Slow Commons – Creating Sustainable Spaces

Ylva Rancken-Lutz is fascinated by how urban space is mentally produced by city planners, materially by construction workers and socially used by people. The visionary behind the new concept, Slow Commons, shares more about creating sustainable spaces in Stockholm.

All photos courtesy of Ylva Rancken-Lutz

All photos courtesy of Ylva Rancken-Lutz

In 2014, Rancken-Lutz  was one of the finalists to the city of Malmö’s Citymart challenge “Revitalizing with collaborative consumption” with a Pop-Up Re-Make Café project. For 10 years she was director and co-director of a local branch of the international solidarity organization Emmaus.

She is currently a board member of a small local Nordic film festival – Ekenäs filmfest – and is actively trying to create an Ekenäs city forum to encourage the city of Raseborg in Finland to provide a framework for local participatory democracy with regard to urban planning. Together with a group of high school students she founded the Alternative Sunflower association 10 years ago which uses the proceeds from the sale of sunflower gift-cards to support education for former slave children in Pakistan.

In 2008 Rancken-Lutz  took the initiative and created Aura Street festival and market in Turku in Finland with inspiration from Camden Lock market in London. ASM was arranged for 5 years as sort of a pop-up market. Since 2006, she has been a board member of  ”Angered en världsby – En Världsby i Angered” in Gothenburg, Sweden, and (depending on her home base) is actively involved in the planning of a world village together with a group of architects, sociologists and members of immigrant associations. Today she is responsible for the website.

Rancken-Lutz shares more below about her project, Slow Commons.

Pop-Up chair

STS: What is Slow Commons and when was it founded?

I have had visions to start up a slow-place of some kind in Stockholm for maybe three years now. During this time I have come in contact with others with similar visions and plans. The slow-space I am visioning right now is a common space where people who are looking to share workspaces, stores, showrooms, and studios with others who, in different ways, work for a more sustainable world. This slow community commons will be a place where you know you will meet others who have the same urge and need for a more sustainable way of living on this planet. We are hoping to be able to have it open to the public – like a real commons – but it depends on what kind of place we find.  A café would be great!

I believe, and have earlier experienced on other projects, that when people with the same kind of visions get together, everybody is energized and strengthened.  Yes, I am an idealist but at the same time a realist. I have been working with similar projects for 30 years and I know they can work and be fruitful.

In Swedish we say “A beloved child has many names“. This project has gone through many phases and has had many names. The first was Slow-Design Stockholm, but I and others connected to the project then found that “design” was hard for people to understand in connection to this project.  There is a slow design movement which is connected to the slow movement in other places in the world, but it is not so well known here.

So we kept the slow and changed it into Slow Commons since we wanted to broaden the concept and by using commons show that it should be a commons  – like a public commons in the city. Under the “Slow Commons” umbrella, a group of people will work together as a collective.  The space will also be sort of a Slow Think-tank with  think-and-act workshops.

Recently I have been using REKO Space Stockholm to explain the idea to a broader audience – to get more people interested in joining as we now are looking for an actual IRL space. REKO has become a concept used to describe something which is fair, eco-friendly, and/or organic.

What are your goals with Slow Commons?

I think we really need spaces like this today – there are so many great projects and people who have sustainability as a goal and we need to support each other.  I believe strongly in a physical space, cooperation and open source thinking. It is also more fun!

Stadsmissionens cafe i Hökarängen

Can you tell me more about some of the projects you’ve done under Slow Commons?

Right now the whole REKO Space is planned under Slow Commons – or by me who initiated Slow Commons. I am planning a solar product right now which I will launch on a crowd funding site during the summer.   A series of ecological skin products are being developed. A couple different re-make products are under development as well as an European pop-up music project. Other people who are interested in sustainability and have shown interest in becoming co-members of REKO Space so far are artists, designers, re-make designers, city planners, small companies selling REKO-products and offer REKO-services and other people who want to share a co-office.

And a community based tourism project is being designed – a Slow travel project – which I got the inspiration for from a three week stay at the Swedish house in Kavala in Greece. I walked around the city and got lost, took out my map and tried to figure out where I was. A woman who had been walking behind me asked me if I was lost and I admitted I was.  She asked me where I was going and after I mentioned the Swedish house she said “It’s my neighbor”.

So we walked together and she was telling me about her job as an architect. Then she invited me into her house to have a cup of coffee. I was happy to have been invited into a Greek home and thanked her greatly then she invited me to join her and her family for dinner the next day which was the Greek independence day. A wonderful dinner with the whole family followed. This led to another invitation – I was invited to a Sunday outing with more Greek food and folk dancing.

Sophia serves dinner Kavalla, foto Y Rancken-Lutz

WATCH – Video from Kavala, Greece.

That was also an amazing experience. This led me to think about how travel has to be locally embedded – how useless it is to travel and not be immersed in the community wherever you travel, not to be in one’s own bubble – disconnected. Travel can be a great way to build peace and better understanding between cultures if we don’t travel in our own protected bubble – but it can be scary too to come out of our comfort zones.

We hope this slow travel project will involve people in the whole Stockholm area who want to share their homes, whether they live in the center of Stockholm or in a suburb or out in the countryside within reach. Food, overnight stays, local activities and guided tours are involved. To share resources and knowledge and make travel and tourism more sustainable and a way to connect rather than disconnect and keep apart is a very important project right now.

Another plan concerning slow travel is to arrange outgoing trips from Stockholm. We have one planned for this fall to the Finnish archipelago and the Swedish speaking island of Högsåra – which would also include local food and a “Slow-down” program for anyone who is finding that their life is fragmented and too fast.

How has the reception been so far? What is next for you

There have been people showing interest during the whole project journey but now there are a couple dozen people who have shown interest in REKO-Space in a various ways. There is no official organization behind REKO-Space Stockholm yet but a group who are seriously interested in starting up a actual physical REKO-SPACE in Stockholm are meeting during the summer starting in the end of May. We are aiming at renting a space  in late summer or early fall of this year. Slow Commons will be integrated into REKO-Space.

Ylva Rancken-Lutz | Photo by Pia Petterson

Ylva Rancken-Lutz | Photo by Pia Petterson

More about Ylva Rancken-Lutz

A Swedish-speaking Finn, Ylva Rancken-Lutz grew up in the small coastal town of Ekenäs. She has also lived, worked and studied in Sweden and the United States (where her husband is from). She has started many initiatives including a handcrafts co-op, a pre-school co-op and a fair-trade thrift shop and book café. She has also been active in peace, solidarity and social movements during her free time in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the U.S.

Rancken-Lutz has a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Lund in Sweden and has continued graduate studies in social work and urban studies at the University of Gothenburg. Her special study focus within sociology has been child and family sociology, urban, gender, community and cultural studies. In her master’s thesis in sociology Where can I sit? Campus Space and reproduction at Åbo Akademi at the University of Lund in Sweden, she focused on young adults’ experiences of a newly built campus complex in Finland, where students were excluded from the planning and development process.

www.slowcommons.org

Author: Lola A. Åkerström

Lola Akinmade Åkerström is an award-winning writer, photographer, and travel blogger, and is also the Founder/Editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm. Her photography is represented by National Geographic Creative. She tweets at @LolaAkinmade.

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