SLU news

Five questions with Helena Bjarnegård, SLU Alumna and Sweden’s first State Architect

Published: 12 December 2018

Architects Sweden’s Academy of Landscape Architecture recently organised "The Seminar Relay - 30 Thoughts of Time". One of the moderators for the seminar was Helena Bjarnegård – landscape architect and Sweden's first State Architect. Johan Folkesson, who coordinated the seminar, took the opportunity to ask Helena about her upcoming assignments.

Which are your three priority areas for the built environment that you wish to focus on in your role as State Architect?

  Firstly, the overall perspective is superior. We are going to build cities. Cities that is good for people and good for our environment. Stop thinking silo planning and start thinking urban planning!

The architecture will also be used as a powerful tool to create carefully shaped living environmentsthat contribute to a sustainable, equal and less segregated society.

We shall also think long-term and that several future generations will be living in the environments that we create today.

How can you bring your knowledge as a landscape architect to address these current issues?

 – As a landscape architect, I am used to work through the entire scale range, from the large urban planning scale to the smallest detail. As a landscape architect in the city of Gothenburg, I have worked throughout the whole chain; from vision, goals and strategies to planning, implementation and continued development during the management phase. In Gothenburg, I have also worked with the public spaces of the citizens and realize how much they mean to people. All of this is valuable experience to take with me into the work as a State Architect.

In what context can the landscape architect take up more space and how can the landscape architect's knowledge be used more effectively?

 – I would rather talk about the common area ‘architecture’ that unites architects with different specialist areas within urban planning, houses, landscapes, interior design and more. Remember your various unique skills, but keep in mind that we have a large common ground to stand on. I think projects would work better if we cooperate across borders, invite each other at the same time as we benefit from each other's specific know-how. Our common area is large and we also need to collectively be better at taking on new roles, among other things, the order side - both when it comes to public administration and the market.

How should young landscape architects prepare for these future challenges? What subjects/focus areas should SLU add to their education platforms?

 – I think it's good if SLU continues to prepare young landscape architects to take on many different roles, on both the private and public sides, throughout the whole chain from planning to construction and management. We need, among other things, more skilled clients in the construction industry and more really sharp strategic planners in the municipalities. I think the best way to prepare would be to study the subjects that you enjoy the most. There are lots of different types of tasks in the community. Decide what you think is exciting, challenging and fun and combine with courses within other subject areas.

How do you think that research can help to address our future challenges? And what subjects/focus areas should SLU invest in when it comes to research?

 – We must plan and build long-term sustainable. The world is changing rapidly and we also need to be innovative. Research can help us with knowledge and evidence of how to prioritize when planning for sustainable urban development. Research can also help us aim higher and think out of the box. The issues that are important in the future are listed in the UN's global goals. They are a good starting point. I also hope that the researchers at SLU will study the Swedish Parliament's goals for architecture and consider how SLU:s research can be of best support to the implementation of these goals. "Architecture, form and design will contribute to a sustainable, equal and less segregated society, with carefully shaped living environments, where everyone is given the opportunity to influence the development of the public spaces." I look forward to hook arm with you at SLU and take part of your knowledge in the field.

Text: Johan Folkesson
Translation: Catherine Kihlström


Helena Bjarnegård takes over the assignment from Christer Larsson, who has been acting State Architect with support from Monica von Schmalensee, in January 2019.

More about Helena Bjarnegård  (in Swedish)

Johan Folkesson runs terraism – a landscape architect office since 2012, with base in Gothenburg. He is a member of Architects Sweden’s Academy of Landscape Architecture, where he has been responsible for the ‘Seminar relay’ of recent years. He is Sweden's representative in the International Federation of Landscape Architecture (IFLA) since 2016.