Stockholm through the keen eyes of two architects

Aura Soriano from the Philippines and Raz Mseleku from South Africa are masters students in Sustainable Urban Planning and Design at KTH. Here the two architects share their impressions of Stockholm so far.

Stockholm through the keen eyes of two architects
Photo by Aura Soriano
‘A rhythm like a clockwork’
By Aura Soriano
Traveling is a passion of mine, and as an architect, cities have always featured very prominently in my itineraries. I love to have time to just walk around a city, not necessarily to the famous landmarks, but to see the everyday scenes where people’s lives play out.
Asian metropolises, which comprise most of my travel experience so far, have always given me an impression of electricity. The glass skyscrapers and neon lights, the throngs of people and the cacophony of sounds – there’s a vibrant pulse that feels like a constant movement towards the future. Every scene seems to change within seconds.
Stockholm exudes very different energy than Asian cities. It’s steady, constant, yet still progressive – a rhythm like a clockwork. Hundred-year-old buildings face tree-lined streets, not towering but solidly grounded. I feel my own presence more in the human-scale urban design.
Photo by Aura Soriano
It’s amazing to study how culture and context can drastically shape cities, the stages upon which many of our lives play out. I feel like I’ve learned so much just from living in Stockholm so far, and yet it’s just the beginning. It’s an honor to have this opportunity to learn a new and different perspective here in Sweden.
A decade in the making
By Raz Mseleku
As a third-year architecture student in 2009, my best friend and I had an (unhealthy) obsession with Scandinavian architecture and design. We always told ourselves that one day we’d have to visit, or even better, maybe live somewhere up north. Ten years down the line and here I am.
And so the day came for me to leave Berlin, where I had briefly lived and worked prior to moving to Stockholm. My wife and I had visited Malmö and Copenhagen the year before, and so I already had my first taste of the sweet Nordic life. After reading many incredible travel blogs about Stockholm, I honestly felt like a little kid about to enter Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Three months later, I must say that Stockholm has lived up to my extremely high expectations.
I remember our first Sunday stroll in Östermalm. The beautiful elegant sunkissed houses, the trees lining the streets, everyone well-dressed on their way to brunch – it felt like a movie set that I was finally part of. I was overwhelmed by the immaculate historical architecture and pristine urban spaces as I moved through the various neighborhoods, each with its unique identity.
Though my wife and I missed Berlin’s edgy, artsy and alternative scene at first, it didn’t take long before we found our very own little Neukölln & Kreuzberg in Stockholm. Hornstull, to the south of the city, with its trendy cafes and restaurants, graffiti walls, Sunday flea markets with live street art and music felt much like Berlin. It’s starting to feel a little like home.
Photo by Raz Mseleku
As I sit writing this whilst reflecting on the journey so far, I smile knowing it’s well worth the ten-year wait. Stockholm with its efficient public transport, easy accessibility to nature and public spaces, diverse neighborhoods and pristine architecture has been something of a dream. I couldn’t be more grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity by the Swedish Institute.


Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.