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Safe Injection Sites Along Akerselva: approaching public drug use through landscape architecture

Mikael Oscar Loum Johansen

Diploma project

Spring 2023
Institute of Urbanism and Landscape

Mattias Fredrik Josefsson
There is an on-going health crisis in Oslo, that is solely affecting some of societies weakest members. The public health issue of drug use is not something unique to Oslo. Yet the share size of the city’s open drug scene and the amount of overdose deaths in public spaces has deemed drug use in Oslo as one of the most pressing health situations in Europe over the last two decades, as it relates to the topic. 







The diploma “Safe Injection Sites Along Akerselva : Approaching Public Drug Use Through Landscape Architecture” is a methodical investigation of the physical and social conditions of Oslo’s open drug scenes. The methodical investigation, consisting of model studies of former open drug scenes in Oslo, precedence studies of existing projects and a qualitative study of interviews with public and charity actors, set the brief and spatial program for two proposed safe injection sites and adjoining “værested”. The ambition of the proposals is to project new health orientated public spaces- and architectural programs, that accommodate the user-needs of the user group [individuals with substance use disorder]. 

The design is informed by the uncovered environmental psychological conditions of spaces linked to public drug use through the model study and precedent studies. Furthermore, the diploma utilizes evidence-based health design and a comprehensive understanding of the health issues spatial characteristics, from the qualitative study, in order to synthesis user-specific design solutions.

Drug use in Oslo has been deemed one of the most pressing health issues in Europe over the last two decades, as it relates to the topic. Whilst cities like Aarhus and Bergen have addressed this issue with varying degrees of successful implementations of “værested” [semi-enclosed public space or public spaces allocated for individuals with substance use disorder, that function as supportive environments upon mental- and physical well-being], the municipality of Oslo has been reluctant to similarly address the issue as one concerning urbanity and public space. 

Thus, the subject of this diploma is an investigation on “værested” and public drug use seen through the lens of landscape architecture. If such health oriented public spaces can combat the appalling outsiderness and lack of right to public space experienced by users today. Whether public spaces associated with drug use can be mitigative supportive environment and minimize potential harm from substance use disorder.

Through the application of landscape architecture, the diploma raises ethical concerns regarding dignity on the current municipal approach to urban drug use in Oslo. Furthermore, the diploma synthesizes conceptions of right to public space and research on supportive environments into two design proposal concerned with mediating the medical condition and providing vital services to individuals with substance use disorder. This new precedent on strategic implementation and user-specificity design solutions can contribute to disciplinary discourse and the further professional development of “værested”.
Mikael Oscar Loum Johansen / mikaeloscar@hotmail.com | +47 910 09 568