Friday, 29 March 2019


A skyscraper in Sjöstaden – architects' wet dream – inhabitants' bad dream!

No one living in our cosy little neighbourhood of Sjöstaden (with 25 000 inhabitants, but still cosy) can help notice this "middle finger" being raised at us, whilst we are taking the tram to subway station Gullmarsplan. It is an enigma to me why architects and building companies hunger for raising such an outlier at odd places in Stockholm. This will be the third scraper raised, with at least three more in the pipeline.

I ask you: why on Earth did the city authorities authorise this extreme case of one-up-manship? It is as if largesse in size is equalled to grandeur in style by the town officials. Anything higher than 20 floors goes, if there is but an empty building site allowing for it. Unfortunately, city officials' understanding of urban aesthetics is hardly shared by us poor suffering citizens.

Aesthetics aside; did the town planners think about the logistical nightmare being created by this outsized sugar top? Close to where its feet are planted into the Earth, there lies one single small roundabout, which has to accommodate, on the one hand, all morning and evening traffic flowing to and fro our neighbourhood into town, and, on the other, all the cars coming from Southern Stockholm and choosing to travel to downtown, using the small bridge across. Already without the new scraper and surround, with its forthcoming 6000 working places, this roundabout is hardly navigatable during rush-hours, with huge queues backstopping way into our neighbourhood. Imagine what will happen with the abrupt increase in car traffic created by this new development.

I am sorry to say, that there will be NO ROOM to enlarge the roads around this abomination of a city plan! Every single square meter of the necessary space is already occupied. What were town planners thinking when approving this building project?

You may conceive of me as being a hopeless nostalgic, forever opposing progress. And I am forced to agree, even if my reaction to this unnecessary and molesting skyscraper appears to me more rational than affective. Still, I think it is better to be a nostalgic, wishing to keep hold of all that is pleasant in the city, rather than embrace "progress" that implies getting rid of what is pleasant and replace it with abominations!

An old song comes to mind, which will help me to underpin my position. Unfortunately, it is in Swedish, based on an Italian original. But allow me to reproduce and translate here the core lyrics of the tune:

Lyckliga gatan du finns inte mer,
du har försvunnit med hela kvarter.
Tystnat har leken, tystnat har sången,
högt över marken svävar betongen.
När jag kom åter var allt så förändrat,
trampat och skövlat, fördärvat och skändat.
Skall mellan dessa höga hus en dag, stiga en sång?
Lika förunderlig och skön som den vi hört en gång...

Lucky Street, you exist no more.
You have disappeared with the entire neighbourhood.
The game has ended, the song has subsided.
High above the ground floats the concrete.
When I came back everything was so changed,
trampled and plundered, damaged and desecrated.

Shall between these high risers one day rise a song?
Equally wondrous and beautiful as the one we heard once upon a time...

Will a song rise around the Sjöstaden high riser one day?
I doubt it!


Anonymous said...


Thank you for that latest blog entry on the ugly highrise and its devastating effects on the esthetics of your neighborhood - and the mess it is creating in traffic. Very sad. One always hopes city planners will maintain the glory that is European cities from years past, but one always runs into commercial interests that override such dedication to beauty and character. I'm so sorry.

And thanks for including that lovely song. I'm passing it on to friends.

Best wishes,


Per Magnus Wijkman said...

Dear Emil,
I believe many people share your views and wish they would protest to their democratically elected representatives.  After all, what are these representatives for? The destruction of Stockholm, once considered the Venice of the North, is due to the following factors among  many others.

1 Central government policy encourages immigration to the capital, instead of discouraging it.
2 Local representatives have forgotten that they are elected by and represent those who live in Stockholm, not those who want to move to Stockholm.  
3 The resulting pressures on land rents makes it profitable for landowners to buid on parks and ’empty’ lots and to add several floors onto existing Buildings.
4 Construction companies, individually and as a group, exert strong pressure on local politicians to approve new Construction.

 Thank you for your blog Emil.  I hope it will encourage some to try to save what little is left of this once proud city!  Stolta stad!
Per Magnus Wijkman

Emil Ems said...

Lieber Emil,

Deine traurige Sendung über das immer neuer werdende Stockholm bringt mich auf eine Menge ähnlicher Gedanken über unser schönes Österreich.

Die herrlichen Alpentäler werden verbaut mit luxuriösen Hotels, die Alpenhänge werden so geglättet, so viele Wälder abgeholzt, dass jeder Schifahrer hinunter schießen kann. Auch die Leute, die den ursprünglich gar nicht so leichten Sport eigentlich nicht wirklich beherrschen, viel zu hoch entwickeltes, teures Skiwerk haben und sich der Gefahr der so
erworbenen Geschwindigkeit gar nicht bewusst sind.

