Port-City governance. A comparative analysis in the European context.

Port-City governance. A comparative analysis in the European context.

This post is based on the paper to be presented in the AESOP YA Congress to be held in Ghent between 21st and 24th of March 2016.

1. Introduction

The relation between cities and ports has been thoroughly analyzed from different perspective in the last 50 years. We can find several investigations that try to explain the concept of port-city and the evolution of their interaction. Many authors, e.g. Bird (1963) and Hoyle (1989; 2000) among others, have developed spatial models that explain the different stages the relation between ports and cities goes through. Although the mentioned models present limitations they are widely accepted as the better abstraction of the evolution of the port-city interface. One of the critic that could be made to these schemes is the fact that not all port-cities fit the description (Kokot, 2008). However, in order to perform a comparative analysis, it provides a solid starting point. According to Hoyle’s model we currently find ourselves in the 6th Phase, when new links between the city and the port can be established. In this article we will not focus in the theoretical research or abstract analysis of port-city development, but rather in the actual governance praxis that we can find in Europe.

Stages in the evolution of port-city interrelationships according to Hoyle’s model (2000)

In order to better understand the role of the context, the different problems and solutions that we find in the European continent a research project was proposed. For this investigation a sample of six port-cities was chosen representing different realities: Oslo, Helsinki, Rotterdam, Marseille, Genoa and Lisbon. In this selection we can find some of the main ports of the continent, such as Rotterdam, but at the same time the Nordic capitals, like Oslo and Helsinki, in which the port is mainly relevant in the regional and national level. Also present are port cities that host the major national port for industrial activities but simultaneously tourism or passenger related activities, like Genoa and Marseille. Finally the port of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, that is suffering strong national competition and seen an important increase in the cruise sector.

Newman and Thornley (1996) have explained before the differences between the planning systems in the context aforementioned. These distinctions in the national legal framework and the particular physical and social conditions generate different  approaches and solutions for nuisances generated by port activities. These externalities are frequently very similar since the main harbor activities are very often alike. The PAs (Port Authorities)must have a policy to cope with the issues created by its activities in the cities since the positive effects of the port spread throughout the region but the negative externalities very often remain in the urban core (Ircha, 2013; Merk, 2013,2014). The combination between global problems and local solutions generates a diversity of management and planning practices worth observing and comparing.

The methodology for the analysis of the study cases was based on visits to the port-cities for periods of two weeks during which one of the main tasks was to perform semi-structured interviews to the responsible authorities in order to get first hand information. We were able to establish contact with the port authorities, municipalities, planning agencies and professionals.  In total 15 interviews were done.  At the same time we contacted the local inhabitants informally to better understand their perception of the port and the role this infrastructure plays in the social identity of the city. The methodology was completed with consultation of bibliography and official documents. For the analysis of the waterfront regeneration projects present in all the study cases we followed the method proposed by Schubert (2011), which includes quantitative and qualitative dimensions e.g. size of the project, start and completion dates, planning culture or location. Finally the time spent in each of the study cases allowed us to perform a photographical survey of the port-city environment and the interaction of the city with the water.

In the work developed by other researchers we can see that there are several key topics related with port-cities. For example in the series dedicated to port-cities from the OECD (Merk et.al. 2010-2013) the economic subject was predominant, although it also included information about the urban planning, environmental impact and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The waterfront regeneration projects are another issue that has been extensively studied by other authors, mainly with study case analysis, e.g. Schubert (2008, 2011) and Meyer (2003). Another important source are the guides of good practice developed over the last decade. Several of these publications have been supported by the existing internationals organizations focused on ports and port-cities, such as ESPO (European Sea Port Organization) the European ports lobby, the AIVP (Association Internationale Ville et Port) or RETE more focused in Mediterranean and south American  countries.

We were able to identify 3 main common topics in the port-city relation among the selected study-cases: (i) Institutional relations and role of the port authorities, (ii) physical interaction, including the port-city interface and waterfront regeneration projects, and (iii) the social relation between ports and cities.

2. Institutional relation – New synergies

In the European context most PAs follow the landlord port model [1]. Although the functioning scheme is very similar the political context of each port changes the governance capacities of each PA, being particularly relevant the national political system of each country. In the selected study cases we could also find one PA, Rotterdam, that has evolved from this model into a developer port (Vries, 2014) as we will later see.

We could find two main schemes for the national systems in the studied context, centralized and decentralized (Newman & Thornley, 1996). These two models for the national organization of the state create crucial differences between the European countries. In the particular subject we are concerned the major difference is related with the control of the PA. In the case of the centralized model the central government plays the leading role, in some cases being even the sole responsible for the PA board. This model is mostly seen in the South European countries, in our case sample we could find it in the cities of Genoa, Marseille and Lisbon. The main issue of this scheme is the fact that many decisions regarding the strategic planning and the allocation of economical resources are not taken in the PA itself, but in the central authority, usually the ministry or national department. In this decision making process the priority is given to the economical aspects of the port activity and the resources are mainly dedicated to the major infrastructural works. Regarding the relation with the city, the issue that might surge is the fact that frequently  it is not considered a priority and the investment in projects or activities that could improve the synergies is very often declined. During our interviews we could see that for example in Genoa the PA does not fully controls the revenues its activity generates, therefore does not have capacity to decided where the majority of the investment should be made. Regarding the studied cases that have this model, we also found that when the PA is mainly controlled by the central state, there is a certain institutional and emotional detachment between the city and this infrastructure. This was visible in the Marseille case, where, besides the strong presence of the central state, the complex configuration of the boards hinders the negotiation process.

The alternative on the other hand is more common in central and north European countries. In the study cases this option could be found in Rotterdam, Oslo and Helsinki. In the decentralized model the city has a prominent role in the control of the PA, very often being the majority shareholder in case is a semi-private company, like in the Dutch case (Vries, 2014), or even the PA is under the “umbrella” of the municipality. Previously, in some cases, this institution used to be a department of the municipality, like in Helsinki, but recent reforms to improve the management transformed them into semi-public companies controlled by the local authority. In these cases the state also plays an important role although not so determinant as in the alternative model. In some cases is also present in the shareholding and, in most countries with this system, is in charge of the national coordination of these key infrastructures. For the port-city relation the decentralized model is more beneficial since the city has  a stronger voice in the management decisions, they receive benefits from their shares and the urban issues in the interface are considered important as well.

The two models aforementioned condition the port-city relation in the institutional field, but are not the only elements that affect this interaction. Another issue is the land ownership. In the analyzed cases we found three types of situation. In the first scenario the port land is owned by the PA and it can be used as a resource for financing port projects in case a waterfront regeneration plan takes place. We could see this in Oslo, where the PA was able to finance the Sydhavna terminal through the revenues of the real estate operation involving the port territories near the city center. Another similar case would be Marseille. The GPMM (Grand Port Maritime du Marseille) controls the port land since the last legislation reform in 2008[2]. For this reason when the port released the area for the waterfront regeneration, it received a compensation from the planning agency.  Another situation regarding the land ownership is when the port territory is owned by the city. In this case there is a leasing contract which ends when the port activities are ceased in a certain waterfront section and the land is released without the need of a compensation. This scheme can be found in Rotterdam or in Helsinki. The Finnish capital can be considered an extreme case since the municipality is one of the main land owners in the city. In this case the PA only owns the constructions and machinery built in its territory. During the interviews the port representatives claimed that the land issue puts them in a disadvantage position in the case of a negotiation regarding urban issues. Finally we can find cases in which the land is owned by the central state and there is a standardized procedure for the ownership transition. We can find this situation in Lisbon, where the law[3] states that in case the port territory does not have a current or foreseen use it should be handled to the local authorities if there is a clear plan regarding its transformation for urban uses.

