SLA operates within the fields of urban space, city planning and landscape architecture and design cities on all scales – from masterplans that stretch across cities to neighbourhood pocket parks. The company was founded in 1994 by Stig L. Andersson and is internationally renowned for their nature-based design approach. SLA has offices in Copenhagen, Oslo and Aarhus where architects, biologists, anthropologists and city planners are designing some of Scandinavia's most democratic, climate-friendly and contemporary urban landscape and public spaces.
When it comes to urban security, SLA’s distinctly interdisciplinary approach, combining deep anthropological knowledge with award-winning design has informed some of Scandinavia’s biggest security projects.
As an example, some of SLA’s most recent security projects includes the European Spallation Source (ESS) in Lund, Sweden and the Government Headquarters in Oslo, Norway.
Monica Galiana Rodriguez currently works as a project manager for SLA, with a special focus on the Middle Eastern market. Having worked on the European Spallation Source since 2013 and the European Criminal Court in 2008-2015, Monica provides a unique insight into SLA’s work with anti-terror and urban security.
“My expertise at the moment has developed into what the market requires, which is quick concepts and their implementation as per the local standards while ensuring design intent, and getting in contact with local stakeholders, suppliers, and manufacturers to get the best possible outcome. Our Middle East projects are within what we call our “International Team,” which has slowly developed into different directions, with projects in China, the UK, Canada and Abu Dhabi, which is booming at the moment.”
SLA strives to combine anthropological analysis, ethnographic fieldwork, ecological knowledge, and urban design solutions to ensure our cities are safe while also better to live in, democratic to stay in, easier to move around and sustainable to maintain.
Monica explains how her experience working on the European Spallation Source was the start of SLA’s nature-based approach to security.
Situated on the outskirts of Lund, The European Spallation Source is a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), a multi-disciplinary research facility based on the world’s most powerful neutron source and one of the largest science and technology infrastructure projects built today.
"The European Spallation Source is a complex program and has a high standard for security. One of the reasons the project was chosen was its flexibility to implement such a complex program, and from a landscape point of view, we were providing integrated standards in a more design-friendly way. So, I would say that along with the European Criminal Court, that was the start of how we envisioned security and nature-based solutions.” - Monica Galiana Rodriguez, SLA
Monica explains that the key requirement for the ESS, when it comes to security, was to delay unwanted entrance. That called for a design that would incorporate both smart hostile entrances as well as HVM (hostile vehicle mitigation) measures. Furthermore, the topography and nature were originally aimed to delay hostile vehicles, but trees were never approved by the security team because they are not tested to prevent hostile vehicles in the long run (they may rot and become weak with time).
“ SLA is eager to learn and to promote nature cycles and nature-based approaches, and how to get benefits and create values. So, with these two projects, both the Criminal Court and the European Spallation Source, when we were asked to bring a layer of security, we embraced it with the tools we like to use, nature. And so, we learned a lot, and a few years after, we won a project to design Norway's Government Quarters in Oslo, where we brought those learning into a whole new setting, Downtown Oslo.”
In 2014, SLA was asked to work with Oslo’s central Government Quarter, which was damaged after the terror attack in July 2011. Here, SLA worked to combine the demands for an active urban life with urban security. The project involved the transformation of an urban space with a lot of cultural heritage – SLA worked to connect the nature, history and culture of Oslo and wanted to reflect this in the design. By using existing spatial qualities as a starting point for the transformation and communication of the area’s history, logistics, and flow, SLA ensured a clear aesthetic and cultural-historical identity in the new urban space around the Government Quarter.
“The project was different from the ESS and the European Criminal Court, where we were free to implement and integrate security principles into an open landscape. Downtown Oslo was completely different, with a whole different system of existing layers and pre-existing conditions. So, SLA sought to bring a new layer based on their nature-based agenda and the functional requirement of creating a high level of security.”
Monica explains that rather than creating an obvious security measure, SLA wanted to create an aesthetic value – they wanted to bring something back to the site and the citizens, rather than solely focusing on risk reduction. To approach such a large project and to ensure design-led security measures, Monica emphasizes that it must always start by creating a dialogue and common understanding about the project goals and security standards. It is essential to understand everyone’s priorities and to first find out how to meet the set of standards – then you can work on challenging and creating integrated solutions.
From a design point of view, security has become much more implemented within the design – it is no longer a visible layer, but rather it is part of the design process. Otherwise, security becomes too present and can be seen as threatening rather than an inviting element.
Security and defence have played important roles in our cities. But it is not only the risk of a terrorist attack that changes our cities. Measures which do not consider an urban context, put people on alert. At SLA we try to comply with the overall requirements within an overall nature-based design that brings value to the citizens, and sets the project free from constraints.