The Responsive City

The Responsive City addresses the increasing discrepancy between people’s expectations of active relations to urban space and the conspicuous absence of response, especially from contemporary urban design and architecture. Asplund’s concept social responsivity guides a study of interaction between users and urban environment. What supports and what prevents social interaction in/with urban settings?


There is an ongoing dispute about urban space between actors who want to affect or control its content. The views upon the estethics of urban space differ a lot, often according to differences in class and political opinion. When cities compete on a global level, being marketed as attractive and creative, such contradictions are emphasized. They show, for example, in controversies about street art. In this text, however, I would like to address the wider question about how people can affect and leave traces in the spaces they share. The concept of social responsivity is borrowed from social psychologist Johan Asplund. Here I will use it in a way that includes the material objects and structures of the city. With the starting point in three examples, I try to sketch some of the prerequisites and potentials of urban social responsivity. The text ends with suggestions for new responsive spaces — that inhabitants and visitors can contribute to give form and expression.

As one example of what I intend to study and debate, I will bring up a new shopping mall in Malmö: Entré Malmö. No urban environment can be utterly devoid of responsivity, but Entré is a case where the opportunities of users to act and interact with each other and the built environment are strikingly limited. Further on in the text, as one of the three examples, I will develop my experiences and thoughts on Entré Malmö and in what ways it does or does not respond to its visitors.


Entré Malmö from the north: What was supposed to be welcoming rather acts as a hostile wall...

... that becomes a bit more colorful and translucent at night!