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How to create cities with a strong identity

The identity of a city or a residential area is becoming increasingly important for where people choose to live. We at ÅF have extensive experience of being involved in creating attractive places with a strong identity.

Cecilia Clase, architect and partner at Koncept, why is this the case?

“We live in a world where technical developments are moving faster and faster, changing the way virtually all target groups behave and consume. In a rapidly changing world with major opportunities, but also concerns about the future, it’s increasingly important to have a clear identity that supports and inspires, with communities/environments that people want to identify with and work in. We’ve been working on these issues for 20 years and have created tools to enable dialogue-based work that has produced many visible results in the form of attractive places with an identity. We are now seeing an increased understanding of a design process based on research/analysis that aims to create competitive advantages through design that creates identity. It’s about an intellectual approach and a process of dialogue, in which it’s important to do your homework before you design and continuously justify decisions by asking the question ‘Why?’ throughout the whole design process.”

Ulf Gustavsson, business developer, give us an example of a city that has achieved good results with this.

“I think Uppsala is a city that is doing the right thing. Plenty of life in the city centre, shops, culture and restaurants, the large number of students creates a pulse and an academic feel, collaboration between property owners and plenty of innovation. I think that Scandic Haymarket is a good example of how to create an identity in the city.”

How can a city build a strong identity?

Cecilia’s and Ulf’s best tips for municipalities that want to build a stronger identity

1. Don’t just look at what others have done or are doing

Each community is unique in its own way, and a strong identity is also based on what is genuine. You possess the ingredients to use as a basis for your development.

2. Bring together important key individuals in the city

Let politicians, property owners, business operators, etc. identify what is unique and important for the city, what works and what doesn’t.

3. Seek help from social planners and architects

Let those who know people’s needs today and tomorrow inspire you, so that you don’t become stuck in the old ways, but open up your eyes to new opportunities and directions.

4. Invest in skilled, long-term entrepreneurs and ambassadors

With a strong vision and objective, you can attract the actors you want to have, and make them part of the place’s history and identity.