In the institutional relation we could also observe another issue that affects only certain ports. These are major infrastructure that even in the smaller cases include a vast extension of territory. In the sample we studied the size of the port varies from 125 Ha  of land in the port of Oslo to 12500 Ha  along 40 km of the river Maas in the case of Rotterdam. This dimension affects the territorial management that in some cases it includes several municipalities. The two most extreme cases among the selected port-cities were Marseille and Lisbon. In the French case the port territory is divided into two main locations, Marseille (east basin) and Fos (west basin). Besides the two very different realities, the port activity also affects a broad number of small municipalities, at least 3 communauté [4] from Marseille to Fos sur Mer (Bertoncello & Dubois, 2010) that demand a sit in the management board. The negotiation with so many stakeholders, each one with very different priorities and development goals, is considerably complicated. In the Portuguese capital we found that the port limits with 11 municipalities. In this case each one has a different relation with the port authority and different openness towards port activities. These issues that could seem subjective might affect the port development. In the Lisbon case one of the factors that influenced the decision of the new container terminal location was the political relation with the local authorities[5] .

Another issue that affects this relation is the fact that the PA is not the same as the port community. Therefore, the concept or agenda of the official institution is not always welcomed by the companies, workers, unions and other individuals or organizations from the port. In some cases, mainly Genoa and Marseille, we noticed how this diversity of actors might difficult the dialogue and in some cases delay important reforms. In general terms we could see that the port communities are not so open to change, particularly if it is brought from outside the port. The PA plays a crucial role since it has to properly explain the necessary change and convince this very resilient community to accept it.

In the investigation we were also able to understand the importance of the negotiation process necessary between all the involved stakeholders. In port territories very often we find other institutions besides the port authorities, such as railway companies, road authorities, customs, public transport companies, cargo and ferry terminals, etc. In all the study cases the negotiation and willing to dialogue was crucial for the urban and port development. For these negotiations the existence of dialogue platforms, sometimes linked to a project, was considered to be a useful approach.


3. Physical relation – Interface and Waterfront regeneration projects – Dialogue and negotiation

In the selected study cases we could observe how different sorts of urban projects in the waterfront are taking place or have been developed in the past. Since these port-cities have been studied previously by other scholars into more detail, we will only mention the main aspects of them, specifically the most recent developments.

3.1 The interventions

3.1.1. Helsinki

In Helsinki, after the relocation of the industrial port in Vuosaari, several urban development are taking place that will change the relation of the city with the water. Particularly relevant are the ones in Jatkasaari and Kalatasama. In the first one we shall also see the interaction with port activities (Laitinen,2013), more specifically the ferries, that brought in 2015 10,7 mill passenger[6] and also a considerable figure of ro-ro cargo[7], approx. 25% of the general throughput (Merk et al. 2012).

© Adactive Ltd
Helsinki West Harbor Waterfront development (source: http://www.hel.fi)

3.1.2 Oslo

In Oslo the Fjord City plan is being developed since 2000, when the municipality chose to implement the urban strategy focused in improving the contact of the city with the fjord rather than the one more harbor oriented (Kolstø, 2013; Gisle Rekdal, 2013). This decision was also very representative of the different types of relation that cities have with their ports, not always considered an identity element. In this case the dialogue and negotiation has played a crucial role, since the land, as mentioned before, is owned by the port. One of the most important features of the plan is the new coherent vision for the waterfront. In the case of Oslo the new promenade along the urban shore plays an important role, since it is the link between the different areas, that go from new port terminals in Sydhavna in the south to the new centralities in Bjorvika. The plan will proceed with the development of Filipstad and Vippetangen. These sections of the waterfront will require more negotiation than in previous parts since there are port related industries operating there and the solution for connection with the urban tissue implies not just the port but also the railway company.

3.1.3 Rotterdam

The case of Rotterdam presents two main examples for waterfront interventions, Kop van Zuid and Stadshavens. The first is entering its final stage and is an example of “port out-city in” type of project. In this case a port brownfield was transformed into a high standard mixed-use district. The clear gentrification we can see it was considered positive, being one of the goals of the project, since the city needed greater variety in a dwelling market dominated by social housing (Daamen et al., 2015). The second intervention could be considered a model for the future. Its scale and complexity is greater than other cases since it implies an area of 1600 Ha, of which 600 Ha of land (Vries, 2014) with many active industries. This last section of the port inside the highway ring began to be discussed in the year 2004, with an initial approach similar to the Kop van Zuid. In 2007, before the world financial crisis, it was clear that the scheme could not be replied and that a different strategy was necessary (Daamen,2010; Vries, 2014). The model changed from a “port out-city in” approach to a real coexistence among port and urban uses. The industries are considered to be important, particularly innovative ones related with the port, and the transition will be developed in a slower rhythm, with a more flexible implementation agenda. The housing program will be built in the areas that allow a compatible use. This case is considered to be very innovative since, as mentioned before, the project no longer takes place in a port brownfield, but in a active port sector. The integration can hardly be achieved, but the coexistence between port and city can be a reasonable goal.

3.1.4 Marseille

Marseille is also undergoing an important urban transformation. After the industrial crisis of the 1970-1980 the city went into a process of social and physical degradation, unemployment rates grew considerably, the lack of private investment caused a degradation of the urban tissue with several brownfields and the productive model did not evolved from the previous scenario. The port, as in many other cases, was no longer the job provider it used to be. At the same time the city gained a negative reputation. To invert the negative development tendency the central government decided to act by implementing an urban regeneration plan in 1995, the Euroméditerranée (Bertoncello & Dubois, 2010; Martin, 2015). The operation was destined to change the image of the city and its productive model, with a new CBD where several industrial brownfield used to be, near the urban port. The operation required the cooperation of all the involved actors, including the GPMM.

One of most interest facts about this case for the port-city relation is the vertical integration of port and urban activities in several key projects. Terrasses du Port, Silo d’Arenc  and in the future the J1 Warehouse show the compatibility of port activities with cultural, service or shopping programs. Besides these specific projects the process also allowed the city to regain an access to the sea in the J4/MUCEM section. Another important element was the flexibility of the plan, since the construction was only developed when a high rate of occupancy (70%) was assure, avoiding the risk of empty buildings and the possible degradation. Most importantly, the commitment achieved was translated into the city-port charter, a document that summarized the negotiation process and granted the presence of the port in the urban core, easing the acceptance of the project by the port community, not always opened to change. The plan is still ongoing and in the next years it should start its second phase, this time without affecting directly port territories.

3.1.5 Genoa

The case of Genoa presents a different reality from the ones discussed previously. In the Italian city currently there is no waterfront regeneration project in the classic meaning of the concept, i.e. acting in a port brownfield to generate an urban tissue near the water. This sort of intervention already took place in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s and in the early 2000’s, in always linked with a big events policy (Gastaldi, 2010, 2013). The particularity of the Genoese context is the need to intervene in the active port, to give answer to specific technical issues and, in the process, use this opportunity to improve the relation of the city with the port and the sea. The Blue print project developed by Renzo Piano is a conceptual plan for the east section of the port territory focused in reorganizing the shipyards industry, improving its infrastructure and implementing a better distribution of the existing activities, which include a yacht club and water sports. Simultaneously the exhibition fair district, outside the port boundaries, should also be affected by this plan, since it also requires an intervention to invert its current degradation process. The project plans the development of 11300 m2 of housing, 25 000 m2 of tertiary activities and 12 000 m2 of commerce in the sector focused in the urban regeneration[8]. This figure is relatively small when compared to the previous cases, which also shows the different scope of the project. One of the main features of the plan, as we can see in the image, is the creation of a new blue buffer, i.e. a water channel separating the city from the port.

