Urbio – life in the city

Urbio is a landscape architect office that aims to create high value urban environments by using research-based knowledge on ecosystem services and health benefits of nature in the city, in the design process. We believe that by integrating an array of different typologies of nature in the urban landscape, we can enhance health and wellbeing among people, develop nature pedagogical values that strengthen our bonds with the natural systems and at the same time achieve climate positive effects within our urban landscapes.

Urbio was founded in 2010 by landscape architect Mattias Gustafsson and has thirteen employees today. Urbio’s practice derives from both design development projects and research on sustainability. Our work is mainly developed around guiding principles of ecological and social responsibility, which are implemented in the projects – from squares and pocket parks to big-scale urban structures.

Urbio is an active voice in the Swedish debate on urban development and sustainability. Through articles and idea-projects, we want to inspire and provide innovative thoughts on how nature-based solutions can make the cityscape a better place for all kinds of life.

Our method – Red-Green-Blue urbanism

The name of the office, Urbio, is derived from the Latin words for “life” and “city” – and discovering the possible relationships between the two is our main focus. The way we do it is by Red-Green-Blue Urbanism – RGB – which is a method developed by the office, used in the design process of our landscape projects. The colours represent phenomena like human activity, materials such as rock, soil or vegetation and flow of water. Through this prismatic model of thought we explore and challenge ourselves as landscape architects. The aim is to find new ways that these ‘colours’ can be combined and take physical shape to generate synergy effects within our landscape projects.

Urbio believes that it’s when the blue, green and red colors intertwine that rich and healthy urban environments are accomplished. The goal of Red-Green-Blue Urbanism is to create sustainable urban landscapes that have a high ecological resilience and enriches experiences in people’s everyday lives.

Nature-inspired site interventions

Underneath every urban landscape, there’s an older natural and cultural landscape buried. By going beneath the surface of the contemporary landscape, the former nature can be revealed and rejuvenated. That’s the idea behind this concept project.

First, the underlying natural systems are identified. Then, they’re systematically strengthening with local, biotope-specific site interventions to developing a thriving and more robust green structure. By doing so, the green structures become a link between the past and a greener urban future.

The site interventions in this concept project are placed in the central parts of Stockholm. The projects are: “Tree Debris Towers” (the old oak landscape), “Esker Meadow” (dry meadows on the Stockholm Ice age ridge), Bunched Islets (man-made biological diversity islands) “Tarn Stages” (small, multifunctional lakes) and “Berry Aviary” (urban aviary berry groves).

Concept project for public areas

Space for the river and floodable park

Barkarby Mader is a nature park which, like a green-blue artery, will run through the urban landscape of Barkarby city. The existing stream is complemented by a meandering watercourse, floodplains that can harbour temporary increases in water and a variety of ecological interventions. In order to enhance biodiversity, the stream is enriched with natural elements such as dead wood, laid boulders and groups of shoreline vegetation. “The Mader”, which is a vast, floodable wetland landscape in the central part of the stream is also added.

The quay in the northwestern part has a more urban character, with public squares and recreational spaces. In this part, the stormwater from surrounding streets is purified in rain gardens.

Designfor public space | Client: Järfälla municipality | Team: WRS, SE’s Landskap |Area: 34ha

Rooftop garden with sauna and wild nature

When 14 new row-houses are built on top of an existing 1960’s building, the project also included a shared rooftop garden for the residents. From the rooftop garden – the view stretches for miles.

The concept is simple: The center of the elongated rooftop garden has more “arranged” functions such as an outdoor kitchen, communal seating, an orangery, cultivation boxes and a spa with a sauna. The edges of the rooftop garden have a wilder, more natural character with meadows and tucked away sun lounges. With this variety of functions and characters, you can have both social activities and places for privacy – all in a green surrounding.

Residential environment | Client: Brf Täppan | Team: Axeloth Arkitekter | Year of construction: 2017 | Area: 1,000 m2 | Image credits: Mikael Olsson

Floodable urban structures in an arctic climate

The research project “Beachfront development in an Arctic climate”, explores how a number of innovative sustainability solutions can be combined and adapted to the arctic climate to support the development of a new urban area. The area, which is adjacent to Gällivare’s city center, has high recreational values but is often flooded. The project investigate how snow mounds and water from rising lakes and melting snow could be integrated into the urban fabric, through meandering streams in between the buildings.

In addition, different ways to experience the landscape during each season is also explored through embankments along the shoreline, crossing the marshes on boardwalks different types of outdoor nodes.

Research project | Client: Gällivare municipality / Self-initiated | Team: Warmin the Winter |Expert guidance:  LTU (citizendialogue), SE Landskap/SLU (dynamic plantation design), Enetjärn (Natural valueanalysis), Structor (geohydrology) | Area: 92ha

The school as a community hub

Järvastaden’s school has been developed under Raoul Wallenberg’s concept “The school in the center of the village”.  The buildings and public space are designed to function as meeting places for everyone that lives in Järvastaden.

The school cafeteria gets an outdoor space for parties and large gatherings, and the sports facilities are also open to the public in the evenings and weekends. The schoolyard is organized around a core – the playground square – which connects various spaces and functions of the schoolyard. The core is flexible in its design and can accommodate a variety of activities and gatherings – all framed by willow shrubbery and dense tree galleries.

Learning environment | Client: Hemsö Fastighets AB/NCC | Year of construction: 2017 | Area: 17,000 m2 | Image credits: Jansin & Hammarling

Anthology of idea-projects: The multitudinous city landscape

Our cities are facing rapid transformation. The large cities are densifying and expanding at the same time as they are required to address integration and climate change. To handle these challenges, the city’s public spaces need to be more multifunctional, adaptable and interactive. In the anthology “The multitudinous city landscape” has the landscape architecture office Urbio gathered a toolbox for enriching the urban landscape using biophilia, ecosystem services and Red-Green-Blue urbanism.

Twenty-one idea projects are described. Among them is “Thawing islands” – wetlands floating in lake Mälaren in central Stockholm – The islands are multifunctional and used in winter and spring to store and purify snow. The book describes how public space can be more adapted to handle stormwater and integrate urban farming and animal-life. It also suggests ways to make cities more playful encourage movement and play through “play-paths” where children can be activated and play on their way to and from school.

Bookof idea-projects | 2015

When digital and analogue play environment meet

The Vinnova-financed research project Digital and Physical play environments (DigiFys) creates a concept where digital interactive components are integrated in the physical green play environment in order to inspire children to become more physically active in outdoor play.

The project explores the play concept “DigiPlayScape”, which is based on the research on what gives high playing values for children, as an alternative to traditional playground equipment. The project is intended to be a catalyst for more nature-inspired play environments to be built in the future. Three testbeds have been built at Tom Tits in Södertälje, Brickebacken and Vivalla in Örebro municipality. The project has received new funding from Vinnova and will continue in-depth with studies of sustainable play environments in 2019-2022.

Learning environment, concept and research project | Client: Vinnova | Team:  KTH, UU, SLU, Tibro, Nordic Parks, Tom Tits,NCC, Örebro Municipality

Published on March 22, 2021

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