Plant a Seed, Grow a City : An analysis of power, discourse and knowledge related to urban trees in Reykjavík

University essay from KTH/Urbana och regionala studier


Trees in Reykjavík gained an attention in year 2010 when the Mayor brought up the issue in a city council meeting, with the intention to replace cottonwood trees in the city center. A new topic was introduced to the scene which initiated a process within the planning system in Reykjavík. That process is studied in this paper and covers the period from April 2010 to February 2014.

The purpose of this study is to explore the strategic role of urban trees in the city and the changes that have occurred during the process. The analysis is made to find out if, and then how, the status of urban trees has changed during this period of time from two perspectives. The first perspective involves an analysis of the actions, decisions and connections between main actors involved in the process, in relation to power, discourse and knowledge. The second part is an analysis of changes in discourse on urban trees in Reykjavík where the main extensions of the discourse are identified. This is a qualitative study performed first and foremost by interviews with involved actors and a thorough examination of documents and literature.

The main results of the study indicate primarily that the role of urban trees has strengthened extensively during the process. Further, the discourse about urban trees in the city has expanded with new concepts and words, with new and deeper knowledge about already known factors. This new understanding and experience gained are essential when it comes to strategic planning, planting and maintaining. The actors involved in the process utilize their power according to their positions but due to a small and concentrated planning structure in Reykjavík this creates delicate conditions for both the actors and the trees.

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