A delegation from the town of Starachowice attended a study visit to Bergen, Norway on September 24th-29th 2022, as part of the project “Direction Future – Starachowice Local Development Plan”.

The delegation was officially welcomed to the Bergen Municipal Authority by local mayor Rune Bakervik, who pointed to the significance of international collaboration and experience exchange to his city: the second largest city in Norway, Bergen is famous for its openness, innovativeness and civic involvement in public life. “I am deeply convinced that the project will produce positive outcomes and solutions, inspiring both parties to engage in successive joint endeavours”, he said.

“According to multiple international surveys and rankings, Norway remains in the lead of countries with highest quality of life, which is why we see our collaboration as an opportunity for identifying good solutions to be emulated by our town in search for improved life quality,” said deputy mayor of the town of Starachowice for social affairs Marcin Gołębiowski.

The study visit focused on three themes: ecology, education, and social inclusion of local residents.

The first part of the visit explored innovative and ecological solutions and investments in strategic urban development. To that end, representatives of the Bergen Municipal Authority began by presenting their state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant Ytre Sandviken developed in the core of a mountain in the city centre. The delegation then visited the fourteen-storey Bergen Municipal Authority building, an edifice remarkably interesting in itself. Erected in the 1970s, it underwent a general overhaul in the year 2000 already, interiors thoroughly converted, individual storeys transformed into modern open space, allowing considerable savings and improving staff work conditions as well as local resident service standards. Further benefits arising from the decision to modernise the building included lower emissions than would have been generated by the effort to construct a new building from scratch.

A presentation regarding green strategies in urban spatial planning was the next item on the agenda. Head of Bergen municipality’s Climate Agency Bergen Stina Oseland emphasised the importance of combining economy, politics, ecology and community in urbanisation processes. The success of any investment requires synergy on all levels. Bergen is currently following two strategies (2030 and 2050), strictly based on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Accords. Owing to their serious approach of objectives specified therein, Bergen will become a climate-neutral city pre-2050.

Øyvind Ramberg of the GC Rieber design studio gave the delegation a guided tour of the “Skipet” (Ship) building. Located in the Puddefjord district, it is the Gamle Nygårdsbro gateway to Bergen. The Ship is the first and largest commercial building in Bergen made practically entirely of cross-laminated timber. The architecture is unique and exciting, construction timber partly visible. Highly state-of-the-art, the edifice has become a major contribution to innovative environmental protection.

The delegation visited Bergen’s Municipal Park. Developed in London style, the park largely resembles the Starachowicki Park – some time ago it was degraded, a place local residents were afraid to visit. Odd-Erik Dahl and Bodil Nævdal described the process of revitalising this particular green area, pointing to the need for organising local cultural, sports and public events in order to stimulate social activity.

The next day was all about “Developing sustainable local communities, including efforts to ensure cultural activities, improve the local environment, create jobs and emphasise the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration”. In line with the chosen subject, the delegation spent some time in Ytre Arna, a north-eastern district of the Bergen Municipality.

The final two days were a time of education. The delegation visited the Damsgård School (built in 2018), and the 1924 Ny-Krohnborg School modernised in 2012, the latter also housing a kindergarten and a centre of culture. The Norwegians described their approach to education: “holistic” schools extending beyond educational facilities only. They believe every school ought to be the heart of the local community combining assorted values, including environment-related ones.