Interview with Håkan Danielsson

April 22, 2010


Håkan Danielsson – business developer Skanska Commercial Development Nordic.

Conditions: In relation to your profession, what do you consider a compromise to be?

Håkan Danielsson: I think compromise may have a bad connotation. However, most often I believe that when we develop projects, if you have to take many issues into consideration, you end up with a better project by doing so.  I think that is quite interesting.

C: Why do we have to make compromises within planning and architecture?

HD: I guess we have to take into consideration the demand from the municipality, our internal and financial demands, but mainly the demand from our costumer. That is why there has to be a compromise. But as a said in the beginning, it depends on what you mean by compromise. I believe some people think compromise is a negative thing.

C: Could you say that reaching compromises adds more value to the project due to the increased involvement?

HD: Yes, adding value and also pushing us as a developer to create even more interesting projects. You get pushed into taking many circumstances into consideration.

C: Interesting, because some, maybe architects in particular, see reaching a compromise as diminishing or reducing the value of project. What are the common disputes or issues that arise when trying to work out a compromise?

HD: One of the most important disputes right now is “green”. In all projects or areas we are developing, green is the most important issue to handle. To create new projects that are climate efficient is the biggest issue right now.

C: How about economy?

HD: Of course as a developer we need to see to the economy as well, but it doesn’t go against creating green areas or green projects. Companies and people want to have green projects. We believe that we can have better economy in our projects by creating green projects.

C: If green is the most common dispute, what is being compromised when creating green projects? Or, is anything at all being compromised by creating green projects?

HD: No. We are talking about compromise in the development phase, so green is the most important thing to handle.

C: So green just enhances the project and you do not have to compromise anything?

HD: As a commercial developer we are developing mainly office buildings – both stand alone office buildings and office building areas. In that area we see a high demand for green. But of course it needs to be high class products – high efficiency, high flexibility and so on.

C: Green is just another issue along with the others to be dealt with. What do you see as a bad compromise?

HD: Interesting. I guess a bad compromise is when it becomes impossible to create a new project due to economic or environmental regulations from the municipality. In those cases you are forced to make a bad compromise. But, I can’t really see any direct components that make bad compromises.

C: Do you think that the best architecture is made through compromise?

HD: Hard to say….

C: Rather, what is good architecture?

HD: Good architecture is when you are creating areas and buildings that are attractive and environmentally friendly, both for people to live in and for commercial customers. It could also be challenging architecture that creates interesting environmental areas.

C: But do you then think that the most interesting projects, or the pioneering projects, are made through compromise?

HD: I guess almost all projects have to handle compromises. Compromises are just the many inputs which you have to handle in a project. You have to make compromises in all areas.

C: Do you as a company have any kind of strategies to handle compromises?

HD: We don’t have a strategy just to handle compromises. Our strategy is to be an active city builder. To do so, you need to be able to handle many compromises: input from the municipality, from the legal department, finding good economy in the project and creating a great environmental area for the project as well.

C: Are you actively trying to involve many different actors?

HD: That is part of being an active city builder. You need to have an open and frank dialogue with the involved parties. If that can happen, we believe that it is possible to create new projects and new areas.

C: I understand. Some say that Scandinavia is home of the “middle way” – things are not really good and not really bad in any way. Is it more important to reach a compromise in Scandinavia than in other countries?

HD: I am only working in Scandinavia, so I don’t know. I know that it is called the “middle way” in Scandinavia. Skanska has development projects all over the world, but we use local developers and local Skanska people who have the knowledge to develop these projects.

C: Skanska is the biggest developer in Scandinavia; do you need to make compromises? To put it in a different way, do you think that governance has gone too far?

HD: No. From our point of view, to be a city builder you need to have a good dialogue with the involved parties and you need to have a good dialogue with the municipality, and that is very important.

C: In the last issue of Conditions, the Pirate Party predicted, because of the changes in our society, that we will see big changes in the way we plan in the near future, with mass involvement and what they call open-source planning. How do you see the future development of planning?

HD: I am not so familiar with the Pirate Party. However, it is clear that we need to listen to our customers, not only our existing customers, but also search for new trends. What will the demand be for in the future? I think it is important to listen and be open to what is happening in the society.

C: Do you see your planning, or your architecture as reflective of the changes in society?

HD: Sort of. Sometimes it is going too fast and sometimes too slow. As a developer you have to see things in the long term and because of that I think it fits pretty well into society today. I think it would be hard to build the Dubai towers in Scandinavia while listening to local demands. In our market we need to create projects that are manageable.

C: Is it because lack of vision or is it because of the “middle way” or just common sense?

HD: I believe Scandinavians are more “down to earth” (he-he). Although I really enjoy thinking how our developers around the world are creating projects. Sometimes you can feel a little bit too “square” (meaning not thinking outside the box) in Scandinavia, but I don’t think it is a bad kind of “square”.

C: Is the planning system – including the planning authorities, developers, politicians and the architect – a good system? Is it able to produce the best solutions for society in the future?

HD: It’s a good question. I think we can see that we are developing quite good areas and projects in Scandinavia, but we shouldn’t lean back and say that this is good enough. We always need to develop our processes, strategies and minds to create new projects.

C: So when you say “we” you are speaking generally about the planning authorities, architects, politicians and other involved parties as well?

HD: Yes.

C: Basically we have been talking about involvement. What is the relationship between communication and compromise?

HD: I think being an active city builder and a developer you can’t just stay in your own office to create projects and not listen to others, you really need to have this dialogue and communicate with the parties involved: municipalities, politicians and customers. We also have to have discussions with the final investors who are going to have these projects in their balance sheet.

C: To put it differently, how do you communicate? Through mass meetings, media, information meetings? Or does that change depending on the projects?

HD: It depends on the projects and also in what phase of the project we are. You have marketing strategies, investor strategies etc. Depending on which phase you are in, there are different ways of communicating and having dialogues with the different parties.

C: What is the right way for “common” people to involve themselves?

HD: All parties need to be active. We need to tell our story –  how we would like to develop the area or a project in an early phase so we can have the input from the neighbors etc. For example, in an area for commercial offices and apartments, we need input to figure out what is needed in terms of public service. To have a good environment for the people living there, working there, we need communication in order to develop the right kind of project; to contextualize the project. 

C: Is there something an architect never should compromise? Why?

HD: Yes, good quality and energy efficiency. Having a low impact on the climate should not be compromised.

C: One last question; do you have any advice for planners and architects?

HD: We need to be open minded. We need to listen to each other, to understand each other, to understand the needs of the customers, the investors, the municipality, our point of view etc. I think that is really important.

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