Tibro Train Tracks
Tibro Train Tracks is an ongoing urban development project for the central train track area in the Swedish small town, Tibro. The project takes its starting point in a citizen dialogue, an inventory of the towns manufacturing industries and the abandoned site as a potential arena for urban experiments. The information from the dialogue and the inventory has then been combined into a grid plan allowing spontaneous slow growth plus a ”smorgasbord” of proposals, prototypes and projects to fill the plan based on what the citizens want and what the local industries are able to manufacture.
Apart from having Tibro municipality as our client the practice based research project has also partly been founded by ArkDes (Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design) to investigate new methods of urban planning connected to the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals “SDG”. The project focus its research on SDG 11 trying to connect a participatory design with career and business opportunities in a plan with a resilient strategy.
Un SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities: Making cities sustainable means creating career and business opportunities, safe and affordable housing, and building resilient societies and economies. It involves investment in public transport, creating green public spaces, and improving urban planning and management in participatory and inclusive ways.
The aim of the research has been to find new methods of urban planning in small rural often shrinking towns. To do so we focused on the advantages of operating in a small context giving the advantage of a close dialog with the citizens and key actors often gathered in one location at one time. By adapting to the rhythm of the towns events where many people gathers and by trying to communicate in a straight forward, fun and understandable ways we tried to reach as many as possible in the dialogue.
Being in a smaller context also made it easier to map which local resources that could be used to create site specific projects that could be manufactured locally in town. The main focus for this inventory was on Tibros furniture industry, its manufacturing skills, machines and excess production. The site itself as an abandoned yet central site with a small interest to invest and develop fast can be seen as a disadvantage but with a focused strategy over a long time it can be turned into the opposite. With more time experiments can be done, tested and evaluated. Small projects, tests and prototypes can be built and removed or kept. Things can grow organically in a focused plan with a resilient strategy. The one year process has been divided into three parallel faces, a citizens dialogue, mapping of local resources and proposing projects that are realizable independently from each other throughout a long time span. Bellow you can learn more about the process of each phase.
Diagram of design process
Phase 1: Dialogue to plan proposal
As a start for the citizen’s dialogue we were commissioned by the municipality to make inspirational pictures to start a discussion about the train track area and to inspire people to suggest their own visions. We thought that a few pictures could be seen too much as ready proposals and have a contra productive effect narrowing people’s perspective. A bigger amount of faster produced montages would indicate a more generous idea of what is possible to propose. We therefore decided to do 60 visualizations of the train area with 60 suggestions followed by a question as a starting point for dialog. The visualizations range from small interventions to bigger ones, from slightly boring to grand proposals, from super realistic to overoptimistic with the aim of sending the message that all thoughts and proposals are valid in this early stage of shaping the future of an important place in the city. To stay inside some kind of budget we had the ambition to do one fast photo montage on one topic every half hour during four days making it 16 per day and 64 in total. The end result with some editing became 60 suggestions on what the future might hold for the town.
60 images in 60 seconds , To see in a slower pace all image click this on this link.
To receive answers from the citizens a postcard was printed with a picture of the site and the text “Vad vill du göra här” (What do you want to do here). On the post card people in Tibro could write and draw there preferences for what the future might hold for them on the site. The pictures has been showed on almost every big event happening In Tibro always accompanied by someone from the municipal planning office encouraging people to write down their ideas on a post card or in an e-mail. Besides standing on big events the projects has been announced in local news and presented on many smaller gatherings.
The response from the citizens has been very good with over 300 suggestions on how they would like to use the site. The proposals from citizens has been read carefully to get an overall idea of peoples wills and thoughts. Key words from each proposal was then taken into an excel document and put into a cloud diagram where the words grow in size depending on how many times it’s been used. This diagram together with what people wrote gave a good idea of what the citizens wanted on the site.
Key word diagram
Three types of functions could be extracted from the words in the diagram. Most people wanted park related activities, many people suggested different types of communications and many people also asked for different types of buildings. The grid plan tries to take into account these requests by placing a park along the whole area with buildings placed on the side framing the park spatially. The proposal allows for communication along and across the park and gives space to grow for future communications. The key aspect of the grid plan is that it could hold almost any activity during almost any period of time. As long as a project is in the right colored zone it will be handled in a normal bureaucratic process. Small things need less bureaucracy big things like a permanent building need more.
