The Common Roof Kitchen creates a temporary place where local residents can share drinks, meals, recipes, and stories from their everyday life, as well as dreams about Fittja and its future. Students from the Design for the Living World class constructed a roof, tables, and benches to make an area in front of the kitchen window of the Residence Botkyrka for the Open Cafe, a project by OPENrestaurant. In an exchange of goods for knowledge, the students collected local breads and recipes and created the Bread Library. In conversations with local residents and the collectives Kultivator and OPENrestaurant, we discussed a new identity for Fittja, envisioning a self-sustainable future based on urban agriculture.
Our vision for Fittja’s future and new identity would be the creation of an urban farm on the open land on the south side of the town. Having an urban farm here makes sense: Fittja is located on the border between the rural and the urban, with large-scale agricultural fields beginning nearby, only fifteen minutes away by bicycle. The farm, which would be middle-sized and based on sustainable farming principles, would be cultivated and managed by local residents. This connection between the rural and urban cultures would provide the main element in the search for Fittja’s new identity, turning one of Stockholm’s declining modernist satellite cities into a resilient town with a new culture of living.
The Common Roof Kitchen and the Fittja Urban Farm we envision are catalysts for transforming the community. Can Fittja become a prototype for a sustainable city on the outskirts of Stockholm?
Title: Fittja – The Common Roof Kitchen
Date: 22 September–21 October, 2012
Location: Fittja Open, Fittja, Sweden.
The Class of the Design for the Living World in collaboration with: the Royal Institute of Art (Stockholm), Kultivator (Dyestad, Sweden), and OPENrestaurant (San Francisco).
Students: Bernhard Niklaas Karger, Johanna Padge (Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle), Till Richter, William Schwartz, Mai Shirato, Julia Suwalski, and Nuriye Tohermes.
Supported by: the Botkyrka Konsthall and the Residence Botkyrka, Botkyrka, Sweden.
Relational Objects: The Chicken Coop (Kultivator), The Common Roof Kitchen and The Bread Library (Design for the Living World HFBK), The Open Cafe (OPENrestaurant).
Performative Actions: collecting recipes and cooking together with residents, construction of tables, roundtable discussions.
Learning by Doing, Performing, Exchanging, Communicating
Interview with Marjetica Potrč, Amanda Eicher, Ryo Yonami, Nuriye Tohermes & Mai Shirato
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Fittja – The Common Roof Kitchen
Background & Recent Projects for Reimagining Fittja
Fittja, a satellite city of Stockholm, was designed and constructed as part of the Million Programme initiated by the Swedish Social Democratic Party in 1970; the aim was to build one million new dwellings in Sweden in a ten-year period.
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The Common Roof Kitchen was constructed in the wood shop at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm by Bernhard, Nuriye and Till, three students in the Design for the Living World class, who worked closely with the wood shop instructor Annette Felleson; in the process, Annette became a friend of the class. The roof was set in place in front of a window in the Residence Botkyrka (www.residencebotkyrka.se) in Fittja in half a day, right next to the entrance to the tower block at Krögarvägen 26. The roof is designed as a funnel form that, metaphorically, creates a communication channel between the Residence Botkyrka and the people of Fittja. The structure is stabilized using the structural principle of tensegrity: the balance of push and pull. After the Fittja Open festival ended, the roof was reinstalled at the Kultivator farm.
A Community Space
Students from the Design for the Living World class, adapting designs from the project Gerichte auf Tischen, constructed the roof, tables, and benches for the Common Roof Kitchen, a temporary space where tower block residents and others in the area could meet, eat, and chat. Here, neighbours talked with neighbours. In this way, the project drew attention to the importance of community spaces in a declining modernist neighbourhood. The Common Roof Kitchen served as a relational object that engaged local residents in community building. During Fittja Open, the window of the Residence Botkyrka, through which the OPENrestaurant offered food and drinks, was one of the rare ground-floor windows in Fittja that wasn’t barred.
The Bread Library
The Bread Library was all about the exchange of goods and knowledge. People were given half a kilo of flour to make bread, which they then brought back to the Common Roof Kitchen. During our stay in Fittja, Julia, Johanna, Mai, and William made bread with Fittja residents and collected local breads and recipes, which they used to create the Bread Library. The many different kinds of bread testified to the town’s multicultural character. The Bread Library was displayed in cupboards at the Common Roof Kitchen. Mai made rain-protection coverings for the cupboards.
