Nyckelbiotop: Folkets hus Mustadfors in Dals Långed
with: Eva-Johanna Isestig
Project is done in collaboration with the board of Folkets Hus Mustadfors and funded by Folkets Hus och Parker and VG Region
Biotope is an area of uniform environmental conditions providing a living place for a specific assemblage of plants and animals. The word came from the Greek bios (meaning 'Life') and topos (meaning ‘Place'). Biotope has its cycles of life and death, and when an organism stops living, other organisms transform it into ingredients of a new life.
In the small town of Dals Långed, there have been two impressive funky houses since the 1930s. In one there is Stenebyskolan and in the other Folkets hus. In step with society's development and change, the activities in each house have developed in different directions. Stenebyskolan is today a place for educations in material-based arts, design and crafts all the way up to master's level, while Folkets hus' importance as a gathering place for the local inhabitants has gradually diminished. With this project, we wanted to combine the competence and vitality that exists in those who studied at Steneby with other locals in a project that will take place in Folkets hus and contribute to Folkets hus development with the help of artistic design in the house.
What if we imagine the current use of Folkets hus as Key-biotope, something which reached near the end of its life, and is ready to be devoured by parasytes which will transform it into new life, from the outside and from the inside? If we take that idea absurdly literal in the design/build process, what we could do is recognise and map new ideas and uses together with interested local people, and build various temporary structures, both inside and outside, that would not only satisfy needs expressed by the people, but also serve as visual markers of devoured old structure transforming to new life. We could collaborate with students and teachers from other schools on various micro-assignments, and invite artists working in various media to imagine new life - thus the project would not be just about architecture/construction, but would use various artistic media in different scale, and various material as textile, ceramic, metal… to search for new ideas, which could then be materialised as temporary parasytic structures. Some could aim to tell a story, some fulfill a need or function, in common is that it brings back life, possibilities and activities.
In all that, we should also find new ways of more out-reach activities to engage locals? Where are they? How can we get info, what they need to know, to even become interested?
In years 2021 and 2022, we organized a serie of short-lived events where together with local residents we explore possibilities of new activities and uses of Folkets hus.
Design / build is a design process where the final result gradually emerges through dialogue and visual design in the form of sketches and scale models (design). When everyone agrees on the final proposal, everyone is involved and contributes to it being executed (build).
In addition to the need for artistic design in Folkets hus, we want to take the opportunity and gather people in the house and do something together. The design / build method makes it possible for the participants to participate and contribute based on their respective conditions, perspectives and competencies and creates a common space for creative process and creation.
We had a general layout on how to carry out different workshops, research, interview, online dialogue – and events with various themes where we together build prototypes, try and test, and plan the next based on learnings from that, to explore how the activities, the space and management of the organisation can work as one, in relation to needs and the context of community and society in the rural area as Långed. With this exploratory process, we investigated how and what role Folkets hus can have in the current rural context, to fulfill the needs of local people in 21st century.
The project was concluded with a 3-day event entitled Unfolding Dreams, with invited mentors Ana Jara, Jessica Lundin, Erika Henriksson and Espen Folgerø, who lead 3 parallel workshops with participating students and local residents.
Board and other people involved in Folkets Hus in Mustadfors have been very impressed by the project and the completed activities. Most of the residents of Dals Långed have noted with great curiosity "things happen almost the whole time" in Folkets Hus in Mustadfors, which is a remarkable reversal of just four years ago when the association was bankrupt. The project Nyckelbiotop - the public living room has clearly contributed to increased interest in society for FHM. Together with the board of FHM, we are currently discussing the possibilities of continuing the project.