Långbordet Invites People to Socialize Beyond Imaginary Borders

“Conversations along the table are casual but intense. Teenagers laugh, schoolboys complain, and locals maintain social distancing. Children’s voices suggest a party. The long table, meandering across the park, seems to stretch for miles.”

White Arkitekter scripted these sentiments for a landscaping competition in Helsingborg. Furutorpsplatsen posed challenges like exclusion and segregation, explains Taiga Koponen from White Arkitekter.

“The goal with the project was to redesign a public place and make it safer with a temporary meeting place,” explains Taiga. Långbordet began with this site-specific project where White Arkitekter collaborated with artist Ebba Matz, as well as locals. “We wanted a design all people could relate to, something familiar yet functional,” says Taiga. “Creating spaces for spontaneous meetings was a priority, so a long table felt right.”

White Arkitekter contacted Nola, who eagerly joined. Nola played a key role in realizing the design, manufacturing, delivering, and installing the tables and seating. “When developing new products for public spaces, we think about increasing the attractiveness of the environment,” explains Agneta Stake, founder at Nola. “We consider each place’s needs, which can vary greatly.”

The table’s winding ‘S’ shape was developed with local input from workshops. Designing the table to interact with its surroundings was crucial. The ‘S’ shape symbolizes ‘south,’ resonating with residents’ pride in their southern city identity.

“The table winds between cherry trees, meaning you can sit under trees,” says Taiga. The table needed to support activities from picnics to flea markets and provide accessibility for prams, wheelchairs, and walkers. Openings in the benches allow people of all ages and abilities to participate.

The architects questioned if design alone could combat exclusion and segregation. “We look at broader perspectives in urban development projects,” explains Taiga. “Sustainability from all aspects is key. It’s about features that activate locations and attract people throughout the day. Activities make areas safer, and with attractive designs, we can make them comfortable for a long time.”

“What addressed social issues was the vision for togetherness,” adds Agneta. “Opportunities for people to meet, talk, sit, and eat together were created. Unlike individual tables or park benches, Långbordet invited community members to socialize beyond borders.”

Originally a temporary design, Långbordet lives on today, proving its success. The concept applies to many places, especially where changing social dynamics is a goal. It brings people together and activates dormant spaces.

Recently, White Arkitekter installed Långbordet outside their offices in Södermalm, Stockholm. The site, previously disregarded, became a gathering place for food trucks. Now, with Långbordet, it’s a place for conversations over a meal, just like the first version in Helsingborg.

Published on July 1, 2024

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