Archives and sources, cases and questions.
Swedish urban planning and its paperwork
Paperwork plays a crucial role in how urban planning works. One aspect of this is politically-approved and legally binding documents like Comprehensive Plans, Development Plans and Building Permits, but this kind of paperwork is merely the tip of the iceberg. Urban planning works through specific routines of producing series of linked documents, where the approved development plan is only the final product. Through political directives, memoranda, meeting minutes, consultancy reports, architectural sketches, permits, letters, maps, newspaper clippings, and all manners of notes representations how urban space is used are articulated with visions of a future city and interventions designed to materialize it. Rather than studying the production of this vast paper trail from the outside through interviews or other secondary sources, I want to explore it from within by turning to the deposits in municipal planning archives. By a close and qualitative reading of paperwork found in Malmö’s urban planning archives I will to explore how new bureaucratic practices emerge and articulate contradictions in the making of Malmö’s social neoliberalism. At certain points I will also draw on secondary material, primarily local newspapers, to fill in the archive’s empty spots — mostly in the first and last empirical chapters where there are considerable gaps in the municipal archives.
Much like the other Nordic countries, Sweden has an exceptionally strong national planning and building legislation that shapes which documents are
produced by planning in significant ways.164 The foundation of the present legislation is the 1947 building code and the 1948 municipality independence reforms, both partly shaped by the massive 1933–1947 ‘Social housing inquiry’
government commission.165 The present version of the Plan and Building Code in principal mandates all municipalities (kommuner) to regularly produce a Comprehensive Plan (överiktsplan) for the entire municipality, to which in turn all new Area Plans (detaljplan) for particular developments must adhere.166 These Area Plans are then used to decide if a proposed development is to get a Building Permit (bygglov) required for all newly-built structures — although houses smaller than 25m2 have been exempt from this regulation since 2014. The planning process can thus be seen to, in principle, operate across three scales:
comprehensive planning covering an entire municipality, area planning covering a smaller space like one or a few blocks, and building permits filed for individual constructions including houses, garages, fences and signs.167 Checks on municipal authority is upheld by the possibility of appealing against plans and permits to regional courts (Mark- och miljödomstol) and national courts (Svea Hovrätt), and by regional and national institutions sometimes intervening in the ongoing planning process by referencing non-planning legislation such as environmental protection codes or cultural heritage designations. The legal authority to grant, propose, and administrate the planning process rests entirely with the municipal authority, as long as it follows the procedure set out in the Plan and Building Code.
Each of these planning scales produces a similar kind of sequence of documents that can be exemplified by how an Area Plan is produced. First a plan is proposed, which requires that a short outline (sometimes called a Start-PM) is drafted by the municipal Urban Planning Department (in Malmö the Stadsbyggnadskontoret), usually in cooperation with the developer. The proposal must then be approved by a majority of the representatives in the Urban Planning Council (in Malmö the Stadsbyggnadsnämnden), that declares that it is in accordance with existing planning frameworks.168 Planning Programs (Planprogram or Program), a kind of non-binding draft, are then sometimes produced by the Planning Department.169 After more feedback from the Urban Planning Council, usually only brief and not
164 Lauri Nordberg, Översikt och jämförande analys av plan-och byggnadslagstiftningen i de nordiska länderna, (Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers, 1988).
165 See, for instance, Gösta Blücher, ‘1900-talet: Det kommunala planmonopolets århundrade’, in Gösta Blücher and Göran Graningar (eds.), Planering med nya förutsättningar: Ny lagstiftning, nya värderingar (Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2006); Ulla Ekström Von Essen, Folkhemmets kommun: socialdemokratiska idéer om lokalsamhället 1939-1952, (Stockholm: Atlas, 2003) p. 289-290; Lars Nilsson and Håkan Forsell, 150 år av självstyrelse: kommuner och landsting i förändring, (Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting, 2013) p. 171-174.
166 Sveriges Riksdag, Plan- och bygglag (2010:900), (2010) p. c. 3.
167 Riksdag, Plan- och bygglag (2010:900), p. c.3 §1, c.4 §2, c.9 §2.
168 Riksdag, Plan- och bygglag (2010:900), p. c. 3 §1-4.
169 Riksdag, Plan- och bygglag (2010:900), p. c. 5 §10.
in written form, a first complete draft of the plan is finalized.170 This draft is then the object of a mandatory stakeholder consultation (samråd) where in theory anyone, including for instance local residents or other municipal departments, have the right to formally voice their grievances and objections. All formal complaints are summarized with original letters attached to the draft that then again is presented to the Urban Planning Council for discussion and potential approval.171 If passed in the council, the Urban Planning Department then uses these comments to make a second, final draft, which must be approved by the Urban Planning Council and then the City Council (Kommunfullmäktige). Only after this long process, and then being displayed publicly (utställning) inviting stakeholders to file an appeal to a court, does a plan become legally binding. The production process of Comprehensive Plans and Building Permits also follow this model, with some modifications. Because Sweden has a very strong law constitutionally guaranteeing public access to public records (Offentlighetsprincipen) all these documents, including all correspondence regarding the plans, are public records that in theory are required to be archived by municipal authorities.172
and Folkets Park as a case study
My analysis of social neoliberal planning in Malmö builds to a large extent on the immense municipal collections of archival material that the formal planning procedure creates, especially when looking at comprehensive planning. A problem with exclusively drawing on this kind of source material is that it tends to produce paperwork about a specific site within a relatively short time cycle. A proposed Area Plan typically starts a cycle, requiring 3–5 years of intense attention before Building Permits are granted and redevelopment is considered complete for the entire area, with the planning department then focusing on a new part of the city.