Genoa Blue print. In the image we see the water channel following the line of the old city walls. (Source: Official document of the project)

3.1.6 Lisbon

In Lisbon the most important waterfront regeneration project took place in the late 1990’s, the regeneration of a port brownfield in the east part of the city for the EXPO 1998. After the event the area suffered several changes to adapt to its post-expo use, hosting a new business district, several housing projects and key cultural infrastructures. The main critic to this project was that it created an island of new urbanity disconnected from the existing urban tissue (Ressano Garcia, 2011).  In 2007 the general plan for waterfront interventions was published, in which the future use of riverfront areas and port territory to be dismissed was described. This plan was developed in the strategic level and the partial projects were developed in a closer scale. The economic crisis that affected the world economy, and particularly the Southern European countries, burst short after the release of the document and several project there hosted suffered significant delays, being developed only today. In this period the absence of activities in the released areas increased the negative image of the port, although the port itself was not responsible of the situation. The importance of temporary uses was clear in this case, since they could have allowed an appropriation of the space by the inhabitants that later on might ease the integration.

3.1.7 Synthesis table with the dimensions of Schubert model

tabla Shubert-7 copy copy
Dimensions of waterfront (re-)development for comparative perspectives, adapted from Schubert (2011). In the case of Lisbon there is no current major waterfront regeneration project.

3.2 Conclusions of the physical relation analysis

3.2.1 Contracts

One of the elements that are most relevant for the waterfront regeneration projects is the situation regarding the contracts with the existing companies. The majority of the PA, as we have already mentioned,  follow the landlord model, therefore there are companies developing their activities in the port territory which have made an investment based in a long term commitment. These contracts are usually signed for several decades and imply considerable compensation sums in case they are broken. In the waterfront project they might form an impediment for the implementation of the plan. We could find this issue in several cases. In Oslo there are operating firms in Filipstad and in the silo in Vippetangen. In Rotterdam there are several companies with long-term contracts in Merwerhaven, Eemhaven and Waalhaven, that in case they had to be relocated the necessary compensation could affect the outcome of the project[9]. One of difficulties of acting in the active port is the issue of respecting the contracts, in this context the flexible planning and negotiation skills might prove to be determinant for the success or failure of the project.

3.2.2 Agencies

The waterfront and the port-city interface are a very specific situation, the issues affecting this part of the city are very particular and the solutions applied in other locations of the urban tissue might not work here (Hoyle, 1998). At the same time in this context the municipal authorities deals with another institution managing a vast territory, the port authorities, with different priorities and goals, that counterbalances the negotiation process. In order to find solutions very often an specific planning agency is created. In the analyzed study cases we found several agencies, frequently linked with a project, instead of a steady organizations meant to follow different plans. In Rotterdam the Stadshavens evolved to be a dialogue and coordination platform after the approach to the project changed (Daamen,2010; Vries, 2014).

In the case of Genoa we found precedents of these sort of initiatives, created by both sides of the relation. For the port plan the PA established an agency for the development of the port Masterplan. This new office counted with the collaboration of world renowned architects and planners, e.g. Rem Koolhaas, Solá Morales and Bernardo Secchi, to provide new ideas for the port-city interface (Boeri,1999). Later on another agency, the Genova Urban Lab, was created to solve the existing urban issues, among them the relation with the port. The synergies created in the process have helped to improve the dialogue between the municipal and port authorities.

In Marseille the Euroméditerranée was created by the national state with the scope of the urban regeneration of the city. The participants in the new public agency were also the GPMM, the urban community, the county council, the regional council and the municipality. The agency forced a dialogue almost inexistent until that moment. One of the greatest achievements of this initiative has been the connection between the national and the local decision makers. This agency is linked to the project development and its destiny is to disappear when the plan is finished. However it has already left a document that should work as guide for the future of the port-city relation, the “city-port charter”.

The other cases have not developed an specific waterfront agency, but in certain moment have established joint venture dedicated to specific projects, such as the Frente Tejo in Lisbon, focused in three major public projects and later extinguished.

3.2.3 Two tendencies

Waterfront projects have been studied by several authors since the pioneer interventions in Boston and Baltimore in the 1960’s. Ever since we have seen an evolution in the development models. In Europe we could until now find several generations of waterfront revitalization (Schubert, 2008 and 2011). The first one exemplified in London, the Canary wharf, contrasting later with what took place in Barcelona or Genoa where the public space and leisure had the dominant role. Later the focus changed to mixed- use and housing very often linked with a landmark cultural project, following the example of Bilbao.

In the studied port-cities we found two main sorts of waterfront revitalization plans. In the Nordic countries the concept has followed what we have already seen in other locations e.g. the Netherlands. The relocation of the port industrial harbor created the opportunity of a waterfront project. In Oslo the new port terminal in Sydhavna has been developed with the revenues from the Oslo Havn KF, which also benefited from the real estate operations . In Helsinki on the other hand the decision of moving the industrial port to Vuosaari released a considerable space for new districts in the city.

While in Oslo the free market law prevails, therefore high standard housing for high income class, in Helsinki the role of the municipality as landowner allows a greater social mix in the new city districts in the waterfront. The composition of both social structures might provide in the future different perceptions of the public space and the urban environment by the water.

The second type of waterfront intervention is the one that acts in the active port territory, as we see in Rotterdam and Genoa. In these cities the plans are not limited to port brownfields, but propose the reconfiguration of the active port, considering at the same time the urban needs and the harbor related activities. In this cases the interface between both realities changes and technical needs from the port are used to improve the synergies with the city. When comparing both we could say that Rotterdam takes the concept further since the transformation is not physical but also social and economical. The RDM campus is one positive example of interaction between city and port in the educational sector, in the boundary between both territories (Aarts et al, 2012). This sort of plans could be considered a new generation of waterfront regeneration projects since they offer a new approach to the port-city reality. The Euroméditerranée plan in Marseille has elements from both, since this operation has not altered significantly the configuration of the port territory and only in a small section the PA has released area by the water. The main innovation was the coexistence of port and urban activities, as we have seen in several projects.

Plan of the Euroméditerranée project. In the lower section we see the part handled by the PA to the city for the development of the Mucem and Villa Méditerranée. The PA also agreed in shrinking their urban border in order to allow the creation of the Boulevard du Littoral. Source: Euroméditerranée presentation

The waterfront interventions have clear development stages (Schubert, 2008). Starting with the abandonment of the area and relocation of port infrastructure, to the emergence of a port brownfield, later proceeding to the implementation of plans and its revitalization. In the last decade we have already seen that the process was starting to change, since the real estate development were proving to be economically very convenient. The pressure to the port to move it mains infrastructure to another location was not only due to the technical and logistic needs for more space, but also from the different urban stakeholders. We might have achieved a new stage, the waterfront intervention no longer happen after the port released the area, but rather take place in the active port. At the same time also the model of intervention has changed in these cases. If previously the main goal was to develop green public spaces, cultural venues or mixed-use and housing developments, what could be named the “beauty waterfront”,  now it seems we have an alternative “productive waterfront” model, where the industries are considered important for the city and the effort has to be made for the compatibility and coexistence between the port and the city. This evolution in the waterfront projects and the dangers of the previous model, more focused in housing and leisure programs, were already detected by other authors, e.g. Chrarlier (1992), who named it “the dockland syndrome”, Bruttomesso (2009) and Ducruet (2013), who considered a mistake to remove all the port activities from the regenerated waterfront, denaturalizing it from its original function.

