When co-creation speaks louder than words: New community area opens in Ålesund

A photo of the opening day in the Cultural Harbour during The North West Festival

Supported by collaboration with local youth, the Norwegian Municipality of Ålesund has developed an entirely new temporary urban community area, temporarily taking the place of an old parking area.

In March of 2024, the Re-Value partnership visited the Norwegian city of Ålesund to discuss and discover developments in the City’s Sørsida (Southside) Area. Back then, the consortium learned of plans, discussed ideas, and engaged in urban planning processes, but in the few months since, the local Re-Value partners have gone from planning to acting.

Just five weeks after the visit, the first event took place in the new Cultural Harbour in Ålesund, which was one of the venues of The North West festival, and at the end of May, the new urban site in Ålesund’s Sørsida area officially opened.

Before then, the area was not remarkable for its charm but rather for its many parking lots, somewhat run-down transit terminal, and concrete-heavy buildings with the kind of look seen as convenient by industrial developers in the 1960s. This is something Ålesund Municipality has been planning to change for more than a decade, and driven by the Re-Value partner Sørsida, a special-purpose vehicle owned by the municipality, the efforts have accelerated in the past years. 

The efforts in March, April and May mark a milestone achieved using collaborative and inclusive methods supported by Re-Value. More specifically, the temporary area was designed not by municipal committees but using input sought and received from local youth.

A photo of a parking lot where the Cultural Harbour is today

March 2020

A photo of the opening day in the Cultural Harbour during The North West Festival

April 2024

Youth inclusion as key for creating sustainable and beautiful communities together

Now the work, supported by Re-Value, is moving forward, and one aspect that has become front and centre in Ålesund is co-creating the area in partnership with local youth, including students at all levels. Earlier in the project, an Innovation Camp was organized by the local JA chapter, Ungt Entreprenørskap, and the commitment and ideas put forward are already having a tangible impact.

Andreas Amundsen, Re-Value’s city lead in Ålesund, explained to the full partnership during the March visit:

“We were really impressed with the contributions of the young people and in some way our focus in the pilot has seen a transition and a shift towards the youth and how they can contribute to this kind of urban development. An important factor in this is also the entire concept of our ‘Cultural Harbour’ where a lot of the functions will be centred around young people,” he said.

In practice, this means that the first steps taken in the area, such as the installation of temporary recreational zones, were planned using specific suggestions and ideas from local youth. On the study tour, participants saw nearly abandoned parking lots that have, in the months since the visit, been transformed into a new urban 'Cultural Harbour' containing, for example, both a skate park, a green hilltop, and food trucks.

Temporary creation but permanent engagement

Despite its central location in Ålesund, the area that has now become 'the Cultural Harbour' used to offer little for the local population beyond the aforementioned parking opportunities. While the physical installation is only planned to be temporary, the process of engaging with the youth will continue - both within and outside of Re-Value. Another aspect the municipality hopes to make permanent is the local excitement about the new area.

As one local told the Bypatrioten blog while sitting atop the newly created green hilltop, which was specifically suggested by the young participants in the Innovation Camp, “Simply amazing! One would think one had arrived in a completely different city, a big city, but here we are, in Ålesund!”

Going forward, this momentum and creation of “place identity” in the Cultural Harbour will be built upon as the municipality continues work on the entire Sørsida area to create a space full of life, people, housing, and cultural offerings.

Digital tools for urban planning

Direct engagement with local youth is only one aspect of the wider engagement in Ålesund, which also includes several digital tools. During the consortium visit, partners also heard about the city’s work with local businesses and other stakeholders and took a deep dive into its cooperation with NTNU and its Ålesund division.

NTNU is both the coordinator of Re-Value and a key partner in many of the exciting changes locally in Ålesund. One tool presented to the visiting partners was the Walkability Score Map, which allows locals and urban planners to highlight the attractiveness of different areas through measures such as walkability and distance to public amenities.

Partners also visited AugmentCity and ‘the dome,’ which takes mapping and visualization not one, but several steps further. It offers an immersive 3D experience, showcasing different data sets and their interactions in a complete 360-degree experience of Ålesund or other locations (find a local demo here).

Visitors in The Dome are getting a 360 view of Ålesund.

Re-Value partners visit AugmentCity's The Dome in Ålesund. 

Publishing date:

Related Cities


The sole responsibility for the content of this website lies with the project and in no way reflects the views of the European Union.