Nature Meets Fittja’s Residents
Fittja, one of Stockholm’s satellite cities, lies in the midst of green land near Lake Alby. Yet, paradoxically, when you live there, nature feels strangely distant. This is something we learned at the Future Fittja workshop in May, which was held with students from the Royal Institute of Art at the Residence Botkyrka. Can a changed relationship with nature enhance the quality of life in Fittja and give the town a new identity? What is nature beyond green surroundings we look at? Can the food we eat and the water we drink make us more aware of our place in the natural cycle? When we arrived in Fittja in September for the festival Open Fittja, a chicken coop with three hens and a rooster was already set up in front of the Residence Botkyrka.
It had been constructed by the group Kultivator, a collective of farmers, artists, and educators, who live in Dyestad, a small village on the island Öland in south-eastern Sweden. For a few days, Marlin and Mathieu took time away from their farming to engage with the children, and their parents, who spent whole days by the chicken coop – watching, feeding and talking to the chickens. The great chicken coop lesson was about the importance of animals in the human environment – all the more important in a modernist city that is trying to reinvent itself. Farm animals became a needed addition to the notion of living with nature in Fittja.
The Open Cafe was a performative action by the group OPENrestaurant that turned the window of the Residence Botkyrka into a place where knowledge was exchanged for food. Amanda, Ariel and Asiya prepared food, which they offered to visitors at the Open Cafe and to the children who came to see and feed the chickens. Several afternoons were dedicated to conversations between local residents and OPENrestaurant members about food habits in Fittja: people’s favourite dishes, where the food they eat comes from, their composting practices, and so on. Can the culture of living in Fittja be changed by an exchange of knowledge and goods with people from far away who have come here for only a limited time? We think this is possible. We could already see the seeds of change sprouting in conversations around the table in the Residence kitchen. Can the people of Fittja – who, as we saw with the Bread Library project, are so proud of their traditional cooking – become more interested in eating healthy food instead of the kind of junk food that causes obesity and related problems? The OPENrestaurant slogan, “We are what we cook”, seemed to strike a chord with Fittja residents.
We met Ayhan Aydin on the day our construction team finished the carpentry work for the Common Roof Kitchen. We had a small celebration around the table in the Residence’s kitchen. Ayhan is a great chef – we first ate his delicious cooking a few days later – and he also has great insights into life in Fittja. He lives in the town himself. As both a cook and a student in meal science and ecology, he helped us understand the challenges Fittja faces on the way to more sustainable future. His approach to farming draws from agroecology, which understands a farm as an agroecosystem and the agriculture are a part of local ecosystem. He talked to us about food habits in Fittja, the local grocery shops, the family vegetable gardens in the Kolonia allotments, and how all these things together offer the potential for thinking bigger: Imagine urban agriculture right here in Fittja.
The Fittja Urban Farm
Our vision for Fittja’s future and new identity would be the creation of an urban farm on the open land on the south side of the town. Based on sustainable farming principles, the middle-sized farm would be cultivated and managed by local residents. This connection between the rural and urban cultures would provide the main element in the search for Fittja’s new identity. Can Fittja become a prototype for a sustainable city on the outskirts of Stockholm?
The Urban Farm would benefit the people of Fittja by providing quality local food and a new occupation for a large number of local residents – many people in Fittja are immigrants with rural backgrounds who are familiar with growing vegetables and, as the Kolonia allotment gardens show, are successful at it.
The Urban Farm would bring a new identity to Fittja, one that overturns the stigmatized image of the modernist satellite city and offers instead the example of a city with a new culture of living. Fittja is considered one of the poorest of Stockholm’s satellite cities, with the least integration of minority populations. By engaging residents, quite literally, in nature, a new positive identity would emerge and transform the meaning of satellite cities. The Fittja Urban Farm would represent a new balance between urban and rural cultures at a time when cities are searching for ways to live sustainably and asking questions about food safety. The Urban Farm would also attract Stockholm residents, who would visit Fittja’s farmers’ market and learn about different approaches to vegetable growing, from the Kolonia allotments to the urban farm to “edible schoolyards”. They could also visit another educational open farm in the area, where they would learn about the cycles of nature, organic farming, composting, farm animals, and the use of rainwater harvesting for irrigation, and also buy fresh eggs, milk, and cheese.
