University Campus Park, Umeå, Sweden

Source: Thorbjörn Andersson


Sweco Architects
Thorbjörn Andersson

Type of Area


Land/water interaction


Built Environment Types

Highly built
Low green

Scale of Impact


Intervention Scale (Spatial)

Moderate site

Project Types

Public space regeneration
Urban design
Outdoor recreation

Urban/ Rural

Inner urban area

Visibility and Openness

Fully enclosed
Fully contained view

Learning in the landscape

Umeå University, in Sweden, is located on the Gulf of Bothnia coast, approximately 300 km south of the Artic Circle. The aim of the park was to offer an attractive space that enhanced the university environment. The park provides a non-hierarchical space outside of the formal learning areas of lecture theatres and laboratories where informal discussions and the exchange of ideas can take place. 

There is adequate space in the campus park for socialising, reading and relaxing on the lawned areas, the sunbathing places and jetties, fulfilling the mandate of the design to close the gap between nature and work. The many walking and cycle trails connect the different parts of the campus. A plaza connects the park to the University library and includes picnic tables and benches. The sloping lawns and terraces provide an open view of the lake

In the 1960s the stream flowing through the university’s grounds was dammed to create a pear-shaped lake, around which the original buildings were grouped, inspired by a similar design at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. This artificial lake, set in a hilly landscape, forms the centrepiece of the re-designed park area. Bridges link a deck on the small island within the lake to the shoreline. 

The riprap edging allows people to get close to the water and the modular furniture and wooden decking lend a modern and open feel to the park. There is a combination of sunny and shaded areas dotted with birch trees. The walkways, constructed from gravel, are well-lit and wind around points of interest of various scales, some are quiet more intimate spots and some larger and livelier areas. Although the pathways are generally open, one section has a canyon-like effect over a small brook that trickles out from the lake. This area is covered by dense vegetation, creating a different atmosphere to the more open areas.

Perception and Meaning

Focal point
Place attachment

Health and Wellbeing

Place affordance
Increases socialisation

Interaction with Water

Tactile – touching

Chart, radar chart

Description automatically generated

Website of the project:

Google map reference

Accessibility within the park is good, with wide well-lit pathways that make the park feel secure. The pond in the middle brings a focus for contemplation into the middle of a busy campus. Plenty of seating provides opportunity for outdoor areas where discussions can take place or just convivial meeting areas. The design rates highly for quality although it requires a fair amount of maintenance. The site is somewhat exposed to wind and sun but this will improve as the trees mature. The health and well-being aspects are adequate but being within the campus surrounded by the university buildings limits the sense of being away or contact with nature. It is a safe and secure environment.

The clean modern lines of the constructions around the pond area fit well with the modern atmosphere of the university. They are of good design with sustainable materials and easy to maintain. They also provide places for students and staff to get close to the water. The ramps also allow pushchairs and wheelchair access onto the decking areas. 

Although the mixture of trees and open areas provide space for sitting at different times of the year, there is little space for water sports, which is understandable as it is designed as a space to meet, think and talk, not a space for play.