Installation views of the reconstructed interior, 2003

The original interior by Peter Celsing (1971)

Installation, Kulturhuset, Stockholm 2003-2004

Kulturhuset (The House of Culture) in the centre of Stockholm was born out of the 1960’s idea of a new, widened notion of culture. The public activities of Moderna museet were an important source of inspiration. In 1971, Kulturhuset opened its first department, the Arts and Culture Library, located on the current level K1. Instead of creating an ordinary library, the goal was to establish a multicultural library, handling different media in premises similar to a living room. A large part of the room was decorated to inspire children to read. Therefore, cosy sofas, lowered into the floor, and soft carpeting were installed instead of traditional library furniture. These "snuggle-pits" were furnished with white boat cushions, and equipment was installed for individual listening to gramophone records. The architect of Kulturhuset, Peter Celsing, decided the colour. “Children are so beautiful against white”, he thought.

Initially, The Arts and Culture Library was criticised and seen as a warm shelter for homeless people. In spite of this, it continued to be an important meeting place of the day-care centres. In 1990, reconstructions and the discovery of asbestos in the building led to a major restoration. The library was moved to the second floor. The lowered sofas of the children’s department were rejected as allergenic pits, as they were very hard to clean. They were replaced by red, semicircular mini-sofas. The children’s department was later relegated to the fourth floor, where it was named “Room for Children”.
Through alterations and restorations made to suit new ideals, Kulturhuset has been somewhat deprived of its soul. By re-establishing one of Celsing’s seating-pits, I want to restore the 1970’s idealism of Kulturhuset. I want to evoke old lines of thought, and discern contemporary ideals through these thoughts. The sofa becomes a symbol of times gone by, as well as an aesthetical and pedagogical playground.

Kulturhuset was supposed to be a new kind of institutional building. Together with Moderna museet, it was a role model for similar institutions all over the world, Centre Pompidou in Paris among others. The cultural scene of the 70’s eventually turned into a naïve utopia. The question is, what physical shape does today’s cultural ideals take? The ideas of 1968 are constantly quoted, at the same time as design is worshipped as a form of art in its own right, painfully parted from politics. Is the bond between aesthetics and politics broken, or does it manifest itself in different ways?

The reconstruction of the pit is based on information taken from newspaper articles and witnesses. It was created for the exhibition “Mot allmänheten” at Kulturhuset in 2003 and has since functioned as a piece of the furnishings for the project “K1” run by The Royal University College of Fine Arts in 2004. Next to the seating-pit, there are also children’s books and records, chosen in collaboration with the staff of “Room for Children” to reflect the times in which it was originally created

Martin Karlsson 2003

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