4. Emotional relation

During the study case visits and analysis we were able to observe a third dimension of the port-city relation, the interaction between the citizens and the port. Until very recently the PA’s in general terms had not considered the importance of the public image and the communication with the inhabitants of the city where they were placed. Several scholars have already studied the negative image of the port, e.g. Hooydonk (2007), but the responsible authorities did not considered it an issue for their governance until recently.

Regarding this topic one of the key concepts is the SLO (Social License to Operate). As explained by Dooms (2014), is, in its broader concept, fulfilling the expectations of stakeholder and local communities in dimensions that go beyond the creation of wealth, i.e. the social acceptance of port activities by local communities. This subjective dimensions are often difficult to measure. In port-cities the SLO is not achieved easily since, as we mentioned before, the cities that host the harbor have to deal with the majority of the negative consequences of the port activity. In order to grant this license, the ports have to look for values that go beyond the usual port arguments regarding their economic impact, jobs, tons of cargo, etc. The soft values of seaports have in this context a key role. They are defined by Hooydonk (2007) as “the non-socioeconomic values which include among others historical, sociological, artistic and cultural sub-functions that form the soft-function of seaports”. In the selected port-cities these soft-values were presented in several ways, from education to heritage to cultural or communication initiatives.

During our research we observed that the different actions taken in this field could be organized in four main categories: education, communication, heritage and social agenda. Besides these key issues, the matter of the port as an identity element was considered to be transversal to all subjects. The problem of the urban identity in port-cities has been studied by several scholars, e.g. Hooydonk (2009) Warsewa (2011). In the concerned port-cities we were able to see that not all of them that host a port consider themselves a port-city, or the port as a key element of their identity. We can mention Oslo or Lisbon for example, in which the citizens and the authorities acknowledge other features as more important for their identity. In the Norwegian case, as stated before, the fjord has a dominant role, the people are more related with the natural element than with the artificial port landscape. In the Portuguese capital the same happens with the Tagus river. Although is very clear how the port activity and development has affected the character and morphology of the city, the inhabitants are not able to relate with the port, sometimes even considering it an impediment to a more fluid relation with the river.

In the other cases the port is considered an important characteristic for the collective image of the city. When we observe the different cases is clear that this key infrastructure does not has the same weight in the identity of each city. The role the port plays in Rotterdam cannot be equal to the one in Helsinki. However we have detected that there might be a growing detachment towards the port. For this reason the need to improve the social relation is clear. In some cases the goal is to strength the role of the port, in others, to create a social relation with it. Therefore the four categories above mentioned have to work jointly to achieve the desired result.

4.1 Education

The relation with the educational institutions has been one of the fields where the PA have made the greater efforts for the social integration. In all the visited port-cities the PA had organized school visits to the port facilities for groups of children of different age. In another level the collaboration with the universities is also very frequent. In Marseille the PA participates in workshops with the architecture faculty. In Rotterdam the cooperation with educational institutions goes beyond visits or workshops. In the RDM campus the start-up companies focused in port activities give the students the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge. The education programs are also being use to deal with another issue, the fact that to younger generations the port is no longer seen as an attractive place to pursue a professional career.

Regarding the issue of understanding the port, an specific infrastructure can be found in some port cities, the port center. This space is focused in explaining the port to a broader audience, particularly children and teenagers, to allow the inhabitants to regain a sense of ownership of the port (Marini et al., 2014). Very often their exhibition and educational activities are complemented by boat tours where the students can see what they have learn before. In two study-cases, Rotterdam and Genoa, we could visit the port-center. Both cities have this kind of centers[10], although the one in Genoa has been closed since 2014. There is a Port-Center Network organized by the AIVP which coordinates the relation between the different institutions. In the future is expected to find more centers in the different ports. In some port-cities we could also find maritime museum that often have a section dedicated to explaining the port.

4.2 Communication

In the paper “Lipstick on a Gorilla” (Van Stiphout, 2007), we could read that the port is now a reality that must be explained. The communication has been another field in which we have assisted to important changes in recent years. The use of social media to explain the port and interact with the inhabitants has become a regular activity. Most PAs have a communication strategy but often does not reach the targeted audience. The port of Rotterdam has been active in many channels to spread the news about the port activities. They produce a free newspaper and have an online TV channel, an initiative we can also see in Hamburg[11]. Another useful strategy is the information signage, where the port and its history can be explained to the inhabitants. In Oslo the information strategy in the Fjord City project was particularly effective since it was linked to the waterfront promenade project. The possibility of joining a coherent urban vision with user friendly information boards proved to be useful. The port history is explained where the current waterfront regeneration projects are being built. The explanation of the transition could help to develop an emotional connection with the port heritage and improve the port identity role.

4.3 Heritage

The next category where we can find soft-values strategies is the heritage. In old port areas we can often find harbor machinery, cranes and warehouses. During the field trips we could see the different role this heritage has played in the port regeneration projects. In Oslo, Helsinki, Rotterdam and Genoa we could see the cranes working as sculptural elements in the public space. The use of warehouses and other buildings like silos is also frequent. In Marseille the Silo d’Arenc was refurbished into a cultural venue, keeping the port circulation underneath. In Genoa the congress center is the old cotton warehouses. In Rotterdam, in the Katendrecht district, we should see in the near future several projects in industrial buildings take place, which could allow a mixed use of the space. In the same city we can also find the historic harbor associated with the maritime museum. In this space, besides the cranes and boats we can also see the workshops where they are repaired, allowing a relative coherent atmosphere. The use of heritage to connect with the history of the port is one of the most effective and accepted strategies. In case the buildings or cranes are kept, is important that they are integrated in the new urban plans but with the right context, otherwise, they might be isolated elements losing their strength as a whole.

Real Estate development in Katendrech. In the future the relation with the industrial heritage might be tighter than what it is today, passing the musealization and integrating it in every day uses (Source: http://www.fenixlofts.nl/)

4.4 Social agenda

Finally, the last type of strategy is the social events for the port integration. The open door days and port festival, like the ones in Rotterdam, Helsinki or Lisbon constitute the typical example of this sort of action. In most guides of good practice they are mentioned as an effective method of bringing people to the harbor and rising the interest of the general audience for the port issues. These sort of event might be characterized by a certain folklore and detachment from what really a port is nowadays. Nevertheless they do attract attention and must be complemented with the educational programs and infotainment from the port-centers and maritime museums. Besides these venues, the port also can be active in the other events, such as the city marathon, concerts or exhibitions, that put the focus in the port, or the port can work as background. This way, the harbor image is introduced in the life of the inhabitants, what could lead to a broader acceptance of its presence.

All the strategies aforementioned are correlated, the cultural venues are often associated with the port-centers which can be placed in port heritage buildings. The soft-values can be explained in different ways but their effects in the general mindset cannot be measured from one year to the other. The successful cases that use these strategies have been applying them for the long term results. However, it is important to have a realistic idea of the perception of the port by the citizens by performing studies, like the one from Lisbon in 2007[12], where the actual image of the port is evaluated. The effects of these policies could lead to higher acceptance of the port.