Gridplan: The blue zone is for communications meaning that you can’t build a permanent structure here as long as you can’t walk, drive or ride over it. The red/pink zone is for buildings. The green zone is for park activities such as grass, playground ,sports field and so on.
Phase 2: Mapping local resources
The second phase of the project focused on mapping the manufacturing industry in Tibro trying to find local ways to produce a more affordable, unique and participatory architecture for the town. Tibro has over fifty companies, organizations and schools connected to the furniture industry. We tried to meet as many as possible of these. We booked around 15 meetings with key actors and factories in town and had many more spontaneous meetings along the way. On each meeting we followed a premade template on what to ask. Although the template gave us a lot of useful information we often found the true treasures by just talking to the workers or owners of the factories asking curious questions on most things we saw. A common interest in machines and the process of making often led us to what’s truly unique in how things are made in Tibro.
What is your company’s main production?
What special skills are required to make your products?
What special machines are required to make your products?
Where does the material for your production come from? How is the surplus taken care of?
Do you as a company have an interest in the train track area? For example, to showcase your products, establish a business or otherwise be involved in the development of the site?
Is there a willingness to contribute with your special competence for any projects in the train track area?
Do you have any leftover products we can use in the construction of the new train track area?
Phase 3: Proposals and projects
When summarizing the information from the citizens dialogue and the inventory we saw a massive amount of potential projects that the citizens want and that can be manufactured locally. The projects range from small ones that can be built immediately to bigger ones that can be built during a longer period of time. We thought that the best way to collect this information was to propose fast projects showing how they might look and where they could end up in the grid plan. We also saw a potential to build some small projects directly to start the process of slow growth on the train track area. Bellow you find 16 projects and proposals for the train track area.
All projects axonometric drawing
Project 1 Caravan Office
Even if we received many suggestions during the first phase of the citizen’s dialogue we felt an urge to keep meeting the people in Tibro. The Caravan became our easy to reach office and ”talk station” with citizens. The Caravan Office were use on several town events and on the Friday market at the town square. The caravan was bought outside town for 10 000 Swedish crowns (Ruffly 1000 Euros). Local industry Flex Flock helped us flock the caravan black (spray soft fabric like powder on it).
Axonometric drawing of project 1Caravan Office at the squareCaravan Office at the square
Project 2 Sustainable Making Tour
To meet people that we might have missed during the earlier dialogue plus getting a bit more hands on we did the workshop “Sustainable Making Tour” led by FolkLab. The people invited was six grade school children, senior citizens and immigrants studying at the Swedish language school SFI. The workshops started with groups uniting around one UN Goal, turned that into a project on site, draw it, model it in straw bees and scaling it up in 1:1 prototypes in Pipe craft. Pipe craft is a system of light plastic pipes connected with laser cut joints making it the perfect tool to build 1:1 space structures. The projects developed by the workshop participants corresponded well with the other suggestions we got during the dialogue.
Axonometric drawing of project 2SFI Students building a pavilionSchool kids building a pyramid Anders building a pyramid
Project 3 & 4 Electric Gate
Every year in October Tibro has a light show. It is one of the most visited events in Tibro. This event has also a small municipal budget for lights. We used a part of that budget to build an electric light gate to the train track area using two old electric posts. The electric gate where placed at the western end to the train track area where the event promenade passed the site. The project had several purposes except looking extremely good. It manifests a gate into the abandoned sight, a welcoming gesture, it also made use of the electric posts which we believe is a key component to keep in the area for its historical but also spatial purposes. Something new finally happened at the train track area, the area had been claimed for something else than trains. Axonometric drawing of project 3The Electric Gate at night The Electric Gate at dawn The Electric Gate at dawnThe Electric Gate at the light show night
When realizing the enormous effect some affordable lights could have we proposed to do more of the same thing. Why not clad all posts in the train track area in rope lights highlighting temporary functions such as paths, sport fields and playgrounds.