This makes it difficult to analyze the protracted making of Malmö’s social neoliberalism as shaped by the layering of tensions of lived space within the planning bureaucracy by only studying one or a few cases, since only a small part of the entire neoliberal transformation of planning plays out in any one place. To supplement the reading of more general planning documents concerning the entire city, I have mainly drawn on a case where the planned development largely took
170 Riksdag, Plan- och bygglag (2010:900), p. c. 5 §18-25.
171 Riksdag, Plan- och bygglag (2010:900), p. c. 5 §11-17.
172 See: Sveriges Riksdag, Tryckfrihetsförordning (1949:105), (1949) p. c. 2.
place outside the Planning Departments’ normal routines, although Area Plans of neighboring parts of the city also are used as sources.
To contrast the city-wide urban development documents with paperwork operating at a more detailed level, I have looked at how Folkets park, a green space in the southern part of central Malmö, and its immediate surrounding has been the object of planned development efforts. Folkets park, or The People’s Park, is in itself not typical of how urban planning functions, which entails both methodological challenges and opportunities. What makes this case uniquely useful in tracking the slow remaking of urban planning over three decades is that it has not gone through the normal Area Plan cycle for almost a century. Since the 1980s, Folkets park has continually been targeted by other kinds of unorthodox planning interventions trying new planning ideas on this centrally located and strategic site, but without the formal restraints of an Area Plan.
The formal development plan for the entire neighborhood was a 1929 product of Malmö’s first Director of Engineering and important urban planning pioneer, Erik Bülow Hübe. Since the area at this point was largely built-up, the Area Plan mostly endorsed ongoing developments and is rather vaguely formulated. This imprecise plan was drafted at a moment when modern urban planning was just taking shape, just before the much stricter 1933 and 1947 planning reforms. This vagueness made it more malleable for later changes in the development process.173 Some later renewal projects in the space covered by the 1929 plan led to new Area Plans, which have been useful for an examination of how the park entered this part of the formal planning process, as explored in Chapter 9. Building Permits in Folkets park itself are still today, at least formally, referencing the almost 80-year-old plan that in its vague pre-1947 legislation only mandated ‘no buildings but those that are for the People’s park’s purposes’ as the only limitation for future construction.174
While the lack of a an up-to-date Area Plan means that there is little material directly relating to the park in the usual planning archives, Area Plans for neighboring sites and Building Permits for the park excepted, there are a series of other kinds of planning documents that concern the park. These plans will be introduced in detail throughout this inquiry, but generally tend to be authored by the Streets Department (Gatukontoret) or temporary interdepartmental committees, and are scattered in a series of smaller municipal archives, rather than the official Urban Planning Archive (Stadsbyggnadskontorets arkiv). Unlike most other areas of the city where development is concentrated over a few brief years,
173 Thomas Hall, ‘Den moderna planeringens genombrott’, in Thomas Hall and Katarina Dunér (eds.), Den svenska staden: planering och gestaltning från medeltid till industrialism (Stockholm:
Sveriges radios förlag, 1997).
174 Malmö stadsarkiv, Minutes of Malmö stadsfullmäktige 1930 Bihang Nr 115, Om fastställande å förslag till stadsplan för delar av Mellersta förstaden, Möllevången och Sofielund, ‘Förslag till stadsplan för delar av Mellersta Förstaden, Möllevången och Sofielund i Malmö’, p. 6.
these irregular plans for Folkets park allow one to follow how urban development itself is reconfigured by looking at one particular site and how previous plans for this particular site directly shape later plans.
The lack of an up-to-date Area Plan, the lack of constraints on renewal this meant, and Folkets park’s strategic location in the city center, has made the park something of a testing ground for new ideas. This steady stream of irregular, informal urban planning documents is related to the fact that from the early 1980s, the park came to be understood as an underdeveloped piece of real estate as its established historical geography of use came into crisis and provoked bureaucratic attention. The park is in this regard emblematic of how legacies of the lived spaces of social democratic planning in Sweden and Malmö came up against neoliberal bureaucratic practices in creating a piece of real estate that could be considered
‘deserted’ and for decades provoked the attention of municipal planners.