In this article we have not focused in the environmental policies followed by the different PAs, although is clear they are the first priority regarding the coexistence with the city and CSR. This is a broader subject to be dealt in another article, but we can notice how important they have become in the different ports we visited. The control of the different pollutants using sophisticated sensor system is an usual practice in the European ports. At the same time there is a constant dialogue with the responsible authorities for an effective control of the nuisances and the companies operating in the port. In another dimension we can also see how the new terminal or port expansion projects have environmental concerns regarding the fauna and flora. In the Maasvlakte 2, in Rotterdam, the creation of the breakwater reused material from the original Maasvlakte. The new port territory in Vuosaari is placed in a Natura 2000 reserve, therefore the nuisance had to be reduced to the minimum. For this reason the sound barrier in the east border is a wall made with concrete blocks that allows the integration of vegetation to reduce the impact of the port.

5. General Conclusion

After analyzing the different study cases one of the original assumptions proved to be correct, it is not possible to achieve a real physical port city integration, only a sustainable coexistence (Bruttomesso, 2011). The current technical requirements and security limitations will constantly hinder the full integration that belongs to the early phases of Hoyle’s model. In this case the description of Hoyle’s 6th phase might be correct, since we did found new links between the port and the city, and in the future they might even be reinforced due to the economic development associated with port industries and port-clusters.

In the selected port-cities we found common problems to all of them, e.g. environmental issues, traffic associated to port activity or the barrier effect. However, the physical, political, emotional and institutional context plays a key role in all the cases, requiring specific solutions for the mentioned general problems. We also found that the abstract models proposed by several authors and the rankings do not fully express the reality of the port or the complexity of the port-cities.

The two existing schemes regarding the national governance, centralized and decentralized, can affect the relation between the port and the city, particularly in the institutional level. These differences can later be seen in the effort the PA is able to do in order to improve the interaction with the city. The allocation of resources controlled by a central authority might difficult the investment in the disclosure of the soft-values of seaport, what could in the long term increase the positive synergies with the inhabitants.

In the waterfront we have seen how the intervention model has evolved, although in the selected study cases the plans developed in the 1990’s and 2000’s are currently under development. The new strategies are focused in intervening in the active port, in some cases generating new types of interaction between both realities. The need of a port-city combined strategy affects both the physical and economical development. One technical improvement might cause an spatial redistribution, which  could imply a new access to the water or new associated industries. This change, that in this article we took the freedom to name “from beauty waterfront to productive waterfront”, might introduce a more balance relation and better acceptance of the port presence. At the same time this sort of plans could help to maintain the port identity, providing a certain variability to the necessary coherent vision for the waterfront.

Finally, during the analysis of the study cases, it was clear that the role of the PA has to go beyond the management of the port territory and activities. The port has to assume its role as constituent element of the urban structure and collective image. The disclosure of the soft-values of seaports by the PAs should help the port to achieve greater acceptance by the citizens. If we consider that very often the PAs are politicized institutions it seems reasonable that an investment is made for the improvement of its public image and obtaining the SLTO. We have seen that the full physical integration between port and cities will not be possible, but the social integration of the seaports should be considered an important goal to be achieved by the PAs.

[1] According to the AAPA (American Association of Port Authorities) at a Landlord port the PA is responsible for the basic infrastructure which later leases to private operators for the different port activities.

[2] Law n2008-660 4th of July 2008

[3] Law DL 100/2008 of June 16 2008.

[4] The term communauté de communes refers in French to a federation of municipalities. In this case the three communauté in question gather 27 communes. On January 1st of 2016 a new administrative body, the Métropole d’Aix-Marseille – Provence, was created which gathers the aforementioned municipalities and Aix-en-Provence. This new institution should easy the territorial management and the relation of the municipalities with the port.

[5] Source https://www.publico.pt/economia/noticia/governo-pede-avaliacoes-ambientais-para-avancar-com-novo-porto-no-barreiro-1670498

[6] Source: Port of Helsinki, http://www.portofhelsinki.fi/port_of_helsinki/port_statistics

[7] Ro-Ro is, as defined by the AAPA, Short for roll on/roll/off type of cargo. This sort of cargo is not lifted inside the ship with cranes, but rolls on and off it, since it goes in cars, trailers or other type of vehicles.

[8] Source: Official project document and website: http://www.comune.genova.it/content/il-blueprint-10-punti

[9] Another case where the importance of the contracts situation can be seen is Hamburg. For the 2024 Olympic proposal, that finally was rejected by the citizens in a referendum, one of the bigger challenges was the figure of the compensation for the companies operating in the Kleinen Grasbrook, port territory, where the Olympic village was supposed to be built.

[10] The port of Rotterdam has two Port-Centers: the EIC, placed in a central location in the port territory with the scope of general explaining the harbor and the port activities, and the Futureland center, in the Maasvlakte 2, focused in explaining the port expansion project.

[11] Both PAs have channels in the online platform YouTube

[12] Sustainability report from the year 2007, available in: http://www.portodelisboa.pt/portal/page/portal/PORTAL_PORTO_LISBOA/AUTORIDADE_PORTUARIA/RELATORIOS_PUBLICACOES

Conference Presentation


AESOP YA – Jose Sanchez – final2


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The Oslo experience

The Oslo experience

During the time spent in the Norwegian capital we were able to get in contact with the reality of this port city and to notice how it has been handling the transition process from a Port-city to a Fjord-City, as they themselves describe it.

Radhuset area with Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen in the back

For the purpose of this research we got in contact with some of the stakeholders in the port-city relation and in the waterfront regeneration operation. More specifically we were able to meet with Mr. Stein Kolsto (SK), from the city urban planning department, who was in charge for the development of the Fjordcity plan. We also met with Landscape architect Ms. Anne trine Hoel and urban planner Mr. Vidar Aa. Fiskum from the Port Authority (PA), both of them work in the urban development department run by Ms. Kathrin Pedersen. The meetings gave us a balanced perspective over the struggles that have happened during the long process and complex negotiations that has implied the ongoing transformation in Oslo waterfront.

The stay in Oslo also allowed a photographic survey of the implied areas of the aforementioned process and the new port terminal in Sydhavna. The view behind the camera gave a new perspective and enhanced some details that we could have missed. Several moments have been captured where we can see the essence of the transition, the risks and the possibilities that lie ahead. This work shows the sensibility it has been developed towards the water and the transitional areas between port and city.

New Sydhavna terminal
New Sydhavna terminal

Following the same process like in Lisbon, we visited the cultural institutions that could contain information about the harbor, its history and the role that plays in city. The visited institutions were the Oslo Museum where the history of the city is explained, and the Maritime Museum where one can better understand the intense relation that this country holds with the sea.

The relation between the port and the city

Institutional level

When we spoke with the stakeholder they all agree that the relation between the port and the city in terms of the different planning agencies is relatively tense. They both comply that there is lack of understanding between them and that every change implies a very intense negotiation. The PA mentioned there is the misconception that the port has considerable financial resources due to the revenues of sold land in recent years. This common belief does not consider the large expenses that implies building the new terminal. On the other hand the urban planning agency regrets the lack of flexibility from the PA and absence of sensibility to some urban issues. This conflict is common in cases where different authorities with territorial management capabilities have to work together. It is always difficult to understand the problems of the other side, but is necessary to reach an agreement in order to proceed with the urban and port improvements.

