Recommendations from roundtable discussion on Place-Based Planning and Architecture

How can we Encourage a more Place-Based Planning and Architecture in the Nordic Building Sector?

Publiceret 27-02-2024

By inviting a selected group of experts within the architecture sector for interviews and a roundtable discussion, our programma partner SUSTAINORDIC has collected the experts’ thoughts and perspectives into eight recommendations. Together the recommendations highlight the different cultural, political and legislative barriers for a more place-based architecture, as well as exemplifying how these can be overcome.

Huussi outside the Finnish Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Photo: Ugo Carmeni

The following eight recommendations are a summary from the roundtable discussion and interviews on place-based architecture as a community builder. The recommendations are therefore expressed in the view of the participating experts.All together, they aim for a more radical change in the built environment regarding place-based architecture. 

The recommendations from this Roundtable conversation will be presented to The Nordic Council of Ministers to be included in the shaping of the Nordic Vision 2025–30.

1. A need for a political stimulation of change regarding the culture and norms in valuing architecture

There is need for a new systemic and more holistic political vision in the Nordic countries. In order to realise this, we need to advocate for a more comprehensive political vision that addresses the complex issues in architecture and construction. There is need for a broader understanding for unconventional or experimental approaches in architecture and construction with the aim to create methods for a higher level of resilience in our society.  

  • Encourage political initiatives and actions to stimulate change in the building industry (such as the post-war efforts) to find alternatives to the market-driven solutions.
  • Encourage a financialisation system that provides a Nordic place-based architecture, production and distribution of local sustainable materials and circular building methods.
  • Encourage the development of a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to address the challenges in the built environment.
2. Make the cost and effects of contemporary material chains visible

To encourage local and place-based material production and use, we need efficient tools to expose and break the chain links of unsustainable material transports.

To make that possible, we need to encourage a climate calculation system that integrates and includes all the emissions of production, transport, use and distribution of material: But as well as demolition and renovation costs counted in emissions. Needed as well is a stable financialisation for a Nordic place-based architecture that encourages the use of local sustainable materials and circular building methods.Better control of waste from the construction industry is also necessary.

  • Comprehensive emission accounting for material transports through policies that require assessment of emissions associated with material transports throughout the entire value chain. This should include both direct emissions from transportation vehicles but also indirect emissions throughout the supply chain.
  • Localised material production and consumption to be promoted through support and incentives for businesses to source raw materials locally and prioritise regional suppliers in accordance with traditional local construction practices, which rely on natural local material banks as well as existing local building mass for reuse, recycling and repurposing of existing materials.
  • Develop standardised methods for calculating and reporting emissions, ensuring transparency and comparability across industries.
  • Incentivise sustainable transportation practices by introducing financial incentives for companies adopting sustainable transportation methods, such as low-emission vehicles, route optimisation, modal shifts (e.g., from road to rail transport) and systems for penalising businesses with high carbon footprints in their material transport operations, encouraging the adoption of environmentally friendly practices.
3. Policy, economical and political tools to encourage use of existing buildings and places

Advocate for a comprehensive political vision that addresses the complex issues in architecture and construction. Encourage political initiatives and actions to stimulate change in the building industry to find alternative solutions. Advocate for a centralised regulatory framework that consolidates oversight of cultural heritage, energy and planning.

Streamline efforts into one coordinated Ministry to ensure a cohesive and integrated approach. Take a proactive political stance in reshaping the construction sector. Encourage a departure from solely relying on the market as the solution for all challenges, emphasising the need for broader, sustainable strategies.

  • Advocate for centralised regulation and coordination across relevant Ministries to address cultural heritage, architecture, climate, energy and planning issues more effectively.
  • A more holistic view on the evaluation of places and buildings. Recognise the trend of treating buildings as financial assets and consider its implications on local surroundings and economies.
  • Create a common understanding of how much the Nordic countries preserve and demolish. Calculate and include the climate cost of the demolishing in the local calculations.
  • Government support for restoring and revitalising existing buildings: Consider government interventions to mitigate risks and provide insurance for rebuilding existing buildings for housing purposes.
  • Encourage local material banks for reused to repurpose.
4. Modernise and improve the existing assessment tools

To create a deeper understanding of place-based architecture, there is a need for a more precise data that can be used for a dialogue for a planning developing or maintenance process. The results of these methods can help developers define the identity and conditions of a place, providing essential groundwork for place-based architecture and planning. By re-evaluating and updating the existing national tools and methods, we can map and assess both the architectural, cultural-historical and landscape values of places and buildings and at the same time encompass climate, social and biodiversity challenges. Instead of staring to over- evaluate the well-developed tools, update them and implement adjusted versions of existing methods to make them work in favour of a more place-based agenda. This requires research, education at all levels and outreach work to illustrate the values of a more place-based architecture.