Axonometric drawing of proposal 4 Rendering of proposal 4 Rendering of proposal 4
Proposal 5 Trees and Benches
The train track area is spatially defined by old houses connected to the train activity and big trees to the north. The south side is spatially less defined. To define the train track are as one continues space we suggest a southern wall of planted trees. Since the trees cannot be planted directly into the polluted ground before the train track area has been cleaned we suggest to put them in pots. The pots are made from low grade wood that would be burnt if not used. The pots are filled with soil in big bags and can grow by reconfiguring the studs as the trees grow.
Drawing of proposal 5 with small trees Drawing of proposal 5 with big trees Small and big tree bench
Proposal 6 Leftover Board Rauk
A big amount of the furniture manufacturing industries waist products is cut of pieces from different types of boards. If collecting these and staking them you soon get a big organic shaped object similar to the Swedish coastal stone formations called a “Rauk”. We suggest to build a formation of these structures as playgrounds to climb and play around. Since most cut of pieces from boards where intendent for indoor use we suggest that most of the structure is covered with a roof.
Axonometric drawing of proposal 6Rendering of the Board Rauk
Proposal 7, 8 & 9 Prisma Crossings
One of Tibros most famous companies is Prisma, a manufacturer of smart boxes for crossing with red lights in Sweden and across the world. These boxes has been developed to become smarter and smarter through the years to make road crossing safer. The boxes can regulate sound depending on external noise and can be programmed to control light and sound systems. Although hundreds of thousands of these boxes has been produced in Tibro, due to the lack of red lights in central Tibro the town has none. We like to use the Prisma boxes at the train track area, but not to make people pass the site fast since there are few trains to be afraid of. We would like to use the box smartness to make people stop and enjoy the area. At three sites we made three different types of crossings. A sport crossing that when you push the different ball shaped buttons different sport fields are lit up. At the kids crossing you push a button to get a playground with a projected carpet that moves creating a run and jump game. At the romantic crossing you push the button to get some romantic lights and violin music when relaxing on a park bench.
Axonometric drawing of proposal 7Proposal 7 Sport CrossingProposal 7 Sport CrossingAxonometric drawing of proposal 8Proposal 8 Kids CrossingAxonometric drawing of proposal 9Proposal 9 Romantic Crossing
Proposal 10 Tibro Market Hall
When driving with one of the key industry and real-estate owners in town, he said“How can I contribute to the area? Would a market hall work? If you draw one I built it.” A Market hall fits well with the citizens dialogue so we shake hands and I draw one. Since he is willing to pay for one he asked if we could make it in Art Deco style. Like the buildings in Miami.
When visiting a furniture company the owner showed us a treasure in his basement, 6000 hand carved wood ornaments of wheat ears. The ornaments where carve for the chair “Axet” (The wheat ear) that got out of production. Although he had no use for them he thought it would be a shame to throw them away. He said maybe you can find a use for these?
If building a market hall the house would be one of few semipublic buildings in Tibro. The wheat ear ornamentation would be the perfect ornament to clad the ceiling of that building with. Tibro would get an amazing amount of locally crafted furniture tradition. My new found industry and real estate owner friend would get a Tibro/art deco like interior. The Market hall is proposed to be situated on the south side of the train track area next to the main road. The placement would define the train track area spatially and the hall would be easy to access from the road and the park. The shape of the hall would follow the barn to the east of the building.
To clarify we don’t pick who is building what in this project. But when finding resources and people with the will to improve the town we like to make those connections and propose projects that can actually happen.
Axonometric drawing of proposal 1020 out of 6000 wood ornamentsMarket Hall with ornament ceiling
Proposal 11 The Long Square
Tibro consists of two central parts, one bigger at the north side of the train track area and one smaller at the south side. Today the two parts are connected by a small path going through the train track area. When trains no longer pass the site there is a chance to connect the two parts.
We suggest to make the town square longer going thought the train track area. The square will have new buildings on the south side continuing the strategy to spatially define the train track area. The small square is today one of few things that is actually too small since all other squares have become car parks. Making the square longer going thought the train track area reaching towards the south side would be a huge step connecting the town.
