– I kind of miss the neighbourhood feeling

Eight neighbourhood agents were sent out into the city the summer of 2021


From the explorations of Romsås. One of the city residents that the neighbourhood agents spoke to, thought detached houses made it difficult to create a sense of neighbourhood, she therefore called for denser buildings. Here we see a Photo: Ahmed Muhammed Sultan and Mohammed Didarul Hossain.

On mission from the Oslo Architecture Triennale and ByKuben - Oslo's center for urban ecology, eight neighbourhood agents were sent out into the city this summer. By interviewing the capital's residents, they investigated what a good neighbourhood is. At the Children's City Lab on Sunday 19. September, the results of the project were presented.

Published 07.10.21

– It was interesting to see how many more functions and offers there were at Harbitz square compared to the Romsås center, it makes you think, said Ahmed Muhammed Sultan when he presented the findings he had made as a neighbourhood agent this summer.

What really makes a neighbourhood good? Or not that good? That was the core questions that the neighbourhood agents were searching for answers to this summer. What qualities and challenges in the city's neighbourhoods should be highlighted? Eight neighbourhoods in Oslo was investigated, from Harbitz Torg at Skøyen to Romsås in Groruddalen.

Ahmed Mohammed foto By Kuben Alioune Diop

Neighbourhood agents Ahmed Muhammed Sultan and Mohammed Didarul Hossain investigated Romsås and Harbitz Torg this summer. Photo: Alione Diop.

One of the inhabitants that Sultan, together with Mohammed Didarul Hossain interviewed, pointed out that she had lived at Romsås in the east of Oslo since it was built fifty years ago and that she enjoyed it very much. Although she was happy, the place still lacked something:

– I really think that the Romsås centre is very bad. I've lived here for a few years, so I know what it was like. At that time there were an incredible number of shops there. If you`re not after pharmaceuticals or household goods, you really have to go somewhere else than the Romsås centre.

A challenge will thus be to take care of the good qualitities of a neighbourhood, such as Romsås, but also to develop them according to the residents' desires.

Among the inhabitants that Sultan and Hossain interviewed at Harbitz Square, was also Cathrine Gram. About her neighbourhood west in Oslo, she said:

– Skøyen is a nice area, it is so close to the city centre. You can get on the tram at the National Theatre, and after thirteen minutes ride you find yourself in peace and quiet.

Nevertheless, she pointed out that a disadvantage with too many detached houses, as there are at Skøyen, is that the feeling of neighbourhood and community disappear as people become more oriented towards their own and the immediate surrounding homes and not the neighbourhood as such: – I miss the neighbourhood community-feeling a bit, Gram told the neighbourhood agents.

In sum, the people that the neighbourhood agents talked to pointed out that it is unity, good outdoor areas and a varied range of activities and services that make a neighbourhood good. Architect Aljone Diop from ByKuben followed up and instructed the eight young people who were engaged for summer jobs via Oslo Municipality:

– In Oslo, living is a social and common thing. Facilities and functions in a neighbourhood are important, but when it comes down to it, it is the people who make neighbourhoods unique and good to live in. I am impressed with the insight people have about their own neighbourhood. The work of the neighbourhood agents show that residents and city users have a lot to contribute with in the discussion related to neighbourhood and urban development in Oslo.

IMG 8560 Christian tlf

Neighbourhood agent Ahmed Muhammed Sultan in conversation with the triennale director Christian Pagh at the Children's City Lab on 19 September.

In addition to engaging young people to document what residents of Oslo think constitutes a good neighbourhood, the idea with the Neighbourhood Agents is to create a database of ideas and thoughts that will be taken further as input to the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2022, which has neighbourhoods as its theme.

– The work of the neighbourhood agents are a good start to our aim to map how Oslo's citizens, both old and young, experience their neighbourhood and what it means to them, says Christian Pagh from the Oslo Architecture Triennale. – It is important to know this to be able to develop better neighbourhoods in the future, concludes the director and chief curator.