Borghildur Sölvey Sturludóttir är arkitekt som för närvarande är chef för planeringen i Reykjavik, hon har flera års erfarenhet från planeringskontoret i Reykjavik och Århus, Danmark. Hon har även tjänstgjort som vald kommunal representant i staden Hafnarfjörður och som vice ordförande i planerings- och byggnadsrådet där, samt har suttit med i den regionala planeringskommittén för huvudstadsregionen.
We’re moving between tectonic plates – Iceland is located between two worlds, but in an urban context we’ve always related more to the West regarding our emphasis and methodology. However, slowly but surely, we’re moving closer to Scandinavia. Most of us are educated here – in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. This has also had the effect that when we arrive back home, we arrive as guests, guests in the administrative and legal environment.
Earlier this year we graduated our very own homegrown architects for the first time. That’s a huge step for Iceland, probably even bigger than I think we realize. With time, this is going to influence even the deepest roots of the Icelandic language. High – Quality – Designed – Living – Environment. These words are in a way a brand-new part of our language, still earning their spot in our vocabulary.
There lies our task. Not only are we densifying, improving, and constructing, moving in a new way, but also introducing the methodology of design and quality, which are all new words in our language.
When the concept of a “city for people” was introduced, I think a lot of people didn’t fully grasp what was at stake, or even the meaning.
This change demands a fast shiti, a reflex of sorts, which I count as one of Icelander's greatest strengths. We can act fast when nature demands so from us. We’re accustomed to natural catastrophes, but as of now, we’re in training when it comes to acting fast in other situations, as with the war in the east and people in search of shelter and a beter life.
So, what are we doing in terms of planning in Reykjavik? A city still growing with inhabitants from all over the world and an explosion of tourists.
The first breakthrough was a new Municipal Plan in 2010, created as a collaboration between all the political parties. This Municipal Plan included a chapter about a City for People instead of a city for cars (or even airplanes).
Now with the new Municipal Plan, it’s important to look back and learn from our first urban steps. The chapter A City for People focuses on the streets as a public space, the protection of local shops, and creating ground floor guidelines and housing policies. These elements go hand in hand with historical preservation. Low-rise buildings characterize Reykjavík and history should be respected. Alongside this, we are implementing tools that are used in our neighboring countries. Searching for a beter way to balance. In addition, there is currently a new Urban Design Policy in the works which will give even more importance and weight to the above-mentioned elements.
We are also using this policy to improve our building permission regulations, looking to Sweden and Denmark as role models. Things are changing fast, and we must move accordingly to adjust. These regulations include elements such as prohibiting flats from becoming hotel apartments, setting guidelines regarding hours of daylight inside homes, and the centralized location of social housing.
Affordable housing should be located near public transportation, but while we are planning, constructing, and establishing new neighborhoods for car-free living, we are lacking the necessary change in our transportation culture. This is of course the essence of a political decision – and at the
core question for the capital area of Iceland – Reykjavík, what kind of city are we going to build and be how is Reykjavik growing older?
Reykjavík is still a teenager, trying its best and willing to grow fast. With many architects and designers educated abroad, mainly in Scandinavia but also all over Europe and America, our strength is in the fact that we have a large network and a wide perspective. However, in terms of policymaking, decision-making, and law-making the hill is still steep.