  • Reconsidering value creation: challenge the existing, monetary notions of value and prioritise cultural, social and environmental factors in assessing the value of buildings.
  • The need for a more deepened understanding to generate precise data that can be used for a dialogue for a planning developing or maintenance process. The results of these methods can help us define the identity and conditions of a place, providing essential groundwork for place-based architecture and planning.
  • To create attractive living places all around the Nordic countries, urban or rural, the local authorities cannot focus only on infrastructure and industry. Studies show the importance of a well-designed and sustainable living environment as well.
  • Incentives for rethinking existing buildings: provide incentives for the adaptive reuse and renovation of existing buildings to promote sustainability and reduce waste.
  • To be able to understand and release the local potential of existing assets in small communities and places, national and regional initiative are of high importance (e.g. Gnist, Norway and VGR, Sweden’s West coast region).
  • Need for accurate demographic forecasts: acknowledge the challenges in predicting demographic changes accurately due to global events and consider alternative approaches.
5. Highlight the importance of the role of the public authorities (nation, region and municipality) to facilitate support and initiatives processes in the civil society for place-based development
  • Nordic examples show that it is important to have an active regional process facilitator that supports and facilitates local place-based initiatives.
  • With great local knowledge comes great possibilities. Encourage and support methods and models that aim to foster the drive and ambition that emanate from the local community.
6. The need to build a Nordic knowledge bank about local architecture
  • A new and common analysis method is needed to gain a more accurate understanding of a place, building and location. A suggestion is that the Nordic countries together provide a new effective architectural and place analysis that can read spatial structures, individual characteristics, lifecycle and conditions. As well as to define places, environments and buildings.
  • This new tool will provide the need of bringing local knowledge into the planning processes in places of all scales. In combination, it offers expertise in processes of change that bring together the chain of knowledge and illustrate the way the local community can support innovative thinking in all scales along the way.
  • No ‘one size fits all’ – the idea of a generic architecture does not fit into the place-based values.
  • Local and resilient methods and knowledge: emphasise the importance of utilising local assets, conditions and knowledge in building practices to enhance resilience.
  • Strengthen traditional building culture: Promote the use of traditional building techniques and materials while updating them to align with current resource availability and sustainability goals.
7. Awareness and control on place and land use

There is a need to tighten oversight and regulation of area use of public and private landholding policies to make a more sustainable land management and use. As an example, rural communities should be kept active and functioning through holistic regulation and planning when it comes to collective transportation and infrastructure like access to schools, leisure activities and other social activities, meaningful work and so on. This should be done in case-by-case regulation with considerations in the needs of the specific community context, be it urban or rural. Adjust markets, use taxing and other regulation such as residency requirements to control the market in the direction of sustainable conduct.

  • Improve and make use of the national, regional and municipal landholder policy mechanisms.
  • Decrease space per person in the Nordics with incentives: explore ways to incentivise the efficient use of space, such as through regulations or financial incentives.
  • Land politics and ownership: address the issue of land ownership and control by keeping land in municipal ownership and implementing regulations to maintain control over housing types and use.
  • Addressing second home issues: regulate the second home market more strictly to prevent negative impacts on local communities and everyday life.
  • The importance of how the municipal uses their power of landownership, and how they distribute and plan the land.
  • Funding for flexible housing: explore flexible funding models for housing projects, particularly in small municipalities where traditional funding may be insufficient.
8. Degrowth values and alternative indicators
  • Plan for less area consumption: develop strategies and incentives to promote the redistribution and efficient use of existing areas instead of building new ones.
  • Adjust markets and regulations: use taxation and other regulatory measures to control free markets and encourage sustainable practices in the building industry.
  • Recognise the need for alternative indicators of value beyond monetary considerations in the building environment.


These recommendations from the roundtable discussion are part of SUSTAINORDIC's series of articles centered around four focus topics.

View SUSTAINORDIC's website here

Contributing experts

Caroline Bergmann, Coordinator of designed living environment, Västra Götalandsregionen, Sweden

Borghildur Sölvey Sturludóttir, The head of local plan in Reykjavik, Island.

Marwa Dabaieh, docent, and associate professor at Malmö University/ Aalborg university

Mads Peter Laursen, CEO Institut for X, Arhus, Denmark.

Arne Høi, Head of Institute, Institute of Architecture and Culture, Royal Danish Academy

Oda Ellensdatter Solberg, architect, Oslo, Norway.

Malin Kock Hansen, Project Manager, DOGA, Norway.

Søren Nielsen, architect, partner, Tegnestuen Vandkunsten, Denmark.

Arja Renell, architect/curator, Finland