Ulsteinvik: Multigenerational city

Our focus within the study was on the city’s waterfront and park system. We took this opportunity to learn more about how we can better design coastal landscapes, integrate play as a pedagogy, and design for health with regards to humans and ecosystems.

Ulsteinvik: Multigenerational city
Client: Ulstein kommune
Status: Completed
Size: 2.7 km2
Location: Ulsteinvik - Ulshaugen - Holsekerdalen, Norway
Type: Prequalified Parallell Comission, Urban study
Collaborator: Nordic office of Architecture Consultants: TØI, SINTEF, NIVA, PhD Elin T. Sørensen (Marine Landscape Architect)
The life over and under

We start every project with a question, how can we make more meaningful and liveable environments for all livingkind. From here we began to dissect the territory of Ulsteinvik; Who lives here, how was it settled, what type of soils, vegetation, agriculture, industries, and cultural activities take place here? Ulsteinvik is in-fact an incredibly well placed village. It is within walkable proximities to the fjore, fjell and the wild. It has a network of green fingers extending through the city that can be utilised as a framework for its future structure, offering many recreational opportunities and closeness to biodiversity.​​​​​​​

Through this study we looked at how the natural landscape can be a guiding point for the future development of the city. When looking at historical images and maps it becomes evident that Ulsteinvik is truly a city within the fjell and fjære. Historically the water was much closer to the city centre, and due to climate change the appearance of water will be increasingly evident.


Within the strategic masterplan we emphasize extending and utilising the green fingers as a tool for the city and as a resource for maintaining a healthy blue waterfront. This will create an extensive network from the fjore to the fjell and an important connection for the city. The idea of health and healing landscapes is explored along the sauneselva where we suggest the idea of “the saunes health network” - a park system that interweaves health facilities and the cities adjacent landscape. This idea of health also extends itself to a greener city center, that is made for people and hosting life in the city. At the same time we believe that the transformation of the waterfront is a necessary measure for increasing good city life and building maritime culture. This involves a softening of the waters edge to rebuild maritime landscapes and habitats, and has been done in close dialogue with marine specialists  - here we really wanted to understand how we can work with the cities landscape both above and below the water along the urban coast line. On a more principle level, climate adaptation and the notion of play can be found throughout the landscape plan; which we believe will create a city that expects the unexpected, is curious, and fun to live in for all ages.

Strategic vision

Climate adaptation strategies: Surface water management

The flood risk in Western Norway is, among other things, related to the management of surface water and run-off water on the land surface. Rainwater tends to collect in the areas around existing drains. The climate crisis may cause Western Norway to become warmer and receive increased precipitation. The problems this entails will become clearer over the next decades.

There are various measures to deal with floods at lakes and rivers. In addition to preventing floods, these measures can be used to improve ecosystems, and to create exciting and attractive areas for the population.

The main principles for the measures are:

1 - Increase the surface for permeable ground so that water can be filtered into the soil instead of flooding the land surface.
2 - Reduce water flow in rivers and streams. Lower water flow makes it easier for the water to be filtered and absorbed by the soil.
3 - Create areas that can be flooded by heavy rainfall and flooding. These are called storm drainage systems, and can either be created underground, or lie on the land surface.
4 - Increase the amount of vegetation. Vegetation reduces both water flow and increases filtration in the soil.

In coastal areas in western Norway, the risk of flooding increases during high tide and heavy rainfall. The Norwegian Environment Agency estimates that the coastal flood danger in Ulsteinvik can reach 3.95 meters above sea level, by 2050.

In the coming years, measures should be planned for buildings and areas below this level.
The measures should take into account the necessary improvement of the ecosystems along the waterfront.

If the measures are integrated correctly, they can add value to public spaces and residential and recreational areas.

Strategies for climate adaptation: Play and Learn

Climate-adaptable cities are playful cities! Play in Ulsteinvik can be an educational tool for learning, and the waterfront is the ideal landscape. Play is about relaxation, and being below, above, in, between and together. Play is our way of learning about life, society, culture, nature and more.

Three principles for establishing play in Ulsteinvik:

1 Everyone has the right to play!
2 Play is nature's pedagogy
3 Play should be exhausting

There are many opportunities for play at Ulsteinvik's waterfront:

1 Vikhylen tidal surface- This coastal habitat is a place for learning about marine ecology. It offers a variety of activities for all ages, including sailing and water activities for children, canoeing, windsurfing and SUP. The new knowledge centre also functions as a place where young people can meet and socialise.

2 Harbour promenade - A path where the population can experience the different places along the urban beach promenade. Here the young people can walk safely near the water and learn about history.

3 Sjøgata children's bath - A bath on the lake where children can play, and everyone is welcome. This can also serve as a bathing place for the blind and disabled.

4 Sjøgata play promenade - From the children's pool to the church there is an exciting promenade with opportunities for play. A large water mirror acts as a spray cushion for children, and the changing reflection is a work of art to enjoy.

5 Coastal rocks- A habitat for coastal species and wildlife, and an exciting place for residents to explore. Children can balance on the rocks, while others can explore the wildlife between the rocks and at the water's edge, and learn more about their role in the harbors' ecosystem.

6 Outdoor harbor bath - A place for swimming, diving, socializing and relaxation.

7 Outdoor climbing wall - Facades can serve as climbing walls for people of all ages. Here they can challenge themselves and be the toys.

8 Ulsteinvik square - The square is a logical place for events, concerts and culture. Flexible furniture and toys (such as chess pieces) can be placed here, and in winter the square can function as an ice rink.

9 Saunesparken - A recreation area that offers volleyball, mini golf and many other activities.

10 Nesbrygge - Ideal location for a fish market, mussel farming and to learn about the productive fjord.

Climate adaptation strategies: Restore dynamic tidal surfaces

Tide surfaces are important ecosystems that are currently endangered. They are of crucial importance for migratory birds, as well as certain species among crabs, molluscs and fish. The tidal surfaces prevent erosion along the coast, and are increasingly a popular attraction for birdwatchers and hikers.

In 1969, Ulsteinvik had two tidal surfaces, one on each side of the harbor. These were both removed in favour of the waterfront development and industry.

We propose to turn the landfill around Gullblokka into a soft edge that acts as a dynamic transition between land and water, where the tide periodically floods parts of the area. The tidal surface will be ideal for re-establishing wildlife and native species along the water's edge.

The design of the tidal surfaces is inspired by marine habitats and is informed by observations from the area. Among other things, geological observations and local landscape forms help to shape the design. In addition to habitats for seabirds, insects and marine creatures, we also propose to create a bird watching tower.

The tidal surfaces are located next to the marine knowledge centre where we recommend establishing lookout points and insights into marine underwater life: for example by using GoPro or underwater drones that the public can watch on screens on land.

Climate adaptation strategies: Restore dynamic tidal surfaces
Workshop with the community

Here we really wanted to understand how we can work with the cities landscape both above and below the water along the urban coast line. On a more principle level, climate adaptation and the notion of play can be found throughout the landscape plan; which we believe will create a city that expects the unexpected, is curious, and fun to live in for all ages!

Project team: Linn Runeson, Eric Reid, Miguel Hernandez

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