The history that leads up to this sense of underdevelopment is long, and could be said to begin with Malmö’s Social Democrats taking over the park as an outdoor meeting space in 1891. During Folkets park’s early and mid 20th century heydays it expanded rapidly by buying and incorporating surrounding lots and investing in infrastructure for new kinds of activities. In the postwar period the park gradually began to lose much of its cultural sway and came to rely on municipal subsidies from the 1970s. It was eventually bought by the municipality in 1991. Generations of accumulated uses of the park came into play in the later development projects. Occasionally the past was recalled in nostalgic attempts to reanimate the park’s golden age, while at other times it was the fears of reliving the park’s decline that provoked planning interventions. Everyday uses also persisted or were rediscovered to provoke planning, whether they were in the form of lease contracts with commercial forces negotiated at the park’s most desperate hour or quotidian patterns of visitors using the park as a public green space.
While I do not want to argue that the analysis of Folkets park is necessarily generalizable for the rest of Malmö, the detailed study of its particularly protracted development process provides a useful counterpoint to the broader brushstrokes that can be seen in Comprehensive Plans and similar city-wide documents. Many of the same kinds of problems at play in the city more broadly are worked out in plans for Folkets park, even if this process is shaped by the park’s particular history of use. It is probably the only site in the city where the entire process of remaking urban planning along neoliberal lines can be traced within one case.
While there are other neighborhoods in Malmö that have continually provoked government interventions, notably the city’s so called ‘problem areas’, few of these have been the object of spatial planning for the exact same area for several decades in the way that Folkets park has. Because the park’s strategic location, lack of an up-to-date Area Plan, and its multilayered history of use provoking ceaseless bureaucratic attention, the paperwork on Folkets park I have found in the municipal archive provides a unique opportunity to study how urban planning in
Malmö became neoliberal as a cumulative process where the recent past matters for the history of the present.
This inquiry, then, builds on two kinds of planning documents, through which I have tried to track the articulation of neoliberal bureaucratic practice with social regulation and the tensions of urban space represented by planning. The Folkets park case is used in order to understand how this process plays out in a specific site with the detailed visions, interventions, and representations this entails.
Because at some points it has worked as a neoliberal testing ground, examples from Folkets park are also used in the story of how planning is reconfigured in Malmö more generally. This second scale of analysis is however mostly studied through other kinds of sources. Documents from the Urban Planning Department, particularly relating to the 1990, 2000, and 2014 Comprehensive Plans, and other city-wide policy documents from the City Council (Kommunfullmäktige) and its Executive Board (Kommunstyrelsen) have been used to analyze this scale. While the planning paperwork for Folkets park often is fragmentary but more candid about how built and lived space shapes plans, the formal plans for the city follow a more regular rhythm.
The formal plans analyzed have been identified through a complete scan of all materials presented to the Urban Planning Council, and a quicker but still comprehensive look at all cases debated at the City Council, from 1980 until 2015.
Finding the informal plans for Folkets park has been less systematic, sometimes bordering on archival detective work. Some of the plans have been found in Urban Planning Council and City Council archives, and some by looking at the entire proceedings of the Technical Council (Tekniska nämnden, also called Gatu- och Trafiknämnden) from 1985 until 2015. Most have however been located by tracking down unofficial, unfiled, semi-formal documents in smaller archives scattered throughout Malmö’s municipality or by asking involved bureaucrats to share yet unarchived work. The less detailed but more complete collection of formal planning materials at the Malmö scale and more specific but fragmentary plans at the Folkets park scale are combined in a way that I hope will be convincing for answering the research questions I now want to pose.
I have argued that neoliberalism must be understood as the product of a protracted process continually articulating historically contingent contradictions, and therefore always open for subversions and re-articulation. I want to study how such contradictions shape a particular formation, Malmö’s social neoliberalism, by studying urban planning. The paperwork of urban planning is not only particularly closely imbricated with the social regulation of the postwar period, as well as a
key site of neoliberal reform. Urban planning also articulates tensions within expert discourse with everyday life in the city in terms of different ways of envisioning and intervening in space being linked to representations of uses of space. Both what one might call residual and emergent tensions of built and lived space tend to be represented by urban planning paperwork, and articulated with visions of future space and interventions seeking to materialize these futures.
As I turn to urban planning in Malmö and the kinds of sources described above, I do so to analyze how social neoliberalism took shape within this sphere of bureaucratic practice. I want to show how the translocal flows of neoliberal policy coursing through urban planning in Malmö and Folkets park is articulated with the remains of social governance as well as both residual and emerging tensions of the built and lived environment. More specifically, I will track how such tensions shape neoliberal governance of the city in the way that plans propose visions, suggest interventions, and represent built and lived space.
If the principal purpose of this analysis is to describe how social neoliberalism emerged, its main characteristics, and how this formation changes over time, I want to suggest three more precise research questions that I hope will be answered by the end of the final chapter. First, I want to ask which residual bureaucratic practices of social statecraft and aspects of built and lived urban space are articulated in Malmö’s social neoliberalism. Second, I want to chart what different emerging tensions of built and lived space are articulated in this formation.
Finally, I want to uncover which fault lines these articulated tensions introduce to Malmö’s social neoliberalism, in order to discuss what instabilities and potentials for re-articulation can be sensed in this formation.