Rebranding a District: the Breiðholt Project in Reykjavik

  • Catherine Wilkinson Edge Hill University - Ormskirk, UK
  • Ilaria Fumagalli Sustainability Consultant - Brescia
  • Silvia Rossetti DICATAM - Università degli Studi di Brescia
Keywords: Breiðholt, People Friendly Cities, Place-making, Public Participation, Smart Cities


Cities have gained increasing attention from government, researchers, and industry. The focus upon smarter and more efficient cities is important, but incomplete. Against this backdrop, COST Action builds on a European Science Foundation exploratory workshop on the emerging theme of smart and liveable cities. COST Action’s framework for People Friendly Cities in a Data Rich World acknowledges that the city is largely the product of top-down expertise, and a process in which the citizen plays a marginal role. Despite this top-down approach, citizens have had to build personal and collective biographies from the infrastructure of the city. This paper explores how the community of Breiðholt, Reykjavik, is being transformed from a disadvantaged suburb, characterised as a ‘ghetto’, into a thriving community where citizens play a central role in decision-making. This paper presents the outcomes of a fieldwork experience, undertaken in Breiðholt as part of COST Action’s Winter Training School, focused on the drivers behind, actions, and benefits of the Breiðholt Project and the Breiðholt Congress. In making recommendations for the Project and Congress, and other community-based initiatives, this paper encourages the sharing of best practices among different departments of the city, and to better utilise bridge makers (key stakeholders/community leaders) to build trust through face-to-face interactions with citizens.


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Author Biographies

Catherine Wilkinson, Edge Hill University - Ormskirk, UK
Catherine Wilkinson is a lecturer in Children, Young People and Families in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at Edge Hill University. Catherine has a BA (Hons) in Fashion Brand Management, an MSc in Marketing Management and a PhD in Environmental Sciences. Catherine previously worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Durham University in the School of Education. Prior to this Catherine completed her PhD in Environmental Sciences at University of Liverpool, funded by an ESRC CASE award. Her research interests include: qualitative research, mixed methods, ethnography, participatory action research, participatory budgeting. young people, youth voice, community, community radio, social exclusion, and social capital.
Ilaria Fumagalli, Sustainability Consultant - Brescia

Ilaria Fumagalli is a sustainability consultant for both private and public sector. She taught as a Contract Professor at University of Brescia, Faculty of Environmental Engineer, in the field of Urban and territorial Policies and Urban and territorial analysis.  In 2009 she completed her PhD in Urban and territorial planning at University of Brescia, with a final work on the management and planning of rural areas. Prior to this Ilaria completed her Master degree in Environmental and Territorial Engineering. Her research interests include: Urban Environment, Urban planning, Environmental impact assessment, Ecodesign and ecolabelling, Climate Change and Renewable Energy and efficiency.

Silvia Rossetti, DICATAM - Università degli Studi di Brescia
Silvia Rossetti is an Environmental Engineer. She works as postdoctoral research fellow and teaching assistant at the University of Brescia, Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture, Land, Environment and Mathematics (DICATAM), within the Urban and Transport planning research group. In 2013 she obtained a PhD in "Places and Times of the City and its Territory". Her research interests focus on GIS, collaborative urbanism, sustainable mobility, road safety and accessibility issues.


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How to Cite
Wilkinson, C., Fumagalli, I., & Rossetti, S. (2016). Rebranding a District: the Breiðholt Project in Reykjavik. TeMA - Journal of Land Use, Mobility and Environment, 9(3), 257-268.