The Van Alen Institute's Opportunity Space Festival officially launched this past Tuesday in Malmö, Sweden. Open now until September 2 at the “Folkets House” pavilion in Enskifteshagen Park, the festival will offer job training programs, communal meals, youth dance workshops, and other activities that can help refugees and long-time residents meet each other, build job market skills, and develop visions for a more inclusive city.
VAI shared some of the latest photos from the event.
Focusing on Malmö's rapidly evolving population, the festival uses public space design to support social and economic inclusion in a city that received more refugees and migrants per capita than any other European country in 2015, and where many long-time Swedish residents are struggling to find stable employment. “Analysts estimate that the average age at which Swedish residents find their first ‘real’ job (for instance, one that would allow them to secure a mortgage) is 29, and that it takes new arrivals up to seven years before they are gainfully employed,” VAI writes.
Earlier this year, VAI's “Opportunity Space” design competition for the festival's main event pavilion concluded with “Folkets House” (“People’s House”) as the winning proposal. Afterward, VAI assembled a cross-sector coalition of more than 30 NGOs, businesses, and government agencies to organize the festival and offer programs.
One program includes “Design Transformations”, which connects job-seeking and newly arrived architects and engineers to experienced mentors and local stakeholders to design and build temporary tables, seating, and planters in the park. The “Malmö Share” platform lets new arrivals and long-time residents share skills and services, while the “Us Vs Them” panel discussion focuses on how the twin impulses of fear and belonging are affecting global politics (from Brexit to the election of Donald Trump) and everyday living.
“Cities around the world are grappling with the challenges and opportunities of immigration and economic equity,” said David van der Leer, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute, in a statement. “As part of Van Alen’s broader exploration of how the built environment shapes behavior, the festival programs and pavilion offer a small-scale demonstration of how design can change our attitudes and support a stronger civil society.”
“We hope this project can show other cities how they could design public spaces to encourage similar exchanges and encounters,” said Rik Ekström of ARExA, the design team lead of the Folkets House pavilion.
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