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New European Bauhaus Prizes 2024

Reconnecting with nature

Flytevi – Blue Urban Community Garden
.Flytevi – Re-thinking the role of water through a blue urban community garden
Flytevi is one of the first rings on the water to foster sustainable urban communities by harnessing the potential of water. Using an innovative approach, Flytevi demonstrates how urban coastal areas can cultivate alternative food sources, while improving both living conditions and water quality. Flytevi is also used as a space for community creation and educational initiatives placing food, seas and people at the centre. Urban greening should not be limited to land but extend to water as well.
EU Member State, Western Balkans or Ukraine
Mainly urban
It refers to a physical transformation of the built environment (hard investment)
As a representative of an organisation, in partnership with other organisations

During 2022, Sweden’s first urban blue community garden was built close to the city centre of Gothenburg in the old harbour Frihamnen. After a citizen-focused naming process, the wooden platform where algae, mussels and sea squirts grow, was given the name Flytevi.

The aim of this project was to create a meeting place centred around blue gardening and water. Flytevi challenges attitudes towards blue food, by encouraging a broader range of sea species consumed, through hands-on learning while simultaneously improving water quality and restoring natural habitats to protect biodiversity. It further seeks to challenge the current restrictive regulations on sea farming which make it difficult for Swedes to privately cultivate blue food and spark further consideration of urban river integration in the city planning process.

As a collaboration between the city of Gothenburg and Gothenburg university, Flytevi blends diverse expertise to explore sea sustainability and promote a better city life. While it serves as an educational and research facility, it also serves as a place for community creation by hosting public activities focused on cultivating, harvesting, and cooking. With its central placement and accessible design Flytevi is easy for all to access; an important feature, as it was created for the benefit of all citizens of Gothenburg, our schools, university researchers and sea friends. With people and food as a starting point, Flytevi provides an interactive introduction to the food diversity of the sea; human impact on the sea; and how we can better care for our sea and seabed.

All these conversations are especially important to have in our city, as we have a strong local culinary tradition of looking to the sea for ingredients and an abundant water resource in the river that runs through Gothenburg. To ignore the river is to ignore our biggest public space and its potential.
Behavioural changes
Community creation through place-making
Regenerate natural ecosystems
Nature-based solutions
Sustainable local food chains
Flytevi meets the value of sustainability in terms of climate benefits; algae and mussels have low greenhouse gas emissions compared to meat and can even absorb some of the carbon dioxide from the water. The project also has environmental benefits, such as the prevention of sea eutrophication by absorption of excess nutrients; reduced overfishing by normalising other edible sea species; and habitat creation to protect marine biodiversity. In this way, our pilot reduces the environmental impact of traditional farming (that uses phosphorous, nitrogen, and water) and restores the biodiversity of the area, as the algae and blue mussels hang from 3D-structure under the surface, creating habitats and shelter for other organisms. All while using nature-based solutions with minimal environmental impact as all the grown species are non-invasive and the platform is constructed using locally sourced core pine as its main material.

We used a transdisciplinary approach in creating Flytevi to ensure that its creation would be helpful, not harmful, to the environment. Our city development department collaborated closely with marine biologists, researchers, and students from Gothenburg university to ensure that the algae and mussels grown in the prototype were suited to the saline levels of the water, that the cultivation would not interfere with the existing ecosystems on site and that it created a net positive effect on its surrounding environment.

Flytevi contributes to lasting protection for the planet and its natural resources through increased knowledge and interest in sustainable food from the sea, increased ocean awareness, and empowering citizens to change their behaviour to participate in the sustainable transition.
When creating Flytevi, the fusion of aesthetics and the quality of experience was considered for its design, location, construction materials and activities. Flytevi is located in the reimagined old harbour area of Frihamnen, as part of a larger urban development project there that has evolved over several years, with public collaborations being at the core mission. Through the application of place-making methodologies, citizens have actively engaged in the development and construction of numerous prototypes within the region, and Flytevi is but one example of this collective effort.

Positioned alongside a scenic walking path, that will be developed into a recreational and cultural walking path along the river, the context and surrounding area were incorporated to ensure that the design resonated with the surrounding ambiance. Using locally sourced core pine as the primary material, we crafted a platform that marries beauty with sustainability. The platform's railings draw inspiration from the underwater world. The Flytevi mobile kitchen was designed by students at the local Academy of Art and Design.