The relation has evolved and went through different stages. It was explained by SK that between 1982 and 2008 were the most difficult years, since it was when the main negotiation regarding the Fjordcity plan and reorganization of the waterfront took place.

Bjørvika before the Fjordcity plan
Bjørvika before the Fjordcity plan Source: http://www.publicspace.org/en/works/f171-den-norske-opera-ballett

In the particular context of Oslo we must understand what degree of independence and influence the PA has. As indicated by SK, until 1984 the PA was directly dependent from the central government, after this year they moved under the “municipal umbrella”, but with certain particularities. The PA is the owner of the land which occupies and the economic benefits from the port activities remain in the port economy, therefore the economic resources generated should be used for port development. Regarding its government, the port has a board where representatives from the different levels of power are present, including from the municipality. The issues there discussed would be later taken to the municipal parliament, although, as mentioned by SK, once the initiative is approved in the port board is usually approved by the parliament.

Emotional level

We could conclude that the inhabitants from Oslo do not feel the port as an important symbol for the urban identity. When in the year 2000 the parliament choose the Fjord-city strategy over the Port-city it was clear which element played a greater role in the citizens mindset. There are several explanation to this characteristic. The Norwegian people love the contact with the nature and the landscape, therefore is more or less logic that they would rather be related with natural concept like the Fjord, rather than with the human-made landscape that the port implies. Also, as pointed out by SK, during several decades the port community in Oslo was not so socially active as in other Norwegian cities, where they would voluntarily cooperate with the town in order to provide necessary facilities for the inhabitants. The PA also indicated that the people do not acknowledge the importance of the port in every-day life. The citizens ignore how the goods they consume get to the shops or their houses, so they do not see the meaning of the port or why the city needs one.

Legal frame aspects of the Fjordcity plan

In order to fully understand how the Fjordcity plan works we asked the interviewees about the contracts, with its conditions, and the companies that develop the process.

Daughter companies

The technicians from the PA explained us that the port had different strategies regarding the land selling and management process. This strategy depends of several factors: the dimensions of the area, how many landlords are there, the complexity of the zoning and the presence of port activities. For example in Bjørvika, they created a daughter company in order to manage the process and reduced the risk for the PA, in this case the company is name HAV Eiendom.  They operated in this mode because it was a large complex part of the waterfront, with several landlords and there would not be any more port activities.

In Tjuvholmen we could see a different scenario. The land to sell was not that large, with relatively simple zoning, the PA as single landowner, and there would be no port activities in the future. In this case they sold the land directly to the developer, who granted the construction of the new area according to the municipality concept.

In the areas of Filipstad and Vippetangen is not yet clear which strategy will be followed. The main concern here is the fact there will be port activities in the future. We will know better once the plans are defined and approved by municipal council.

Types of contract

In the Fjordcity plan the municipal authorities have two different roles pending of what type of contract is made. If a “development contract” is made with future developers the municipality will appear as urban planning authority and is allowed by law to negotiate certain demands to allow the rezoning. The infrastructures are fully done by the developers and later transferred to the municipality. These demands increase the price per square meter and are decided based on the built surface in order to ensure a reasonable investment in the public facilities for the new areas, as are roads, schools, green areas, etc. This type of contract is used in the larger developments like Bjørvika.

Other possible option is the “sales contract”. This sort of contract is used in the smaller development. In it the municipality appears as land owner. Since it is a stronger position it allows them to make more demands in the negotiations. The infrastructures are built by the landowner and also managed after they are concluded. In this point it is crucial the negotiation for granting public access to open areas. We could see this type of contract in the Tjuvholmen development.

Tjuvhomen urban development
Tjuvhomen urban development

Fjordcity –  the Havnepromenade

One of the most remarkable features of the Fjordcity project is the Havnepromenade. The idea of considering the waterfront as one single entity comes all the way back from the Aker Brygge architectural competition. This concept has been translated to reality through the creation of a promenade along the entire waterfront, giving a certain unity to the path that extends almost 10 km, crossing areas with very different identities, from marinas, to silos and cranes, to the new Opera. The change in the way how citizens can now enjoy the waterfront is significant. The fact that several of the roads that used to form a barrier between the water and the city are now longer there meant an change. Nowadays we can find new activities in the Oslo fjord, like for example, the new urban beach areas.

Urban beach in Bjørvika
Urban beach in Bjørvika

The path along the waterfront is identifiable thanks to the intervention by the architects MMW, that developed an urban design strategy, with signs, benches and a set of 14 “infopoints”. In these special points we can find information about the place we are visiting and what part of port used to be there, what activities and how it evolved. The “infopoints” was a project developed jointly by the municipal and road authorities, with a collaboration of the PA for the location and the texts explaining the history of the port. An interesting characteristic is the illustrations from the comic book “Krüger & Krogh” from the authors Bjarte Agdestein, Ronald Kabicek og Endre Skandfer, a story that takes place in the port of Oslo in the 1960s. In the illustration we can see the different areas of the port when the shipyards were still working.

Havnepromenade infopoints
Havnepromenade infopoints

Fjordcity yet to come


The area of Filipstad is placed in western part of the waterfront, where we can still find today some industries and warehouses. This is the largest area in the Fjordcity plan and one of the latest to be developed. For this part the intention is to continue the development of Tjuvholmen and Aker Brygge, therefore a mixed-use program with commerce, offices and housing for 5000 persons. It will also include important infrastructure like the new ferry terminal, replacing the existing one.

Although the concept seems clear this area still has no approved masterplan. There have been several points discussed for a long period, like the creation of tunnel for the highway, similar to the one in Bjørvika, that would allow a more fluid relation with the water, but implies an important investment and so far, as pointed out by the PA, is not clear who should be responsible for it. Another conflict point could be the railway areas north of the highway, which are included in the general masterplan as one part to be included in this development. The discussion between all the concerned authorities has been going on since mid-2005, and as indicated by SK, the final version of the Masterplan might have been achieved but it must be approved by the municipal council. Just this weekend were the municipal elections, with a change in the government, therefore we will have to wait until the new government has studied the plan proposal and is able to give the definitive approval.

Filipstad nowadays
Filipstad nowadays


This part of the city is right in the center of the waterfront, between Bjørvika and Aker Brygge, in a very special location, in front of the Akerhus fortress, around which the city was rebuild. Nowadays we find in this area some of the remaining port atmosphere the waterfront once had. There is one functioning silo that could remain as landmark for the future, the Cruise terminal, the port Authority headquarters, the fish market and the Ferry terminal. As said before this is a central part of the waterfront, therefore also of the Fjordcity plan. For this reason it should suffer several changes in the near future, although the planning strategies are still open.

The intention of the municipality is to develop another public attraction, probably a cultural facility like an aquarium. As pointed out this is a very particular area, since is one of the few port working places where we can still see some port activity. For this reason the port is particularly concern about what could happen here.

One of the main discussions is the cruise terminal, as it happens in many other cities. The municipal planning and the heritage authorities are not satisfied with the current location of this infrastructure and would like to have it placed somewhere else. The visual impact of large ships next to the Akerhus fortress is obvious although their presence is temporary. On the other hand it is a very convenient location for the cruise companies since is placed near the main tourist attraction and issue we should not forget the economic impact this industry has for the city. The considered alternative for the cruise terminal would be placing it in Filipstad. The PA explained that in 2010 a survey was made to help the discussion regarding the best place for this facility. So far the decision has not been made yet, and probably with a new municipal government it could take more time than expected.