Why Fittja? Having an urban farm here makes sense: Fittja is located on the border between the rural and the urban, with large-scale agricultural fields beginning nearby, only fifteen minutes away by bicycle. Currently, land cultivation in Sweden is unevenly balanced between large- and small-scale farming, which includes organic farms. The Fittja Urban Farm would be an example of a middle-sized farm, a missing link in the S-M-L understanding of the world.
Water is also an important part of the way people engage with nature. The Fittja Water Passage, a planned water treatment project by the Botkyrka Municipality, which will be located on the south side of Fittja, would supply water for irrigating the farm’s fields. A nearby drinking water station, where the water is purified through constructed wetlands, would be an example of nature’s ability to restore itself. When people drank the water, they would be participating in the natural water cycle.
Two Case Studies
During our stay in Fittja, we became increasingly curious about two local efforts as possible case studies: the Kolonia allotment gardens and the Verdandi Community Centre.
The Kolonia allotment gardens, on Fittja’s south side, provide additional food for Fittja residents and create an exchange economy: the people who grow the food stop short of selling it for money.
The Verdandi Community Centre, which began as an initiative for empowering women, eventually developed into a number of commercial enterprises, including a café, weaving and sewing workshops, and the highly successful second-hand shop Garaget, which has set up a small recycling centre on its premises. Both the Kolonia allotments and the Verdandi Community Centre are essentially community-building efforts that embrace the idea of the barter economy – the exchange of goods and services – while Verdandi has also developed bottom-up commercial enterprises.
We wondered if deregulation might open up a space in the over-regulated Swedish society for more creativity and involvement by ordinary people and help to boost the local economy. If so, both citizens and policy makers would win.
A Vision for Fittja’s Sustainable Future
The transformation of Fittja from a satellite city of Stockholm to a thriving city that generates a local economy begins with the harvesting of local knowledge and resources.
The main feature of the proposed vision is an Urban Farm, a symbolic project for a city in search of a new identity. The Urban Farm is a place where food is grown and goods and services are exchanged, but it is also a commercial enterprise, where the sale of vegetables benefits those who cultivate the land. The farm is a tool for changing the culture of living in Fittja. It is also a place where local residents learn self-management and engage in the rights of citizenship. They are empowered as citizens and aware of their own ability to create change. They understand and appreciate their own skills, resources, and creativity. They produce, exchange, and sell food, and also recycle waste. They understand the importance of the local loop of consumption and production.
A recycling centre and workshop, where people can reuse construction material, is also a place of production. A new quality of life unites ecological building construction and DIY construction with new forms of living, such as cooperative housing.
The harvesting of renewable natural resources – such as using wind and solar energy, or rainwater for household use and irrigation – makes Fittja less dependent on the centralized infrastructure.
The people of Fittja reclaim their community and their citizenship on the basis of a rural–urban coexistence at a time when we are seeing a “reverse migration” – people coming from the cities to the countryside in search of a new and more sustainable culture of living.
The World According to Fittja
Today, Sweden is one of only a few countries in the European Union that do not support social housing, i.e. the construction of state-subsidized residential housing. The social state as we know it from the 1970s and 1980s is in dramatic decline, while at the same time cities are questioning their ability to survive in the neoliberal present and in the face of climate change. Created as a satellite city of Stockholm, Fittja presents what is essentially a social-housing living environment. Well connected by metro to Stockholm, it remains primarily a bedroom community – a place to sleep after returning home from work somewhere else.
Our proposal puts Fittja’s local human and natural resources to use and creates spaces for growing food (the urban farm) and production (the recycling centre). In short, this new vision for Fittja adds a vibrant local economy to the current suburban reality, transforming the satellite city into a thriving city with its own economy, which becomes more self-sufficient and therefore more resilient as it gradually closes the local loop of consumption and production. A movement of people and goods is generated from and to Fittja: for instance, local ecological produce is traded to Stockholm, and reverse migration brings in new settlers from Stockholm. While being a local story, Fittja’s reinvention also inspires other cities to follow its example in the search for a new and sustainable culture of living.
The Common Roof Kitchen project is also published on the website of Department of Design, HFBK