It is a windy Monday morning at the beginning of April with an outdoor temperature only just above zero. Someone who really doesn’t care about the current weather situation is city guide Per Haukaas. He is ready to take locals on a unique tour through Norra Gärdet, a district that might seem a little unusual for being guided through.
Driving rain makes most of Stockholm’s citizens flee from the uncomfortable cold this morning. Instead, they seek shelter in cafés to order hot chocolates and blueberry muffins, while Per waits for brave participants a few meters next to the train station. He is a man who knows how to give a good, firm handshake.
-I have colleagues they would cancel if less than two people show up. But I do not, he smiles.
It is 11 am in the morning and a small group of three locals is willing to explore the North of Gärdet, one better prepared for the cold than the other. Some exercises to keep the body warm are being demonstrated. Then the tour begins.
-People ask me pretty often if I couldn’t offer more tours in the south of Stockholm. But I have never lived there, and I will not just read myself into a place. I only give tours through areas I have lived in, the ones I know by heart. And I love what I do.
I have family in New York, and I admire the fact that we took the idea of shortening local names, like Soho (South of Houston), home to Stockholm by introducing SoFo (South of Folkungagatan). So, this is why I started calling this area NoVa (North of Valhallavägen), he announces proudly.
We have to tighten things up
Besides emphasizing that Gärdet belongs to Östermalm over and over again, another keyword is being mentioned many times – population.
-Within the next ten years the population Stockholm’s will increase by about 350 000 inhabitants. We have to tighten things up and build more accommodations so everybody will fit. Today only 20 000 live here in Gärdet, but that will change. We have to build one floor on top another. A further alternative would be flat-sharing communities as they tried it once here in Gärdet, but let’s be honest, this doesn’t work out for us Swedes. We don’t like to sit at a dinner table with strangers.
Odé to Funkis
Norra Gärdet is defined by one specific architectural principle called functionalism, whose purpose is only the function of a building.
-So, this architectural phenomenon we call Funkiscame to Sweden in 1897. What they did was basically lowering the height of the ceiling from 3,80 meter down to 2,40. Goodbye to beautiful crystal chandeliers. These only fit into apartments as they have in the old part of Östermalm. The benefit with Funkis was though, that their design made it possible to fit in much more apartments into one single building. Houses became bigger and higher, to the disappointment of their occupants who complained about a limited view. Everything they could see from their kitchen window now were other big houses.
Per talks a lot about architecture. Words like Renaissance and Jugendstil are spoken and he reveals that Gärdet was inspired by the design of Hammarbyhöjden. Now and then he even surprises with facts about flora and fauna. On the question about how he could possibly know all these facts, he answers modestly.
-Well, I live here and talk to people. Then locals join my tours and they tell me new things. That and the fact that I am in the business since the ’90s is the formula to my knowledge.
Today he offers already thirty-five unique tours through all parts of Stockholm. Unique, because they are not the typical kind of city tours. Per’s passion is dedicated to another target group, the locals, and to show them the features of their own hometown. So why not discover the own neighborhood and increasing the knowledge about Stockholm at the same time.