Considering the platform as much more than just a physical place, the quality of experience is closely connected to the local heritage of seafood consumption. Communal activities such as cultivation of the garden, food tastings, and DIY algae-salt workshops ensures interaction with the Flytevi ideals and between the local community. Knowledgeable educators from the university are present to answer questions about the blue food of the future, especially during formal visits from local school classes.

Flytevi isn't just an isolated project; it is connected to our local hub for fostering sustainable urban transitions known as The Transition Lab. The Lab provides basic facilities to be used for workshops, meetings, etc. Here students and researchers from Flytevi meet participants from other projects in the area to exchange experiences.
Using an inclusive place-making methodology together with the citizens, the team leading the construction of Flytevi has focused on ensuring an inclusive design. In the design phase, the team consisted of young adults representing different genders and minorities. Now, in its active phase, schools and a wide range of societal actors visit the garden to learn about the sea, what is possible to cultivate, and how our behaviour impacts the marine environment. Flytevi uses an interactive and inclusive approach to learning as citizens are involved in the cultivation. At its mobile outdoor kitchen, they cook the food of the future where citizens who would not normally meet can interact and learn about sustainable food systems – all while growing, harvesting, cooking, and tasting together.

At the platform, a variety of activities are arranged. Schools from all areas of the city are invited to visit Flytevi to meet educators and/or researchers to learn more about how cultivation in the sea works, what you can grow and observe how cultivation can affect the marine environment. The connected project “Ocean Blues - from anxiety to action” uses Flytevi as a starting point for learning. Here high school students meet researchers from Gothenburg university to discuss the threats posed to the marine environment; how to create a more sustainable future together; and how to turn environmental anxiety into environmental action. Apart from schools, we also invite politicians, chefs, entrepreneurs, organisations, and the public to different events.

Flytevi is built to be accessible, designed with two-level access and a ramp, so that citizens can take part in the events and learning from the kitchen to the water level, regardless of mobility status. Most activities/classes are provided cost-free by the city to make sure citizens of all socio-economic backgrounds can enjoy and learn at Flytevi.
During a dialogue between the city and Gothenburg university, an existing research facility for blue proteins was discussed. As this facility is located outside of the city bounds, people/schools could not get there easily, making it unsuitable as an outreach station. The university described the optimal scenario as being a similar project, at the heart of the city. Being in line with the objective to use water as a city planning resource, Gothenburg responded.

Before Flytevi was built, a series of workshops were carried out that asked questions relating to interest in the idea, how to make it relevant, and what needs it could fulfill. Two of these workshops were open to the public, others were organised between local stakeholders and professionals within city planning, sustainability, and marine biology. A young reference group was part of planning and carrying out the workshops, to ensure a youth perspective within the project. For example, it was citizens who pointed out they do not cook with a wider range of blue proteins because they do not know how to use them. They therefore suggested cooking classes be organised onsite. Once again, Gothenburg obliged.

Thus, collaborations with academia, civil society, and citizens have been central to the creation of Flytevi. Today the marine biologists who have made sure that the species grown in the garden are non-harmful and suitable to the water conditions in Gothenburg use the platform actively. Flytevi has become a place that connects non-academic students with academia to encourage their interest in STEM subjects, through free study visits. Gothenburg university also uses the site for applied science research. Citizens use the platform to get closer to the sea without having to leave the city and to challenge their own pre-held conceptions around blue proteins/food sustainability. Schools use the platform in a similar way, allowing children/youths to observe and engage with sustainable sea practices.
Given the local nature of this project, the cooperation to create Flytevi has mostly been with various local actors, who all have contributed to making Flytevi the transdisciplinary pilot that it is. Without these collaborations, the synergies achieved by Flytevi would not have been reached. However, Gothenburg university collaborated on a Danish marine research station before Flytevi was built as the Danish regulations around private cultivation of blue proteins are more open than in Sweden. As such, the creation, and objectives, of Flytevi were inspired through this knowledge exchange.

The city of Gothenburg and Gothenburg university have been the initiators of the platform. It was a part of a larger urban development project “Prototyping Gothenburg” in Frihamnen. This development effort is making use of place-making methodologies with citizens at its core. Through several co-creation workshops led by a civil society cross-disciplinary cooperative citizens, architects, carpenters, landscape architects, gardeners, and construction educators have made their own contributions to the project.

