Can smart services accelerate the renewal of Oslo city center?

Last years have marked the emergence of new smart urban services such as car sharing, smart homes, pop-up diners, electric bicycles and many forms of collaborative consumption. Meanwhile, many – even central – neighbourhoods in European towns and cities are facing severe decline. Lack of investments, eroding infrastructure and e-commerce have lead to demise of traditional retail and local services.

Oslo is not an exception. The capital of one of the richest countries in the world has a number of central neighbourhoods that have been in state of decline for decades. Most famous and precious of them is Kvadraturen, a historical centre of commerce and culture, located in the very heart of the capital. During decades, Kvadraturen has become known as an area of many problems, from drugs to prostitution, that have driven shops and services away from one of the most valuable square miles in the world.

This week ’Smart Retro’ went to Kvadraturen. Smart Retro is a new Nordic model for smart urban renewal: a way of developing urban areas by using them as a lab for smart and futuristic services. Smart Retro is based on collaboration between urban smart service startups (or ’smartups’) and the incumbent businesses of urban development: construction companies, real estate firms and retail together with municipalities. Smart retro enables growth of new service ecosystem in neighbourhoods under transformation, thus creating a virtuous circle for increasing the perceived value of these areas.

In Kvadraturen, Smart Retro – created by Nordic think tank Demos Helsinki – brought together over 30 different organisations from property owners to investors and service entrepreneurs lead by Aspelin Ramm InfillCommunity of Oslo Future Built and Oslo National Academy of Arts.

Before Oslo, Smart Retro has initiated similar processes in Lahti and Bagarmossen in Stockholm. The program has collected a group of smartups from Nordic countries to Peloton Smart Retro Acceleration Program. These services, including a peer-to-peer delivery service Piggy Baggy, a smart communication tool for housing companies Meido, and many others, have formed partnerships and are about to take action to revitalize existing urban areas.

• Aspelin Ramm Infill is a new generation constructing company spesialising in urban repair and den­sification.

• FutureBuilt is Norway’s ambitious ten-year pro­gramme for developing several carbon neutral areas.

• The prestigious Oslo National Academy of Arts’s spatial designers has worked thourghout the year researching and creating inspiring infill concepts, to spread head contribute greatly to Kvadraturen’s service infrastructure.

• Smart Retro is part of the Nordic Built that is a initiative funded by Nordic Innovation to accelerate the development of sustainable building concepts.

• Demos Helsinki is the leading Nordic think tank.



Outi Kuittinen, Demos Helsinki
tel. +358 50 326 5582