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. The modernist design of the apartment buildings, in the middle of a green landscape with lots of public spaces and convenient public facilities, such as schools and libraries, as well as good connection to Stockholm by metro, was supposed to make such satellite cities attractive to both people from Stockholm and new immigrants. Viewed as an environment that would create “good democratic citizens” and an open society, this attempt at integrating different social and ethnic groups was ultimately a failure. Today, Fittja – home to some 7,500 people, of whom more than half are of non-Swedish origin – is stigmatized as one of poorest and most socially segregated of Stockholm’s satellite cities.
Recent Projects for Reimagining Fittja
The Botkyrka Municipality and the public housing corporations that manage the apartment buildings and public spaces in Fittja have been trying to reverse the town’s negative image. To do so, they have recently initiated several projects:
Greening public spaces
Wide pedestrian areas in Fittja are elevated above traffic and parking – an example of the separation between pedestrians and cars that is typical of modernist cities. When the town was constructed in the 1970s, the walkways were seen as ideal public spaces, open and accessible to all. In the 1990s, these same areas became a no-man’s land in the public perception. In 2012, in an effort to avert the ongoing degradation of the public space, raised planting beds were installed, which reduced the walkable surface by half. Although they bring more nature to Fittja, people do not engage with them: they cannot walk on these new green areas or cultivate them.
The water treatment project:
In May 2012, the Botkyrka Municipality organized a workshop to envision the Fittja Water Passage; it brought together municipal representatives, landscape architects, and community activists. Originally planned for 2013 but currently postponed, the Fittja Water Passage, an open stream on the south side of the town, will be a water treatment project. Polluted storm water from the area – which is classified as a water protection area – will be purified through two constructed wetlands, at the beginning of its release into the stream on the west side of Fittja, and at the end of its course in a marshy waterfront and future flood plain (in anticipation of climate change and future floods), before it reaches the Alby Lake. The Fittja Water Passage is an ecological and educational project. But, like the project for greening public spaces, the Fittja Water Passage does nothing to engage local residents with nature.