Nestled between the cities of Malmö and Lund in southern Sweden lies a unique place called Jakriborg. In the 1980s two brothers, Jan Berggren and Krister Berggren, founded a company to build a new community next to the town of Hjärup. With the help of two architects, they created a plan for a village based on the medieval villages of the Lund plains and the Hanseatic towns on the coast of the Baltic and North Sea. I had the pleasure of visiting it in 2009.
Notice the lack of cars? With basic amenities within walking distance and major towns just a 4 to 10 minute train ride away, it’s not necessary for a Jakriborg resident to own a car. Those who do park them at the edge of the community. The result is a safe and peaceful environment where children can run around and play freely. Looks like the kids have left their mark in the next photo.
The first residents moved into their homes in 1999, and since then the population has expanded to over 500 families. It costs around $700 to rent a 500 square foot apartment in Jakriborg, which is relatively affordable for the area. The village hosts a number of businesses including a grocery, cafe, gym, hairdresser, furniture store, and candle maker.
Notice how the community is centered on a public square, and the merchants street extends out of the square. When you get off the train and look through the village entrance, you see a street that welcomes you in and asks you to explore around the bend. As a matter of principle, the streets are neither long nor straight. Jakriborg is a place made for people walking. Even bicycles are unnecessary to get around and enjoy the space.
Now look back at the village as seen from above, and notice that aside from the main square and the merchants street, all of the streets are quite narrow. If you lived here, this is the kind of small street you would be able to enjoy as you strolled, sauntered, or skipped home. Car-free. You could stop to have a chat with your neighbor, or set up a table and chairs outside to enjoy a dinner with friends, and you’d never have to move out of the way for a car.
You might even access your rear garden by a lane even narrower! Notice the beautiful details made possible (and visible!) when streets and lanes are small and uncluttered with vehicles.
While Jakriborg has enough space to grow to 10 times its current size, the Berggren brothers believe that growth should happen more organically. Jakriborg will grow slowly with time.
There’s really no good reason why we in the United States shouldn’t have communities like this, based on age-old urban principles and designed around the pedestrian. We never built towns in this style, but it’s not an issue of style! It’s a matter of the plan. We could apply the architectural styles of early New England, the Mid-Atlantic, or the Florida peninsula to time-tested village patterns and create beautiful car-free places for Americans to live.