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MONDO ARC

No. 24: Traffic Island, Sweden

Issue 53 February / March 2010


Sharon Stammers continues her world tour exploring the best architecture that is built with light. This issue, Joran Linder departs from the normal impressive building by choosing a little cottage in Sweden

“High on a wooded cliff between two noisy highways, there is suddenly a miniature Swedish summer cottage, painted traditional red with white corners. Of course, it did not just arrive up there by itself. Two street artists secretly brought it there. They have built the red fence around the small garden. They have hung clothes to dry on ropes in the yard and strewn festive lighting on the exterior to celebrate Christmas. They have taken everything the Swedish countryside promises and stands for and placed it in the middle of the urban landscape. On an unused, forgotten place, they have created a charming and peaceful wonderland for all to see and contemplate. What if more people transformed the places they find themselves living in, to replicate the places they dream of. It would not be so difficult…”

Joran Linder – Olsson & Linder


 

Built with Light No. 24 is going to depart from the norm and needs a bit of explaining if I can get it past the Editor (it’s a strange one but I’ll let it go! Ed). The thing with asking a designer to nominate a building that is fundamentally about light and moves them in some way is you can never be sure what you will get and once you’ve asked you have to write about it anyway. (That’s not strictly true – I should have put money on the fact that Kevin Mansfield would choose the Pantheon and Mark Major, Hagia Sophia.) To date, the Back Page has covered 23 amazing buildings, both classic and modern across the globe in a neat and formulaic way and now I have departed from the norm by asking a Swede! So what does he choose? Something very different from the preceding architectural giants; a tiny red house built on a motorway. It has no lengthy and colourful history, no architectural theory to expound on and no need to get out an architecture dictionary to find the right name for a funny shaped high up window. Granted, in this picture, it is draped with lights so we could sort of scrape by under the ‘Built with Light’ title. However, essentially it is just a miniature cottage and not the normal kind of building we include. But as I think I know why Joran chose it, I will try and explain.

First, who built it and why? It is an installation devised by the Barsky Brothers which is the name that the collaboration of Akay and Klisterpeter, two Swedish street artists use. Akay, also known as Karl Adam Warrol, began as a Swedish grafitti artist then moved into street art starting a project called Akayism. In the Akayism project he has made art installations in all kinds of formats and sizes that have been seen in all corners of the world (Liverpool invited them to participate in their celebrations as City of Culture). Klisterpeter (Swedish for Glue-Peter) is also well known for projects such as his urban bird nesting boxes and together they built (and lived in, or so the internet says) this small house, an illegal installation that captures people’s imagination and (go on, admit it) makes you smile. Their projects are mostly about recreating and re-imagining urban spaces and making something completely unexpected and special: in this case the escape that the Swedish countryside provides.

So why did Joran choose it and what’s it got to do with Light? I think the key is in the line at the end of the paragraph: ‘What if more people transformed the places they find themselves living in, to replicate the places they dream of‘. Olsson and Linder are a lighting practice that specialises in the social aspect of lighting design. Their mantra is to ‘work with and for the people’, to use light to change the gritty urban spaces that are normally abandoned and unloved.

“Lighting design is about creativity. Lighting design is about people. Lighting design is about people’s needs and requirements in their daily life!“

They have worked on many community based projects within the large housing estates of the Million Housing Program (a Swedish Housing Initiative for immigrants in the 1960’s) and used lighting to help reclaim civic pride and to fight against social exclusion in these disadvantaged areas. By using light as a medium, they believe we are able to transform the places that in cities many millions of people live to make them more comfortable, safe and pleasing environments.

So there you go – a funny little cottage built with love (not light) used to demonstrate an attitude of creative recreation possible on our own urban doorsteps. A perfect way to start a new decade dedicated to socially responsible lighting design.

 

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