Und was ist mit den Städten: Graz hat bereits etwa 300.000 Einwohner statt der etwa 200.000 in unserer Jugend. Was tun mit den 100.000 Hinzugekommenen? Denn gleichzeitig mit den auch von mir sehr ungewünschten Hochhäusern wird vielfach das einstmals fruchtbare herrliche Ackerland südlich der Stadt verbaut, mit ehrgeizigen Riesenfirmen oder auch staatlichen Einrichtungen und eben auch Wohnhäusern. Mit eleganten Villen an den umgebenden Hängen, die den Ausblick über das Tal hin bieten?

Was soll man sich aussuchen? Bergbauern mit höchst mühsamer Arbeit für ein sehr ärmliches Leben, oder reiche Tiroler, die ziemlich gut leben in einigermaßen zerstörter Landschaft? Unmäßige Stadtvergrößerung in die fruchtbaren Ebenen hinein oder in den Himmel ragende Bauten in den

Ich weiß keine Antwort...

Ich wünsch dir ein weiterhin gutes Leben, trotz aller Veränderungen rund herum.

Und sei lieb gegrüßt!


Farouk Solna said...

Dear Emil, I totally agree with you, and Per Magnus, about aspects of the destruction of our old cites and districts in Stockholm, and my home city Solna, and must confess here this spontaneus, and strange, reaction of mine when listening to A L Lövgrens’ song: Crying and laughing at the same time. Cordialement. Farouk Kobba said...

Lamentieren über neue Entwicklungen ist Kulturpessimismus, weil eben immer neue Realitäten, Möglichkeiten und Zwänge sich ergeben.
Zum Städtebaulichen: die Welt hat heute schon fast 10 Mia Menschen.
Zu den persönlichen Befindlichkeiten: wir haben imm er mehr Mibilität und Auswahl.
Lieber Emil ein Vorschlag:Umziehen!

BeachyGal said...

Dear Emil,
Alas, we also are suffering through multiple high rise horrors desecrating the landscape here in Berkeley.. Julia Morgan is howling out there somewhere for sure! My little street has become a central speedway facilitating through traffic from Shattuck to Telegraph. I fantasize daily about relocating somewhere calmer (but with a Berkeley Bowl-type grocery of course!).

I look forward to our visit in July. Confirming that for the 1 and 2; I embark for St Petersburg on the 3rd.

Try to focus on the beauty all around you and, failing that, the beauty within.
Cheers, Censor

Anonymous said...

Hej Emil
Tack för informationen om denna byggnad - horribel!!
Nu måste jag och Anders åka förbi och se på eländet. Du skirver så väl som vanligt!!!
Längesedan nu - hoppas att allt är väl med dig!

Galo Abril Ojeda said...

Hej Emil, det var länge sedan sist. Vad synd om stan, verkligen en hemsk bild. De vackra minnen jag har av Stockholm kring där du bodde verkar vara borta. Varma hälsningar från Quito, Galo

Lars Werin said...

Dear Emil,

You are perfectly right, it is a monstrosity. And of course, it's not the only one. Think of what is called Stockholm Waterfront, just beside the Town Hall. And think of all the places in the City Center where they add vulgar floors to all the vulgarity which already was in place. Why? I think on the whole Per Magnus is right, and want to add another thing: Stockholm wants to prove much superior to Copenhagen, and they think this is the way to achieve it.

Also nice to get into contact (even if indirect) with good old friends - Per Magnus, Galo, Farouk, and of course you yourself, Emil.


Emil Ems said...

Dear all,

I was overwhelmed by the high number of comments I received on this blog post. Apparently, the issue of (bad) city planning is engaging more people than I thought.

To Heinz, I would respond that there is no need for me to move. I cannot see the skyscraper in question from my balcony. Rather, my concerns are on behalf of the good citizens in Stockholm and, especially, of all the car drivers who will be sitting in enormous queues every morning and evening, simply because the town finds it suitable to press in a skyscraper where there is no room for more traffic.

'Nough said about this! Instead, i would join in with Lars, my cherished thesis adviser, to express my pleasure that four former colleagues from my university days, over 35 years ago, have taken the trouble to send me their views. And, not to forget, that Galo is sending his views all the way from Equador!


Richard Murray said...

Here is a piece I had published in Dagens samhälle a year or so ago. It is about the real-estate-building-companies industrial complex, present everywhere. I argue it is present in all parties: from right (of course) to left (in fact), including the Greens. There are always people who have worked for a construction company that, because of their experience are deemed suitable for a position on the building council. Unfortunately the text is in Swedish (but with Google translator this is no problem):