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How to view public places as a dance floor

Want to meet Norway's first urbanist? With his lecture about “Public places as a dance floor”, Mr. Erling Fossen gives his audience a great insight into why good urban development is important - and how politicians should build e.g. urban spaces, streets and squares so they become dance floors where we humans can dance our lives.
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Arrange a party that no one wants to leave…

Mr. Erling Fossen has given lectures and led debates on urban development throughout Norway for many years. Since 2012 he’s organized those involved in development of the Oslo region through the Oslo Metropolitan Arena (a private public member association). Mr. Fossen is well known known for his dashing sense of humour, wake up calls to the audience and practical examples that makes sense for most of us. At Evolve Arena Conference on May 12th, he will peg up with all three of them to give an amazing lecture:

– The title “Public places as a dance floor” is inspired by former Swedish Prime Minister Tage Erlander who said that politics was about creating dance floors where people could dance their lives. That’s in a nutshell what the goal of good urban planning is all about. And that’s the reason, if your work is related to urban development, it’s necessary to start your planning with the urban spaces that people share – and not the buildings. Urban spaces are defined as all what’s between our buildings; e.g. streets, squares and open spaces. In other words, I adhere to the principle “Third spaces first”.

– The Danish urbanist Jan Gehl has defined good urban spaces as a party where you choose to stay a little longer than you intended. In Oslo, I believe that SALT at the Havnelagerbygget works as a dance floor pretty much all year around – especially since they offer a sauna in wintertime. The point being – we have to become much better when it comes to facilitate year-round activities. Our Norwegian climate means that many places that have a buzzing population of visitors in the summer, such as Sørenga (also in Oslo), are completely abandoned in the winter.

Learn how to use fashion terms correct

The Evolve Arena at The Norwegian Fairtrade on May 12 is a meeting place, focusing on “Smarter life in human cities” from several perspectives. Mr. Erling Fossen believes this year’s conference program manages to balance the relationship between the city’s inhabitants and technological innovation perfectly:

Technology alone is not a miracle cure. It’s how we apply the technology in the cities that is the key to success.

– “Smarter cities” has become a fashion term everyone wants to use about almost everything that has to do with technology. By adding “human cities” you make it clear that man comes first and that technological innovations must solve human needs. Its crucial that “Big Data” solves “Big problems” – not “Small problems”. You’ll find examples of “Big problems” in so-called shared cities. There, areas connected to global knowledge production turn their backs on other parts of the city where life is primarily lived locally with a large element of service jobs.

Co-creation a key when it comes to cities of the future

In 1989, Mr. Fossen joined Radio Nova student radio in Oslo where he met other politically active people. They thought that the 68-generation ignored the cities, and had a fetish on the districts and the nature. As a result, his group were running in municipal elections in 1991 as Altruists. Today, Mr. Fossen believes there are two particular considerations that must be taken into account when creating cities of the future:

– First, if the cities are to succeed in becoming climate neutral, it is crucial that the cities “shrink” rather than expand. All kinds of co-working, co-living not to mention multi-functional areas, becomes important. Secondly, the inhabitants of the cities must be much more involved in the planning of the urban development. Citizens, developers and the public alike must accept that all three parties are needed in what is called a co-creation of the city.

– My special field is to make diagnoses on the general condition of cities and prescribe the right recipe for moving forward. The public employees and politicians who find their way to my lecture should be in a very good party mood and ready to step on to the dance floor of the future with me as their leading partner.

Learning to fly

Erling Fossen holds a master’s in social geography on participation in planning processes. Last year he published his book “OSLO – Learning to fly”, which is a comprehensive overview of the urban development in Oslo from 1986 when Aker Brygge opened.

Whether you find climate budgets, area budgets or water and energy consumption (or perhaps urban development as a whole) interesting, join us at the Evolve Arena conference at The Norwegian Fair Trade 12th of May 2020! We’ll broaden your mind and present the new and cool pieces you need to make your city more circular and create “Smarter life in human cities”.

Written by: Ann-Sophie Stene



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