Slussen Revisited

Slussen Revisited

As I've been on record since 2009 as saying that Slussen is an embarrassment, a statement that I'll only distance myself from in order to come up with an something more condemning, I think it is fairly obvious which side I'm on in regards to the preservation of that slowly crumbling pile of festering junk. That said, I can understand why there is a movement to preserve it; I can also understand why those most vocal are people with - paradoxically enough - an aesthetic background.

2011-11-12 01:36

HDR, Slussen

2011-11-12 01:39

HDR, Slussen

2011-11-12 01:42

HDR, Slussen

2011-11-12 01:51

HDR, Slussen

2011-11-12 01:59

HDR, Slussen

2011-11-12 02:05

HDR, Slussen

  • It stands out: When Stockholm is building more and more cookie-cutter shopping malls and other copy-paste buildings, there is an inherent attractiveness in something that stands out from the crowd. Let's face it, those shopping malls and houses are nice, clean and probably very well thought out - but they all look the same. I love vanilla ice cream, but I wouldn't want to eat it all the time. Slussen provides an environment that simply can't be found in Stockholm anywhere else, and it does so nearly right in the middle of the city. I only have to look to myself to know the feeling: I have a fascination with abandoned, run down buildings. Here I get the same cool photo opportunities, but right smack in the city.

  • We need dirt: In a country such as Sweden, where everything is supposed to be clean and minimalistic, sometimes into absurdity[1], having real, honest-to-God, dirty places functions as a mental overpressure valve. Most cities have these places - (old) 42nd Street[b] in New York, a list of "Godforsaken" places in Stockholm[c] (Swedish, Translated[d]) and an article about one of those places, Tysta Marigången[e] (Swedish, Translated[f]). A place where we get to feel a whiff both of freedom from the pressure to conform to sterile sainthood, and a little bit of exciting discomfort at the dangers we associate with unclean, dark places.

    Architect Sven Svensson who designed the Brunkeberg tunnel likes Stockholm's dead areas. They are needed.

    "Every sensible city has its intervals that are not planned. It's nice to have breaks," he says.

    Such locations are interesting in that everyone have access to them. They are safe havens for those who do not fit into the super-designed Stockholm.

    "Tysta Marigången feels a little empty but one can fill it with oneself, with whatever you want," he says.

    "bakgator" - Dagens Nyheter[g]

  • It is part of history: Slussen is old. Whether it is too old is open for debate, but walking through it you do get a feeling of a past Sweden. The whole architecture, with concrete floor, low ceiling, and being open to the elements, just screams "this was hot stuff way back when!"

It is also possible to see why it should be torn down and replaced:

  • "Stands out" isn't synonymous with "outstanding": A turd in a punchbowl stands out, too. I'm sure we can point to buildings that are universally acknowledged as being just plain ugly; they stand out, too. Non-conformance is in itself not enough of a reason to preserve Slussen, especially not since it's supposed to have a function. It is one of the larger subway / commuter train / bus stations in Stockholm, and if it is to stand out in some way, it should be in how great a station it is. I think abandoned buildings are cool, but I wouldn't want to live in one; I also wouldn't want to have to pass through one twice a day - I think the novelty would wear off quickly.

  • Not that much dirt, please: I briefly touched upon the slight fear that one might feel walking through Slussen. Dark, dirty dead ends, the stink of piss...[h] Some drunk guy grabbed my ass while I was setting up the camera; and I've never even considered it grabbable! However, all this is only pleasant if the danger is at an appropriate level. Slussen is OK for me; I don't think I'd appreciate walking around as a stranger with $2000 of camera equipment in Mogadishu's slum - and I doubt those who praise Slussen's non-conformity would either. But what is OK for me might be very uncomfortable for someone else - the dangers facing a 6 ft 2 in, 180 lbs man are different from those facing a 5 ft, 110 lbs woman. When the aforementioned ass-grabber wanted some tourist information I could tell him to just fuck off, and he did (while loudly complaining about how rude I was - some people...). For someone more vulnerable, Slussen is like Mogadishu: Even if very exciting, best admired at a safe distance and unpleasant up close.

  • Everything is part of history: Slussen is part of "old Sweden". Just like what was at that spot before Slussen was built. Just like all the old unsanitary housing that was torn down so the average citizen wouldn't have to live their life covered in dirt. All of those had historical value; but we can't let the past dominate the present. Slussen was the best that Sweden could build when it was built - but that was then and this is now.

The last point above leads me into what I think the real problem is: The new plan for Slussen[i] doesn't capture the imagination. It isn't exciting. It isn't Old Town Stockholm. It is sleek and futuristic in a part of the city where history is everywhere. Sleek and futuristic is appropriate for places like Kista, where the high-tech industry thrives and practically no building is older than forty years; it is not appropriate for a part of the city with many buildings dating back to the 13th century. The new Slussen will be a modern supermodel with stout, axe-wielding dwarfs for neighbors.

Yet it seems like the best we can get.


2011-11-12, updated 2012-01-30