The ferry terminals are another “hot topic” for this area, as it is for the entire waterfront. It has been decided that there will be two different terminals, following the intentions of the port of having two terminals for the two main destinations (Germany and Denmark). On the other hand is not so clear the financing of the new facilities. The PA insists on finding a self-financing solution, following the general concept of the Fjordcity plan. This solution would imply that the company responsible for the construction and operation of the terminal should have another parallel business related with the terminal, for example a hotel. The municipality, as it was told by the PA, believes that the port has enough resources for developing the terminal by themselves, without tying the project with another private investment that could limit the public use of the area. This is a complex issue since through these infrastructures a significant percentage of the port cargo arrives to Oslo, therefore is not just a matter of passenger but also a logistic planning issue.

When we visited Vippetangen we could see that the feeling is very different from other parts of the waterfront. This particular area is crucial for the waterfront since it brings a certain diversity to the plan and allows a different kind of activities, like fishing. The PA has insisted in keeping this area with the original identity to show the people the port milieu. In order to reach these goals they have improved the urban design with especial attention to details.

This complex place is one of the most interesting areas in the future of Fjordcity and its solution will require further negotiation and a special sensibility towards the existing Genius Loci. Recently, an architectural competition for this area was made. As far as we know there is still no outcome, but it reveals that there is an ongoing debate about it. There are key decisions to be made that will determine the future of the area, like the cruise terminal and the ferry terminal. For all these reasons is worth paying attention to what could happen since it could be another good example of waterfront intervention.

Image of the port

The port in Oslo, as said before, is not seen as a key identity element for the city. Over the past years the PA has been developing a public relation strategy that could help the people to relate with the port. Once a year the port hosts an open doors day when the people can go to the port and get to know better how it works. This is one of the main strategies pointed out in the “ESPO code of Practice on societal Integration of Ports”. Is an event that we see in many other ports and helps to trigger the curiosity of the local inhabitants on how a port in the XXIst century works.

In the city we have seen other elements that also help to explain the port. The aforementioned MMV project explains the history of the port in a friendly way, particularly for youngsters. In other level, in the Maritime Museum we also find a part of the exhibition dedicated to explain the port with several interactive tools.

Another event that we could witness during the time spent in Oslo was the city´s marathon. For this sport venue the port was also participant and allowed the race to cross a small container area placed south from Bjørvika, where in the future the Fjordcity plan will conclude and the boarder with the port Area will be placed.

Oslo Marathon between containers
Oslo Marathon between containers

The PA has developed different studies and guidelines worth mentioning. Particularly important are the ones related with the port industrial heritage and the aesthetic guidelines. Regarding the heritage issue the port did an important study of the existing old cranes and their characteristics. Unfortunately this study did not persuaded the PA to keep the cranes and use them as identity elements that could potentiate the image of the port among the citizens.

The new aesthetic guidelines for the port terminals is an important initiative to ensure a better coexistence between the port and the city. It is very relevant since it could help to improve how the port terminals are seen from the outside, but also for the working environment for the staff. These guidelines should develop a cooperation with professionals from different fields that until now were not the usual collaborators from the PA´s. For example there could be cooperation with artists, in order to improve the image by using certain color combinations or lighting schemes. During the meeting with the PA it was mentioned that there was the intention to recover the aesthetic quality of industrial buildings and areas, as we could see in infrastructures from the XIXth and early XXth centuries. In order to reach this goal they had started to collaborate more often with architects instead of leaving the responsibility to industrial engineers who could lack the aesthetic sensibility to make the wanted improvements.

Finally, the PA is collaborating with the daughter companies and municipalities to develop the buffer areas that will constitute a transition between urban and port areas. This is probably one of the last points to be developed from the Fjordcity plan, but is crucial in order to allow coexistence. For this issue they have been working with different alternatives, modifying the initial masterplan building densities and programs to deal with acoustic pollution issues that might come once the project is finished.

Personal opinion

The time spent in Oslo was very useful to get in contact with the Scandinavian reality. In southern countries we have very often an idealized vision from northern cities and as we have seen the port-city relation is always complex, independently from the context. What we could observe is that in the case of Oslo the authorities were able to go beyond the particular interests of each institution and, through an intense negotiation, they were able to find a win-win solution. The Fjordcity plan implies a complex urban transformation with several powerful stakeholders. The process allowed them to improve the urban quality, giving a waterfront for the city and at the same time improve the port facilities and make them more efficient. One of the most remarkable features of the whole process was that the port and the city were able to do it using a self-financing scheme without major public investment, except from the initial expenditure in the Bjørvika highway tunnel paid by the central authorities.

This case is a good example in terms of efficient application of the private investment to get a general benefit for the city. Although it is a slow process due to its complexity, and that for some politicians it should have been done already, we could see that it was possible to get very positive results.

When we see the whole process is obvious that since is fully market led there might be a risk of a real estate bubble. Also is very exposed to the evolution of the private investment flow, which is also connected to the national and international economy. This fact can be determinant if we consider that Norway is relatively exposed to the evolution of the oil prices. In case the oil prices diminishes it could lead to a decrease in the private investment, hence slowing down the waterfront regeneration process. It is important to notice that the plan has a certain flexibility since the port areas to regenerate also have working industries, with contracts that will end in the next years and/or with new short-term contract that could also be extended if necessary. This flexibility ensures a constant activity in the waterfront and prevents the creation of urban voids without value for the city or the port, that later could degrade, damaging the image of the city and the port.

Sørenga  urban development with the Barcode project in the back
Sørenga urban development with the Barcode project in the back

In the argument regarding the ferry terminals, we would think that for the city could be a major advantage to have one infrastructure since, as mention by SK in the interview, the impact in the traffic and the environment could be reduced and better managed in one single facility. We understand that in terms of maritime management it might be easier if we can divide the traffic in two terminals, especially if we already have the majority of the infrastructure built. Since the discussion was already settled, the city will have to find the better solution for coping with this issue.

The cruise ship industry is one of the main challenges for port cities worldwide. It is very difficult to manage the arrival of thousands of passengers to the city in a very short time and also the visual impact of the cruise ships. However, the economic gains that this industry brings to the city is important and the location of the terminal is crucial for the success as cruise destination. Also if Oslo is a maritime city the presence of ships is inevitable. The visual impact they produce is difficult to palliate, in best case scenario, an agreement regarding the ship berth calendar could be achieved as so an specific monument impact tax could be developed to make the industry itself responsible for the maintenance of the monument that they might be affecting.

In general terms, as we have seen, is a very positive intervention. We could find few aspects to criticize, but for example, the fact that from almost 50 cranes we only see 3 nowadays it could be interpreted as a missed opportunity for a better identification between the citizens and its port. The remaining cranes could have been kept as port industrial heritage elements in order to establish them as a memory of the port in the waterfront. This could later on be developed as a “port heritage enhancing plan” in order to provide the right context for these cultural elements, including specific landscape architecture and urban design interventions.