Urban developers and city planners from the city provided expertise in construction design, whereas the know-how of the marine environment has been led by academia and the subsequent educational activities by academia and culinary experts. During the design phase of Flytevi, the team consisted of several different stakeholders made up of different ages and genders. Concrete examples of contributions to the final design are those of marine biologists who ensured the viability of cultivating these specific species in this specific area, and their added beneficial properties, and design students at the local Academy of Art and Design designed the mobile kitchen attached to the project
It has been a conscious choice to collaborate across different disciplines (academia, construction, city planning, education, culinary, architecture, horticulture, and design) for the project, to co-create and exchange experiences to achieve the best possible synergy results. Flytevi has been built by a transdisciplinary team of urban planners and architects from the City of Gothenburg, and marine biologists and researchers from Gothenburg university. The added value of this inclusive transdisciplinary approach cannot be overstated.

University students, citizens, and several other stakeholders have participated in Flytevi’s design – both on the side of research, with marine biology students monitoring the ecosystem on-site/proposing appropriate species, design students when building the complementary mobile outdoor kitchen, and citizen input to make Flytevi relevant to their needs. The kitchen was designed during a workshop led by Egnahemsfabriken, a cross-disciplinary cooperative of architects, carpenters, landscape architects, gardeners, construction educators, and more. The educational features of Flytevi are a combined effort between marine biology and culinary talents. Offering not only regular study visits from local schools led by the university, but cooking classes offered through partnerships with civil society.

One concrete example of an essential discipline to make the project happen was oceanography. This discipline informed us that in the river running through Gothenburg there is a salt wedge estuary. Without access to this estuary, it would not be possible to create a sea cultivation at such a central location given the saline levels required to grow sea species.

The merger of all these disciplines into the final pilot product of Flytevi is the successful result of the innovative place-making methodology used in the development of the entire Frihamnen area of Gothenburg.
Water has traditionally been seen as an unusable public space during city development. Flytevi stands to challenge this notion as the first urban blue community garden in Sweden. Many European cities also have immense potential for increasing their own food production. In Gothenburg, we estimate this potential to correspond to 40% of our food purchases by 2030 – a situation familiar to many European cities. Many of them are experimenting with how green roofs and vertical farms can enrich their urban public spaces and increase their share of locally sourced food.

Gothenburg has an abundance of water resources that we must use just as creatively as our roofs, without harming the biosphere. Flytevi demonstrates how cities can use water as a resource in city planning while improving water quality, seabed health and creating a demand for locally sourced seafood. While the current produce produced at Flytevi is not fit for consumption, it is the hope that with increased water quality in our river, Flytevi could be one of many urban blue gardens that will increase access to locally sourced blue proteins. The positive results of Flytevi have already led to the city investigating other areas where the project can be further replicated. With the local activities and cooking classes available to our citizens through the platform and mobile kitchen, we also hope to increase public demand for alternative blue proteins. The project also has the additional long-term aim of changing the restrictive laws around blue gardning active in Sweden. This would also unleash the potential for individual citizens to start their own blue gardens and reconnect with marine nature.

Flytevi has taken the concept of placing food, people, and water as central to the project and created a project with climate, environmental, and socially beneficial outcomes. Beyond the project outcomes, the usage of the method of place-making in designing Flytevi is another innovative feature of this project.
Flytevi lies in an area being developed using place-making. Place-making is a method for place development that combines physical place-building with the development of spatial relationships. The method aims at strengthening relationships between people, and the relationships between people and place. It is based on co-creation between different actors, professional planners, architects, and builders as well as future users of a place. The goal is to create a relationship with a place already in an early stage of development, resulting in a desire to care for it, and an increased perception of safety.

Stakeholders and citizens are invited to workshops where the development is discussed, and prototypes in different scales are built to activate the area and try different pilots onsite. Flytevi is part of a project where several pilots have been built. The largest one is the Transition lab - a meeting place focusing on sustainability questions that are closely connected to Flytevi. In the case of Flytevi, prior to construction, several workshops were held with citizens, other stakeholders in the area, and professionals within several disciplines.

