The Power of Small

By: Becca Nasgovitz, Owner of Becca Nasgovitz Design

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Intimate meeting room at the Härnösand Library. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

During exploration of the architecture of several Culture Houses and libraries in Sweden, I asked myself “which do I like most?”  There were many features I would love to import from each, but what resonated with me most were the smaller spaces in each facility that weren’t in plain sight; theaters, separate children’s and young-adult rooms, music and comic libraries, art galleries and museum exhibits.  These areas felt much less institutional than what I am accustomed to and evoked a deeper, more personal, and emotional response.

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Children’s area at Kulturhuset. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

The Culture Houses were effectively marketed to their consumers.  I wanted to buy whatever it was they were selling, and it was free!  I could discuss the phenomenal programming and interior finishes in each of these spaces, but I’d like to stick to what I think worked in the floor plan.

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Children’s area at Kulturmagasinet. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

One of the ‘All Under One Roof’ goals is to create a space in which people want to spend as much time as possible.  Of all the facilities we visited, I believe the Kulturmagasinet achieved this best.

Kulturmagasinet is a series of old shipping warehouses adjoined by a glass atrium, emulating an outdoor town square with a café at it’s center.  While the atrium was bustling with activity and sound, there was nearby respite.  The narrow four-story freestanding warehouses allowed natural light to filter into each building from multiple directions.  There was a high level of intimacy in the majority of the facility, despite it being so large.

I often find myself jumping ship from larger public arenas, feeling exhausted and over stimulated.  At Kulturmagineset, individuals or groups could enjoy a series of smaller spaces free of the noise and agenda in the rest of the facility.  What also struck me in this layout was the feeling that there was always more to explore.  This was a building that created a yearning to return because you just may have missed something.

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Cozy reading space at Kista Library. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

Open plan design is so popular today.  In public institutions you often find one wide-open central space, with semi-private rooms interspersed or on the periphery.  In contrast, I found it refreshing to explore this labyrinth of smaller spaces. The Kulturmagasinet unfolded slowly as you moved through it’s interior rather than exposing everything at first glance, and it made for a lovely, dynamic experience.

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Modern meeting room at Kista Library. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

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