The three remaining cranes in Filipstad
The three remaining cranes in Filipstad

The social integration of the project could perhaps be also criticized, if we consider that one of the main triggering factors was a study where it was explained that the people with the worst living conditions lived in the center of Oslo. If we analyze this issue in detail one could say that the living conditions for these people, since the study was made in the 1980´s, have improved significantly. However the general feeling when walk around Oslo’s new waterfront is that is strongly gentrified. On the other hand, when we see the process as a whole, we understand that this is a “necessary evil”. Building in the waterfront in general terms is expensive when compared with solid ground. Besides this issue, we must not forget that the sold land and built neighborhoods carry in the price the investment made in the new port terminals and public facilities. When we look at the overall process we could say that the main social gain is the fact that now all the city´s inhabitants can access the waterfront and get a better contact and view with the Fjord.

We could learn many things from the Fjordcity plan and the Oslo experience, among them the constant negotiation process with positive outcomes, the ability to balance the public and private interests, the urban strategies from the port, or the fact that the stakeholders and architecture offices were able to give the waterfront a certain unity and coherence allowing at the same time a diversity that enriches the whole waterfront promenade experience.

Oslo is an important case for the investigation and a positive example for Lisbon. The participant stakeholders were able to answer to the challenges posed by the process and improve the port and the city. Oslo does not have the same intensity in the port-city relation, since most of the heavy port activities are outside the main urban core, but they have accomplished a positive transition process and are in the way for a balanced coexistence model.

Heading north: Oslo

Heading north: Oslo

The city of Oslo

Oslo is the capital of Norway, also the biggest urban agglomeration and the biggest port. Internationally is well known for its life quality and for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. Although is not one of the main international finance or commerce centers it plays a leading role in the Norwegian economy and for the regional development.

The city has a population of around 600 000 inhabitants and the metropolitan area of near one million. In the last decades is has experienced a constant population grow, becoming one of the most attractive cities for the emigrants, particularly since 2008 when the international finance crisis began.

Oslo Bjørvika
Oslo waterfront

Oslo was established around 1000 years ago, by the king Harald III. Three hundred years later was pronounced capital city, but shortly after would lose this status because of the union with Denmark, when the capital was Copenhagen.

In 1624 a great fire took place, destroying a reasonable part of the urban tissue that was mostly built out of wood. The King Christian IV would refound the city near the Akershus fortress to the west of the old medieval core. The new city was built following a rational organization of the streets, and an orthogonal urban structure that we still see today. After the city was rebuilt it changed its name to Christiania, to honor the king; later on it would evolve to Kristiania. Only in 1814 would recover its Capital city status, when the union with Denmark ended and it was under the influence of the Swedish kingdom. In 1925 the city would recover its original name, Oslo, as we know it today.

The port of Oslo

The port has been an important element of the city since it started to play an relevant role in international commerce, especially for wood and ship building, in the XVIIIth century. The Norwegian economy is deeply connected with the sea, in this country we find several shipping companies that together control 7% of the global fleet. Also in the cruise market is a world player, not just as destination, but also because one of the leading companies, Royal Caribbean, was created in Norway.

Nowadays the Oslo port now longer hosts major shipyards and the main activity is the container handling and passengers transportation. Last year the port handled 5,7 mill tons and 6 mill travellers.

Since the 1970´s we have assisted to an evolution in the port territory, from being spread along the waterfront to been centralized in the Sydhavna new Terminal, a change that was part of the Fjord City plan.

The port is expected to play a key role in the future development of the country and the region since the central government, in the same direction that the UE, has established the intention of potentiating the sea transport over the road, in order to reduce the environmental impact.

Oslo's new cargo port Sydhavna Source: www.oslohavn.no
Oslo’s new cargo port Sydhavna
Source: http://www.oslohavn.no

Waterfront Evolution

Aker Brygge

The first waterfront regeneration project in Oslo took place in the Aker Brygge, an old shipyard near the city hall. The area used to be known for the Aker Mekaniske Verksted AS, a private shipyard founded in mid XIXth Century and for decades was one of the main industrial complexes in Oslo´s waterfront.

The naval industry was very strong in Norway, particularly in Oslo. During the first half of the XXth Century the industry evolved from cargo ships to oil platforms during the 1960´s, at the same time that Norway began to exploit its oil resources. During the 1970´s the crisis caused by international competition hit the sector and the Aker Company decided to shut down the shipyards in Aker Brygge.

In 1982 the industries officially were closed and an international urban planning competition was held for the waterfront revitalization project. This competition, won by Niels Torp, included a vision for the entire waterfront but into more detail the area to be developed most immediately. The project was built during the following decade, and in the mid 1990´s the city had won a new access to the waterfront. The program of the plan was mixed use, since it included office space, shopping areas, housing units and a recreational marina. This new part of the city has been totally integrated in the urban daily life and last year was visited by 12 million persons.

Akker Brygge
Aker Brygge

Fjord City project

After the Aker Brygge project we can see a time gap in which Oslo´s waterfront remain unaltered until 2008 when the Fjord City plan was approved by the municipal council. This new waterfront master plan was based in some of the concepts seen in the Aker Brygge competition, particularly the idea of understanding the waterfront as whole, and acknowledging its importance for the city. As it happens in other waterfront regeneration projects, the Fjord City plan had a triggering element for its initial motivation. In this case it was a national survey regarding the living condition in Norway. This research concluded that the people with the worst conditions were right in the center of the capital, where the city was first founded. After this shocking discovery the central government granted funds for restarting the regeneration plans for Bjørvika in the east part of the waterfront. Eventually the City was forced to make a strategic decision regarding its waterfront. In the year 2000 the city council reached the decision that the better option for the future of the city was to choose for “Fjord city alternative”, in opposition to the “Port City option”. This game changing decision did not meant that the port would be fully expelled far outside the city, but concentrated gradually in the Sydhavna peninsula, in the outskirts of the urban core.

One of the key decision was the creation of a tunnel for the burial of the E18 highway, which would allow a direct contact with the waterfront in the area where one of the landmark buildings has been developed, the Oslo Opera.

The plan should be developed until 2030, and includes several city areas, two mill. Square meters, 9000 housing units and 45 000 workplaces. The project is divided into three main sections and different several subsections. Each area has specific characteristic regarding construction heights, density and materiality, but is clear the focus putted in new cultural landmarks, and mixed use. Besides the new Opera other major facilities have been built, like the Astrup Fearnly Museum of Modern Art, or will be in the near future, like the Munch Museum, the National Gallery and the Deichman Library.

Fjord City is so far moving at good speed, and until the moment we can see significant evolution in all sections. The port is already functioning in Sydhavna, the Bar Code project in Bjørvika is almost concluded, other parts in this area are also under development, Tjuvholmen, the continuation of Aker Brygge, is also done and already part of the city activities, and finally the Sørenga Pier is well under way in its transformation into a new living area.

In the future we shall see the development of the Filipstad area, one of the major developments, where we still find different working industries and warehouses. Also during the next decades the final stages of the Bjørvika area will be built, including the Munch Museum and several housing buildings. Between Bjørvika  and Aker Brygge, in Vippetangen we will see also several changes. Finally furthermore we will assist to the conclusion of the plan towards the south, in the direction of the new terminal, a very important part, since is where the new urban development will contact the industrial port.

The Fjord City project will be analyzed into greater detail in the next post. We will be able to meet with Mr. Stein Kølsto who was in charge of the Fjord city plan in  the municipal planning authority and Ms. Kathrin Pedersen, from the Oslo Port Authority, who is leading the department of urban development. In the next post we shall see how is the relation between the port and the city, and the negotiation process developed in order to meet this compromise that turned out to be beneficiary for both, the port and the city.

Fjordcity project Source: www.oslo.kommune.no
Fjordcity project
Source: http://www.oslo.kommune.no