Kulturhuset: An Incubator for Creativity and Community

By: Holly Truitt, the University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area director

CulturehouseToday we had a guided tour of the Kulturhuset, a hip, inviting facility in the heart of Stockholm. Part library, part theater, part community hub, part art gallery, and soon to be part fine art museum, it is unlike any facility I have visited in my almost ten years in the field. Partners under its roof have been co-evolving and co-creating since its origins in the 1970’s.

Three points of inspiration from the Kulturhuset model and practice:

  • Learning spaces can be more like a stage than a room. Many of the learning-library spaces we visited were much like a stage located in one of the Kulturehuset theaters, ready to be adapted and changed to better serve and inspire learners: stacks on wheels in a music and comic book library to easily allow for a DJ’d music show, a “magic children’s library” that changes shape at the whim of the lead librarian with theatrical lighting, props, sketches, and currently a beautiful magic library wooden boat borrowed from a fellow Kulturhuset theater,
    Local family reads book in Magic Library

    Local family reads book in Magic Library. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

    followed by at least another half-dozen children’s spaces that each offer a unique experience and feel. Peppered throughout the building are amphitheaters that serve as visiting areas but easily transform into stages with seating for a performance, live readings, children’s story hour, or music.

  • Audience interests and needs should drive design. Any Goldielocks in the bunch would find their perfect spot in the Kulturehuset. Spaces are frequently divided by audience and interest. It has a space devoted to tweens – no adults
    Before-hours tour of Tio Tretton Area, which gives tweens a apace of their own in the Kulturhuset.

    Before-hours tour of Tio Tretton Area, which gives tweens a space of their own in the Kulturhuset. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

    allowed except staff educators – with lounge areas, drafting tables for drawing and making, a film studio, and a kitchen for cooking and doing homework after school. Its popular children’s area features a giant stop light that shines from its fourth floor location to let interested families know if the space is at capacity (green light) or not (red light), so they can decide if they want to make the long trek upstairs. And, signage in their library space for adults catalogs books by topics like poetry, humor, and science fiction.

    Signage in library for adults.

    Signage in library for adults. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

  • There is always room to more fully integrate. Although, it was mentioned that the Kulturhuset and its various entities could benefit from integrating more on a daily basis, it also was noted they regularly do thematic days that engage all the entities under their roof. On these thematic days, Inga Lunden, Acting Director of Culture for the City of Stockholm and mentor for Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, shared “they really show their muscle.” However, as an outsider, it also was easy to see how having libraries, theater and art under one roof has brought theatrical design to library science and fine art to library stacks. Marvelous stuff.

To learn more about this fabulous culture house in the heart of Stockholm visit: http://kulturhusetstadsteatern.se/English/About-Kulturhuset-Stadsteatern/


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