Mar 12, 2015: Design Matters Lecture with Mandawork’s Martin Arfalk

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Martin Arfalk

mC:t    2015.03.12

Last night, Martin Arfalk, partner of Mandaworks, an award winning landscape architecture and urban design office in Stockholm, Sweden presented for the University of Calgary’s Design Matters Lecture Series on ‘Narrating the Sustainable City’. Mandaworks was founded in 2010 and is owned and operated by Martin Arfalk and Patrick Verhoeven. Currently, the team consists of seven designers all from different nationalities with backgrounds in architecture, urban design, planning, and landscape architecture. Arfalk also teaches at the Master program of Sustainable Urban Design at the School of Architecture in Lund, Sweden.


Mandaworks establishes themselves through a multidisciplinary approach that resolves complex contextual issues with innovative, imaginative solutions that emphasizes the human experience. Every project requires the creation of a clear conceptual narrative and a distinct language that will form a platform for experimentation, joy, and creativity to flourish. Beyond this framework for design, Mandaworks values the ability to invert perspectives, momentarily removing the context, to allow the unexpected to happen.


Although trained as a landscape architect, Arfalk believes landscape architecture involves a broader role than what many believe it to be; the design of gardens and selection of plants. He states that landscape architecture revolves around the shaping and organization of a complete environment that encapsulates everything from urban planning, architecture, interior design, to the finer details of furniture design. This range in design scale allows Mandaworks to focus on spaces that are crafted for the people, as it is the people that create and breathe life into a space.


The project shown below, ‘Inside-Outside’, was one of the projects presented at the lecture. It received first prize in an architectural competition for Vaasa, Finland. The area of the competition is an old horse race track on the southern edge of Vaasa’s city centre. The purpose of the competition was to find a concept and plan for the new development, including housing, service, recreation and sport facilities.

Inside - Outside VAASA - 1

INSIDE-OUTSIDE (above): “Collectively, the urban structure creates a series of urban block’s that create a unique town character and allow for flexibility and diversity to emerge. Using the grid framework & diagonal cuts, a variety of plot sizes bring possibilities for architectural diversity and for a range of actors to take part in the development process.  Bigger plots along the main streets allow for commerce and apartments, while smaller, narrow plots allow for a variety of housing typologies & a socio-economic diversity to emerge”.[1]


A summary of the Q&A session after the lecture:

Q: How would you deal with the flood?

A: Flooding rivers are a problem for any city but also an opportunity to create incredible public spaces that embrace the unique features of that city. One solution is to provide large park spaces along the river that accepts floods. The river edge should be made with trees, rocks, or other strong yet porous materials that will slow the river down. Delicate vegetation should be located on higher grounds to avoid muddy surfaces.

Q: Much like Stockholm, Calgary snows a lot which make public green spaces unusable for a large part of the year. How can Calgary create public spaces that are usable in the winter?

A: The perfect winter public space has yet to be built. Not every space needs to be active all times of the year. We need spaces that can breathe, much like beaches.


The next Design Matters Lecture Series is on April 22, 2015 with Bruce Kuwabara from KPMB Architects. Details can be found here.




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[1] Mandaworks. Accessed March 11, 2015.


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