemented partially, or in phases over time. It even has the flexibility to  be altered to meet societal changes, keeping in mind the core qualities and design principles of the proposal.

6. Is it the first time you have been awarded a prize at Europan? How could this help you in your professional career?
We appreciate the potential of the Europan competition to give young architects a platform where they can compete with each other and connect with municipalities looking for young creative professionals. Corne won a prize in Europan15 with a team that is now the design start-up ‘KOLLEKTIEF’ (kollketief.net). Their proposal for the Rotterdam, Groot-IJsselmonde site led to a number of follow-up projects that are still ongoing. The competition and follow up assignments stimulated us to develop and trust our way of working and our instinct as designers.

Function: Landscape architects
Average age of the associates: 29 years old

Has your team, together or separately, already conceived or implemented some projects and/or won any competition? if yes, which ones?
Christiaan has been working with ‘De Fruitproeverij’ situated in the central parts of the Netherlands since 2013. Here he has been designing a landscape experience revolving around all the aspects of growing fruits and vegetables. Corne won a prize in Europan15, which led to a number of follow-up projects. He also won a number of prizes and grants for his work with film, recently he was Artist in Residence at the Kunstmeile in Krems (AT).
Does your team share a common workplace? if yes, give us a short description:
Apart from a kick-off where we sat around a table together and drew the rough outlines of our plan and defined our ground principles together. Living in different countries in pandemic times led to us mostly working in the digital world.