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Culture and Creativity

Malmö: from shipyards to sustainable living in Varvsstaden

Beyond buildings: envisioning spaces for personal comfort and collective engagement.

Type of project :
Size of city/region:
redevelopment plans of Varvsstaden in Malmo, Sweden

Key facts

Architecture studios: Varvsstaden AB 

Main sponsor: Varvsstaden AB 

Year completed: 2017-ongoing 

Materials: Brick, glass, concrete, steel, sheet metal 

Total area: 180 000 m² 

City / regional background

Varvsstaden is a historic industrial area in Malmö, situated close to both the harbour and the city centre. Once a thriving centre of industry, it was home to shipyards and industrial facilities. The area contributed significantly to the city's multicultural and forward-thinking identity, thanks in part to Kockums, a prominent shipbuilding company that once operated there. 

For nearly a century, Varvsstaden remained closed to the public. However, recognising the area’s potential for urban development and the need to create space for residents, visitors, and future activities, the city decided to transform it. 

The greatest challenge for this development lies in the dual mission: preserving Varvsstaden’s industrial heritage while simultaneously transforming it into a modern, open neighbourhood. This regeneration project is a testament to Malmö's commitment to honouring its past while creating a dynamic and inclusive future in Varvsstaden. 


Varvsstaden is undergoing a complete transformation into a vibrant living and working district. This initiative is managed by Varvsstaden AB. The company serves as both the contractor and developer and oversees the 25-year development period. This new urban area is composed of 2 500 homes, 4 000 workspaces, schools, and various green spaces. This endeavour not only reshapes the landscape but also pioneers innovative circular approaches to repurposing existing buildings and reusing construction materials, setting a new standard for urban development. 

The project aims to foster a harmonious coexistence between "life in the buildings" and "life between the buildings." This thoughtful planning ensures that residents and workers can thrive in an environment that offers both comfortable living spaces and dynamic communal areas. 

Preserving its industrial character, Varvsstaden retains and adapts many characteristic industrial structures into commercial, culture and educational buildings. This development embraces a holistic and sustainable urban model, combining mixed-use spaces, public areas, and heritage preservation, promising economic and environmental benefits. 

The project's sustainability progress is meticulously monitored and shared publicly on Varvsstaden AB's website. 

Criteria for high-quality (context, sense of place, diversity, beauty)

  • The project's guiding principle is to preserve the unique atmosphere of Varvsstaden, allowing the old architecture to gracefully intertwine with the new. The redevelopment reflects diversity, curiosity, and a human-centric approach. 

  • The development includes multiple green parks and a 1 km-long promenade along the shipyard basin, poised to become Malmö's vibrant new meeting place. Varvsstaden will be seamlessly integrated into Malmö's urban fabric through three new bridge connections for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. 

  • Any large-scale industrial sheds that are not being retained are dismantled, and their materials, including steel frames, plates, windows, bricks, stairs, and lamps, are stored on-site for future construction. This eco-conscious reuse not only reduces carbon emissions and material costs, but also imparts a unique sense of history to new architecture. Varvsstaden AB efficiently manages these materials through on-site storage and digital documentation in a material bank, assessing condition, structural properties, and carbon footprint. Architects are encouraged to incorporate these resources early in their designs, aiming to reuse and recycle 80% of on-site materials, potentially saving 30,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.  

Governance and management

Varvsstaden AB oversees the implementation of the projects, in collaboration with officials and politicians from the City of Malmö. The ownership of the area and the management of Varvsstaden AB is divided between two private investors/companies: Peab AB and Fastighets AB Balder.  

Varvsstaden AB maintains an active team of 5-6 individuals dedicated to the project. Over the years, the total number of municipal staff engaged in the project has fluctuated. On average, 20 employees have been directly or indirectly involved during the plan development phase. During the detailed planning stage, two to three employees are actively involved. 

Budget and financing

The budget of the renovation of the public spaces, such as bridges, parks, and roads, is funded by the City of Malmo and is approximately half a billion Swedish kronor (€43 085 118). 

The individual commercial and residential projects’ budgets are managed separately by Varvsstaden AB. 

Transferable ideas

Tips from the city

  • Focus on reusing structures and materials as way of strengthening heritage as well as reducing climate impacts. 

  • Establish measurable goals around carbon savings and build transparent evaluation and reporting into the project from the start. 

  • Give opportunities to creative individuals, from emerging architects to early tenants, who are committed to the project’s goals and will invest their time and energy in the place. 

  • Be receptive to innovative ways of opening up and transforming previously closed industrial buildings as an alternative to demolition. 

Contact information

Contact Malmo municipality via email.