A Norwegian man has found a way to activate public space. He sees a future city where streets are not just for transport and cars.
Erlend Sjåvik is an urban planning student from Norway who is interested in how we use, and interact in public spaces. His main interest is how to activate public space and find out where people like to spend time.
I had a chance to communicate with Erlend and he shared the story of how he started to “roll”:
“The idea started with finding a way to help people find their favourite place to have their coffee. First I thought about building a bench with wheels, or just building benches wherever the good spots where. My thoughts led to food stands in other parts of the world and suddenly I wanted to make a cafe on wheels. In August 2013 I started Rullende Café.
With food in my mind, the cafe’s first objective was to earn enough money to buy dinner that night (living on a student economy between semesters is not easy). I got all the materials to build the cart for free at construction yards and recycling plants around Oslo. After the materials were gathered, friends came to help me build the cart.
During the first “business” day, my friends made food (that achieved the first objective quickly) and we decided that the cafe should be for charity. We walked around the neighborhood and people came out of their homes. They thought we were a bachelor party or some street artists.
The cafe generated a crowd who followed us for a while. As we rolled through the city, we met a stand up comedian. He held a spontaneous comedy gig. Suddenly there was a little discussion between two people about whether or not Oslo should apply to host the winter Olympics in 2020. The conversation turned into a panel debate, and people who live side by side were greeting and getting to know each other a bit. The afternoon and evening were delightful, so we wanted to continue. Since then, my friends and I have been rolling out the cafe whenever we have time.
The cafe is usually active from August to November, one to two times a month. During the winter we can’t roll due to the harsh weather we have here, but we have rolled in the spring.
At Rullende Café, the costumer pays what they want to pay for a cup of coffee/tea/buns/cookies. Then they nominate a charitable organization they want to support. At the end of the day, we count all the votes for the charitable nominees. The organization with the most votes gets the money.
Since we give all the money away (except what we need to buy new coffee), we have not contacted the authorities for permission to sell stuff in the streets. The people that are “working” for the cafe do it for fun. Therefore, we aren’t technically a “business”.
The goal for the cafe is to get more people involved so the rolling cafe can be independent and live its own life. There are already two projects that are identical with our cafe. My sister started one in Stockholm, and a friend of mine started one in Bordeaux.
The rolling cafe is easy to operate and gives attention to the fact that public spaces are places not only for getting from A to Z, but they are also for interacting with the people around you.
In my mind a rolling cafe is nothing new. You can find small movable cafes, street vendors, and stands all over the world. All you need to do is like the idea of a rolling cafe and you all enough reason to start one!
Ideas about activating our cities should spread! We need to use our streets in a different way. More room for pedestrians and bicycles. Our streets are not only space for transportation and cars, but the streets also where we meet, interact with people, and should spend more time.”
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