The workshops were followed by an activity on site, with baking algae bread and testing different products made from mussels and oysters. During the workshops both blue food and how to use Flytevi and the Transition lab were discussed. These discussions were the starting point for both the cooking classes and for expanding the project to the nearby harbour bath, which will be used for growing algae in one of the pools during the winter months.

Gothenburg has already organised study visits from regional, national, European, and international level for actors interested in this visionary and innovative method.
What is beautiful about Flytevi is that it is easily transferable to any city and region, if they have access to a water source. The only thing that would have to be adjusted for are the place-specific local conditions. Such as what kind of seafood to grow, as these need to be non-invasive and suitable to the water type (salt or sweet); what local material to use for construction; what to cook at the mobile kitchens as the produce harvested will differ; and local culinary traditions should be incorporated.

Of course, there must also be a discussion on which actors to involve. Gothenburg has the privilege of being a university city, meaning we did not have to search far for our architects, design team, and marine biologists. However, the place-making methodology is easily transferable. Gothenburg has already been visited by regional, national, European, and global actors who want to learn more about the method.

Due to the project’s replicability, the project idea is already spreading across Gothenburg. Gothenburg is also investigating the replication of Flytevi on several other locations further out to sea (making the species edible), but still within city limits, to keep the blue gardens accessible. An attest to the success of the pilot and the ease with which the platform can be reproduced.

As in the case of Sweden, national regulations could pose a hindrance to sea cultivation. However, one of the objectives of Flytevi is to challenge exactly these policies. Working within the legislative framework, other replicas could do the same in their regional or national context.
Cities could do more to work with nature-based solutions to create sustainable and inclusive food systems within their city boundaries. Both the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine clearly showcased the vulnerabilities of global value chains that our current food system relies on – which will be further exacerbated by climate change. Here, urban public space can be better used while considering all three dimensions of the New European Bauhaus. If done correctly, local marine allotments like Flytevi can contribute to sustainable local food production, behavioural changes of our seafood consumption, restore marine ecosystems and increase social cohesion.

The EU Farm to Fork Strategy and EU Biodiversity Strategy are mutually reinforcing each other by bringing together nature, farmers, businesses, and consumers towards a sustainable future. But neither fully capture the potential of our waters. Other EU legislation, such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and Water Framework Directive focus on how to achieve good environmental status of our waters but give little attention to water as a resource for food production or community creation. Flytevi hopes to encourage other European cities to view their water as a resource in city planning, with the added benefit of simultaneously restoring the quality and biodiversity of our seas and seabed.

Within the framework of Agenda 2030, Flytevi contributes to lasting protection for the planet and its natural resources through increased knowledge and interest in sustainable food from the sea, increased ocean awareness and empowerment of citizens to make more sustainable food choices. As such, the project contributes to SDG 2 (end hunger), 4 (quality education), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 12 (responsible consumption and production) and 14 (life below water).
Since opening in November 2022, Flytevi has had over 5000 visitors; hosted public events and school visits; hosted the former deputy prime minister of Sweden; served as a research site; and gained both national and international attention. Due to the success of the project, the city is considering creating more platforms like Flytevi a bit further out of the city where the produce would be safe for consumption. Thus beginning the actual food production.

While the site is actively used for applied science research by Gothenburg university, no peer-reviewed academic paper has thus far been produced due to the relatively short time that it has been possible to conduct research on the platform. Flytevi has however been used as a case study for both a Bachelor and a Master thesis.

Flytevi has also secured external funding for the project. We have received grants from Formas and Vinnova to continue the research activities at Flytevi. The project has also been granted EU funding through Horizon Europe as part of the project Cool blue - towards local community-driven business models: regenerative ocean farming.

During the visit of Sweden’s former deputy prime minister Per Bolund, Flytevi treated him to a taste of the food we could produce with these urban blue gardens. A physical demonstration of the role cities and individual citizens could play in securing sustainable local food chains, IF the restrictive regulations of Sweden regarding sea cultivation would change.

Flytevi has demonstrated the importance of viewing water as a resource when developing the city. In this case, it has led to urban underwater regeneration, connecting citizens with the sea/local farming practices, and research that can be applied to facilitate the green transition. Beyond that, it has challenged the way we view underwater as an environment that must also be cared for, existing regulations, and the idea that urban spaces are dependent on rural areas for local food production.