MALMO – On a recent trip to Denmark, I crossed the bridge from Copenhagen and spent a few hours in Malmo, Sweden. This small city of 270,000 is impressive in its creation of lively public spaces, likely taking cues from its Danish neighbour across the Baltic Sea. Beyond its attractive city centre park, countless public squares and pedestrian streets, the city’s formerly industrial waterfront is alive with activity.
The waterfront is a mix of mid-rise apartments, commercial and office space, parkland, recreational trails, and ample boardwalk and docks for sunbathing and even taking a dip in the sea. The one iconic landmark is the modern Turning Torso, which resembles the Marilyn building envisaged for Mississauga. Note that it’s just one 57-storey skyscraper on the Malmo waterfront, as opposed to a wall of condo towers on another unnamed waterfront.
What is so impressive about this area is how appealing it has become to Malmo’s residents. Despite the fact that it’s not all that accessible or connected to the rest of the city – it’s about a half-hour walk from the edge of the city centre – it’s still full of people throughout the day. Right by one of the massive wooden steps and docks for swimming is a beach bar with umbrellas that resemble those at HTO Park in Toronto. In contrast, there is typically no sale of alcohol on Toronto’s public spaces, nor is consumption in public spaces allowed – though that’s a whole other debate (could North Americans handle public drinking?).
There is currently a wealth of planning, design and construction for Toronto’s waterfront. As we take a look at plans, attend public meetings and await decisions, we can hope that what we end up with will entice and excite us. For now, Toronto’s done with Swedish superstar hockey player imports, so how about some Swedish waterfront planning and design?