Urban designer Stellan Fryxell explains the Urban Toolbox as SCI’s 2014 Expert in Residence

Leading urban designer and architect Stellan Fryxell joined SCI at the University of Oregon for three days at the end of February.  As part of his Expert in Residence visit, he conducted two public lectures and receptions at campuses in Eugene and Portland, and participated in a round-table discussion with students, hosted by the American Institute of Architects and American Society of Landscape Architects student chapters.

Stellan is a partner at Tengbom Architects in Stockholm, Sweden, and has worked on various projects in Sweden, most notably Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm. His work has also appeared worldwide in Oslo, Riga, London, Dublin, Ostrava, Shanghai, Chongqing, Huludao, Saint Petersburg, Xi’an, and on an award-winning project in Wuxi.

During Stellan’s lecture “Rethinking Cities: a holistic approach to sustainability and urban design,” the architect acknowledged that cities have a vital effect on the global environment and advocated for a holistic approach to sustainable urbanism. He spoke about city development covering 2% of the Earth’s land but using 75% of all energy and emitting 80% of all carbon dioxide. This argument has propelled him to “rethink cities” with his designs, and to encourage cities around the world to focus on planning, design, and resource efficiency.

Stellan focused his lectures at the UO on his belief that urban challenges can be turned into opportunities. He used one of Stockholm’s largest urban development projects, Hammarby Sjöstad, as a case study that demonstrates these opportunities. In his role as lead urban designer for this district, Stellan developed Hammarby’s eco-cycle model, which employed innovative environmental solutions for buildings, traffic, waste, energy, water and sewage.

The Urban Toolbox

Stellan broke down his systemic approach to sustainable city development through his “Urban Toolbox” method.  The Urban Toolbox is a holistic way for cities to play a key role in addressing the challenge of climate change. The 10-part process includes:

Urban functionality

Ensure the city as a whole is well functioning, and the sum of its parts reflect variation in aesthetic values, land use, social and economic environments, energy efficiency, and density.

Traffic and transportation

Consider attractive, environmentally friendly and energy efficient public transportation. Create a safe traffic environment for pedestrians and cyclists, and accessibility for everyone.

Landscape, public space and biodiversity

Open space for public life, play, biological diversity, protected residential yards, outdoor meetings and learning should be functional, aesthetically pleasing, secure and energy efficient.

Building design and construction

Energy efficient buildings should include passive heating/cooling and maximum use of recycled, non-toxic materials. Consider the buildings from the ground up, including environmentally conscious site selection and optimization of local conditions during construction.

Energy production, distribution and use

Design for efficient energy end use, renewable energy generation, and efficiency in distribution and storage. Employ district-scale heating/cooling, combined power production and passive energy systems.

Water and sewage

Protect water resources by minimizing use of fresh water and reusing grey water. Utilize wastewater energy for production of heat, biogas and nutritive substances. Recirculate nutrients and locally manage stormwater across the district.


Build infrastructure for recycling and energy production. Locally reduce, reuse, recover, and compost. Use waste to produce biogas and only build landfills as a last resort.

Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)

ICT have the potential to make energy use more efficient and encompass any communication device or application, including smart power grids, radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, and satellite systems.

Integrated planning methodologies

Integrated planning methodologies comprise physical planning, infrastructure planning, and environmental programming; but also public-private partnership, dialogue with users, purchasers, authorities.

Smart living

Technical solutions facilitate changes when individuals take responsibility and make a contribution. In order to act, individuals must be able to interpret and receive clear feedback on value creation.

About the Expert in Residence Program

To promote the continuous interchange of sustainable city research and ideas, national experts working to translate sustainability ideas into practice take up residence on the University of Oregon campus for three days. During their mini-residence, these experts:

  • Engage intimately with students and faculty in the classroom, through brown bags, in design charrettes, competitions, etc.
  • Conduct workshops for private and public sector organizations throughout Oregon; and
  • Deliver public community lectures.

If you are interested in visiting SCI and the University of Oregon through the ‘Experts-in-Residence’ Program, please contact SCI.