Kulturmagasinet: A Cultural Warehouse Made of Glass

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The glass ceiling links together four old port warehouses. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

By: Hannah Motl Gimpel, The University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area Associate Director

Located in Sundsvall, Kulturmagasinet is made up of four turn-of-the-century port warehouses which have been linked together by a glass roof to create a dynamic cultural warehouse. Within these glassed in walls, the main branch of the municipal library, the Sundsvall Museum, the Medelpad Archives, and the Museum of Photography exist harmoniously together under one roof.  The design of the building has won a number of awards including the Europa Nosta Prize, which is considered the Nobel Prize of architecture.

For me, the main takeaway points from Kulturmagasinet were as follows:

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The Sundsvall Municipal Library. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

Bringing multiple disciplines together under one roof attracts new audiences and gives visitors a reason to linger. As our group toured through the winding corridors and open galleries of Kulturmagasinet, you could easily understand how this building has become a model for cultural warehouses. The spaces are open and inviting, yet uniquely distinct from each other, which creates multiple entry-points for visitors of all ages and from all walks of life. Additionally, the unique spaces result in visitors wanting to linger and explore in each area of the warehouse. Our group spent an entire day in the warehouse, and it still felt far too short. I think in order to properly experience all that Kulturmagasinet has to offer you would need at least three days.

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The children’s area in the library. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

Joint programming adds depth to the visitor experience. Kulturmagasinet strives to bring together the various organizations in their warehouse through joint programming and monthly themes. For example, one month they had the theme “circus” which meant that the libraries picked books, led crafts, and told stories around this theme while at the same time the museums curated their exhibit halls around this theme and offered historical context on the history of circuses in the area. The All Under One Roof vision for Missoula’s library complex entails joint programming, so it was inspiring to see a cultural warehouse which is striving to create continuity between the various disciplines in their building.

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The “teen cafe” area in Kulturmagasinet. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

If you offer relevant services, you are relevant in your community.  Kulturmagasinet offers services that are responsive to the needs of their community. For example, the library offers language classes for the numerous refugees in the area as well as public access to the internet. The archives offer an area for families and tourists to research their genealogy and possibly reconnect with long-lost family members. The children’s area in the library offers a craft area, a hands-on play area, music sing-alongs, and a designated area for families to prepare food and eat lunch together. Additionally, the children’s area offers a special section of books for children with disabilities. There is also a separate “teen café” area that draws in the tween crowd and allows them to have a space of their own. Overall, the resounding theme between all of these sections was relevancy to their community. By being responsive to the needs of the community, Kulturmagasinet has become a pillar in the city of Sundsvall.

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