I passed by Röda Sten Konsthall Art Centre quite by chance on a visit to Gothenburg some time ago. The first thing that impressed me was the striking location under the Älvsborg bridge that carries one of the main traffic veins that go thought the city. It is situated in an old industrial area by mouth of the river Göte, now the Klippan kultural area. When you approach the old boiler building that now houses the art centre you already feel like it is a place where something happens. The enormous legs of the bridge that stand before it give it a quite theatrical feel and there are some installations for skating as well as some industrial remnants scattered around, all thoroughly decorated with graffiti.
The building was erected in the 40’s and abandoned in the eighties. Soon thereafter it was appropriated informally by young people and became a sort of creative hub. In the nineties a more formal organisation was formed around it and the Röda Sten kulturprojekt was founded. They have since been running the place, with municipal input from around 2000, when an extensive renovation was done (architect Hans Olofsson).
I was there in the middle of winter with wind and sleet but I can imagine that in the summer it is full of life around there. When inside you feel more of this life. On the website (http://www.rodasten.com/) it is described as an “urban sitting room” and that is a little how it feels. Downstairs there is a bright and relaxed area with an eating place where they served an excellent veggie brunch and here they host concerts and parties and other happenings. Upstairs there are exhibition areas, including the rather impressive boiler room, called “the cathedral” with its monumental size and beautiful shapes of the now unused machine parts. The other rooms vary in size, smaller rooms where now there are video projections and a couple of larger “galleries”. Seems quite perfect for its purpose.
The renovations done there are quite minimal and the buildings former role still shines through. Just enough has been done to fit in its new inhabitants, and they seem to have a harmonious relationship. This art centre, established around 20 years ago, as mentioned above, only instigated the interest of the municipality years later, as the potentials of this rather abandoned area which now seems to be thriving with cultural activity were being made evident. It is a fine example of how small, private and often low budget cultural activities can really affect and change how people use the city and revive entire areas.