Water as an urban quality
Norrköping used to be known for its comprehensive, and sometime brutal, urban renewal in the central part of the city during the 1960s. Today the city is known for the successful regeneration of the old industrial landscape along the river Motala Ström. The streaming water through the dense and spectacular industrial environment is one of the key qualities that attract people to the city.
Norrköping, located on the Swedish east coast 170 km south of Stockholm, was once the most important industrial city in the country and number two in size after Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. The city exposes an industrial history from the 1620s when the Amsterdam based Walloon/Dutch merchant and industrialist Louis De Geer was invited by the Swedish king to produce weapons for the Swedish troops fighting in the Thirty Year’s War. What started with weapons continued with wool, cotton and paper. By the middle of the 19th century, 70% of Sweden’s textiles were woven here. Norrköping was by then called the "Manchester of Sweden”.
When Holmen AB, the producer of newsprint, decided to move from the area in the 1980s, 370 years of industrial activity left Norrköping with a huge area of empty industrial buildings along the river. This time the city decided to preserve the heritage and to open the area for modern businesses and the citizens. What for centuries had been a backyard and a place that you only could experience working there, is now the focus point for the city’s development.
Today the industrial landscape houses a university campus, science park, congress centre, concert hall, museums and a blend of small businesses. Taking a walk through the area you get overwhelmed by the power of the streaming water and the magnificent buildings. Most of the factory buildings were drawn by well-known architects and they proof the wealth of the industrial époque.
When you get there, start by entering through the tower and entrance that belonged to Holmens Bruk and was built in 1750. Now you are in the area where everything started in 1609. If you continue right ahead you can’t miss the “heat cathedral” (Värmekyrkan), a building drawn by the well-known Swedish architect Ivar Tengbom in 1927 in a typical neoclassicism with a slight touch of modernism. It used to be a central for producing steam for the surrounding factories. Today it is used for special events and exhibitions.
One of the high lights in the area is the Museum of Work (Arbetets museum). The building rises on a rock in Motala ström, the form of it resembles a flat-iron, hence its name “Strykjärnet”. It has been named Sweden’s most beautiful industrial building. The museum depicts working life and working conditions through exhibitions, seminars and programme activities.
The concert hall is built where the paper plant was located until it closed down in 1986. The foyer and restaurant is organised in a huge hall that used to house one of the big, 100 meter long, machines that produced paper. It is today an attractive venue for mingling during a break in a conference or a concert.
Nearby the concert hall, close to the old square, is Knäppingsborg, a block with buildings from the 18th century with small yards and narrow passages. Here you can find restaurants, cafés and small boutiques. Further down the river is the recently established park, “Strömparken”, that adds further qualities for both visitors and citizens that are attracted by the river and its surroundings.
By the work done the last decades the city of Norrköping has shown that old industrial buildings and environments can be turned into drivers in a post-industrial economy and significantly change the image of a city. “Industrilandskapet” – the industrial landscape – is for sure a showcase and a best practice. When you come to Sweden – make sure that you can make a stop in Norrköping.