Axonometric drawing of proposal 11 Rendering of the extended squareThe new square towards the train track area
Proposal 12 Crafted Stage
Due to the long tradition of furniture making Tibro has its own craft school “Hantverksakademin” teaching different skills connected to the furniture industry. The school do many projects in town and is an enormous resource that could be used not only for making furniture but also to do architecture.
The need for a small stage at the train track area has been mentioned both in the citizens dialogue as well as from the culture department in the municipality. To build this stage with the skills from Hantverksakademin would give the architectural possibilities of wood carving, marbling and gilding. With this enormous resource we focused on designing a stage that could maximize the use of craft taught by the local craft school.
Axonometric drawing of proposal 12Rendering of Crafted Stage
Proposal 13 Public Cabinet
There is a need to display the town’s furniture history as well as a place for small local exhibitions of art and student works. To build a new museum costs a fortune. To build a big cabinet in the furniture Mecca of Sweden seems like a more reasonable strategy. The biggest public cabinet in Sweden could host super small exhibitions of objects in shelves to bigger exhibitions and performances in the biggest shelf of 4 by 4 meters.
Axonometric drawing of proposal 13Rendering of the cabinet when closedRendering of the cabinet when half opened Rendering of the cabinet with an ongoing show
Proposal 14 Tibro Craft Square
In the middle of the train track area are the two best preserved old houses from the train era, the station house and the station magazine. The station house is today owned by a glassblower and the station magazine is used temporary as a storage. There is a need to display the town’s craftsmanship and a need from small business and local craft associations to have place to manufacture and sell their work. To renovate the station magazine as a craft center and make a square between the two old buildings would be a good place to start a craft hub that is accessible for tourists. There are also room for new buildings along the square that can host shops or modern workshop.
Axonometric drawing of proposal 14Rendering of a new craft square
Proposal 15 Tibro Gravel Arena
The eastern part of the train track area has the potential to be a bit rougher and flexible since it is furthest from the city center. Next to the area stands the building “Centrumföreningen”, an old silo building that today is half empty but has a potential to host culture and sport associations in the future. This could make the eastern part of the train track area a good place for sports, concerts and other activities.
When taking down a whole train line there will be hundreds of left over electric posts. We would like to use them to create an unprogrammed space for different events. The arena would consist of walls of electric posts and a floor of gravel. The place would be ideal for typical Tibro sport events like motocross competitions, riding or radio controlled car races. The place would also be the perfect spot for concerts or when a circus comes to town.
Axonometric drawing of proposal 15Rendering of the gravel arena
Proposal 16 Railway Embankment
One of the most requested developments during the dialogue of the train track area has been to rebuild the railway embankment to a bike lane. The bike lane would connect the town with the city of Skövde to the west and the town Karlsborg to the east. On a shorter distance lies the village Fagersanna next to a lake Örlen where the kids in Tibro goe swimming. The bike lane would also connect local parts like parks and residential areas. Besides a bike lane we also propose a lane for runners and horses to cross through the city.
Axonometric drawing of proposal 16Biking and horse riding at the embankment
Proposal 17 Centrumföreningen
”Centrumföreningen” is the biggest building at the train track area located at its eastern part. Today there is no long term strategy for the building. We suggest to use it for sport and culture associations. The building is right between a sports field and a potential event field at the train track area. The building have a good mix of big and small rooms that could host many different types of activities. The building could be taken into use part by part by different actors and some parts can be used all ready. In the long run, if the building get used a lot, we suggest to replace the center part of the building with a staircase and an elevator to make it accessible for all people. If investing in this type of renovation we suggest to do it in a unpretentious Tibro fashion. Perhaps make it into a giant T for Tibro with a good skybar or make a replica of the tallest man in Sweden ”Kyrkofalla-jätten” from Tibro in 10:1. That would make a 22,8 meter high staircase/statue looking over the new train track area.
Axonometric drawing of proposal 17 Centrumföreningen with a giant staircase Centrumföreningen with a T staircase
Due to the big amount of work in this project many things has been left out in the summery above. To read the full story please download the PDF Book bellow (In Swedish)