Equality is fundamentally about democracy. The physical design of a city affects our everyday lives: how we perceive each other and ourselves, how we meet, collaborate, and live our lives together.
Today we face several challenges, both globally and nationally. Challenges such as climate change, population growth and segregation, but also housing shortages, differences in health and social inequalities. Methods of planning and design play an important role. Good architecture not only provides a sensuous experience, but it can also be used as a tool for real change. Equality contains many aspects: public health, disability, gender equality, integration and discrimination – all connected to an inclusive and democratic society.
Equality in the Swedish law
All public organisations should work for equality, according to the Swedish Constitution, 1 Chapter 2 §. The constitution states that public power should be exercised with respect for the equal value of all, and freedom of the individual and ensures that all people can participate in society. Furthermore, the constitution states that discrimination towards individuals, regardless of sex, colour, national or ethnic origin, linguistic or religious affiliation, disability, sexual orientation or age should be prevented.
The overall national objective of public health policy is to create societal conditions for good health on equal terms for the whole population. The most relevant target areas from a planning perspective are participation and influence in society, economic and social conditions. Children and young people’s conditions of growth, environments and products and increased physical activity.
The goal of Sweden’s disability policy is to achieve equality in living conditions and full participation of people with disabilities in a society with diversity as a basis. The use of disability perspectives in community planning means always based on people’s differences, different conditions, needs and desires and prioritize universal solutions that work for everyone. It also includes identifying and addressing barriers to participation in the existing environment and ensuring that new barriers are not created.
Gender equality is an important part of equality. The overall national objective of gender equality policy in Sweden is that women and men should have the same power to shape society and their own lives.
Equality in processes
One way to further increase the intersectional perspective and strengthen democracy is to promote different degrees of design dialogues. To inform, anchor, create participation or to form a co-determination.
In May 2018, a unique decision was taken in the Swedish Parliament. Sweden adopted a new, comprehensive policy for what is known as Designed Living Environment. The policy regards nearly everything around us: residential buildings, schools and hospitals, but also the public space with parks, streets and squares. The political goal is clear: “Architecture, form and design should contribute to a sustainable, equal and less segregated society where everyone should have the opportunity to influence our common environment.”