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Civic involvement created a new Hammarbadet

In May 2019, the new Hammarkullen public baths, Hammarbadet, opened after being saved from the threat of demolition following major protests from residents. Through EU project EU GUGLE and the Sweden Public Art Agency’s Konst Händer initiative, the baths were developed in consultation with residents and users in Hammarkullen. Now the doors have been opened to a verdant and secret oasis in Hammarkullen.

In connection with the opening of Angered Arena in 2013, it was decided that the public baths in Hammarkullen and Rannebergen, which were in the same district, would be closed down. Hammarbadet, which was built in 1973 as part of Sweden’s Million Programme, was in need of extensive renovation. It was expected that the Angered Arena would be satisfactory enough for Hammarkullen’s residents and that the baths were no longer needed.

Women's meeting Place

In and around Hammarkullen, public spaces were dominated by men. One exception was the local bathing house, Hammarbadet, where women could meet on their own terms. When the Sports and Association Committee decided to close Hammarbadet, strong protests erupted from residents of Hammarkullen and this rescued the baths. The district administration in Angered and RISE initiated, together with the EU-GUGLE project, consultation activities with a group of women who used the baths to discuss what was important about the baths and how the new public baths would be designed.

"Meetings of the consultation group found that Hammarbadet was a place where women could meet and build strength both physically and in community and that the baths were an extremely important place for many women, says Jenny Lööf," project manager at RISE.

A homely and secure feeling

Workshops revealed that residents wanted the baths to have a homely, secure feeling that also had a lot of nature, greenery and, of course, water. In addition, it was important that the environment was bright and fresh. Workshops generated a detailed picture of what the residents wanted from the baths but they wanted to go further and therefore accepted the support of the Public Art Agency’s Konst Händer and welcomed the Spanish artist Maíder López into the project.

"An artist entering at this early stage in a process is unusual. It has been very exciting to follow how this influenced the development of the renovation of the baths, and now we can see how Maíder López's work and the resident’s wishes have affected the entire design of the bath, in everything from colour schemes to the design of the rooms," says Jenny Lööf.

Briefly described, Maíder López's work consists of a large number of movable plants placed on specific surfaces around the pool and along the inside of the building's large glass areas. Visitors to the swimming hall, with the help of the plants, will be able to shape and transform the room and experiment with transparency, visibility and outward views at the same time as the plants introduce a piece of nature into the swimming hall.

Something beyond the ordinary

Now the project is complete and Hammarbadet has really become something out of the ordinary. But the process has not been simple; different forces sometimes pulled in different directions. Citizen involvement and the incorporation of art early on in the project challenged the usual ways of working but also created a public bath house that stands out and in which the residents thrive.

"It has been a rewarding process. But incorporating citizens and art so early into the process demands they be given time and space. We have much more to explore. But I think visitors to Hammarbadet will feel that it is a special bath house, built with both brain and heart," concludes Jenny Lööf.

Published: 2019-05-21