Jun 9, 2014

Stockholm's public spaces

I've spent a good deal of my time here walking to and around public spaces--parks, libraries, and Stockholm's enormous Kulturhuset, a multi-story building the size of a large urban department store, dedicated to Swedish culture, most of it free and open to the public. 
A library I walked to in the northern part of the city.
In all libraries I've noticed that they represent many, many languages--both in their kids' and adults' collections.
This is one of the libraries in the Kulturhuset. Among the current instalations there were a model city of Stockholm, several art galleries, a music section, a movie section, a graphic novel section, an area for teens to hang out and make art, a space to practice the piano, a kids' art section, lecture spaces, and a rooftop cafe.
The graphic novel section. Don't you love the design!
An instalation on Swedish radio with opportunities to listen in.
The children's library.
The children's art room. Notice how the very professional woman working there isn't some disgruntled teen who doesn't have any interest in talking to kids. In fact, I 've noticed that a number of the professionals working with children are women in their fifties and early sixties--presumably they are paid well enough for these jobs to be worth their time.
My only complaint about services provided by the Swedish government: the utter lack of free public toilets!!
If I understand this sign next to the door correctly, it offeres instructions on how to pay nearly a dollar online after which one will receive a text message containing a code that will gain them access to the bathroom at the Kulturhuset. I decided to hold out for a while and not drink too much water.
This bathroom at a department store cost me $1.50 to gain access.

Where do the homeless people do their business? Speaking of homeless folks--yes, they exist here. I asked one of the Swedish economists about homelessness. He didn't really address mental illness--that variety doesn't seem to be an issue here--but he immediately commented on the Romani who are seen everywhere in Stockholm, begging for money with pictures of their children. He said this is new in the last five years. Ten years ago, Sweden had no beggars and now they are everywhere. He said with the social welfare system, it's hard to end up homeless, but those begging on the streets didn't grow up with these services. After World War II, Sweden shifted from being a net emigrating state to a net imigrating state, with the numbers of immigrants steadily rising. Now around 15% of Sweden's inhabitants were foreign born. My uneducated assumption is that many of Sweden's successes come from the fact that they are a small, relatively homogenous nation, so this increased diversity is certainly a new challenge.