In Arlanda Airport, 40 km away from Stockholm, between gate 3A and gate 5A, there is a fenced space filled with small wooden houses, up to 2 m tall and colored windows; here, some cheerful and bratty children run around, stumble over and talk out loud. The small houses bring to life scenes imagined by well known Swedish writers and are part of the Junibacken concept, “a centre of culture for children and adults”, as it was called by Staffan Götestam, the Swedish actor, director and screen player who came up with the idea of creating this space.
The playground located in the airport is a fragment of the space from Djurgården Island, located in the heart of Stockholm. And, actually, playground is not an accurate name for this space, which is rather a huge installation based on children’s literature, illustrations, dioramas and object design; everything is created based on some scenes from the stories written by Astrid Lindgren, Tove Jansson, Sven Nordqvist, Per Gustavsson and many others. In other words, this is a mixture of arts aiming to increase the children`s interest for books and reading, but also to stimulate their sense of responsibility. How exactly is this done? By using the idea that everything can be touched, every miniature object that sits nicely on the shelves can be moved, felt, analyzed, but all things must be taken care of and put back in their places, without damaging them.
The largest space belongs to writer Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002), in the memory which the Swedish government founded the ALMA prize (Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award) – that equivalent of Nobel’s prize, bur given for children`s literature. Based on her stories, a true magical land was re-created here and it can be widely watched from the red compartments that slowly moves among the tens of dioramas created using Marit Törnqvist`s illustrations. In 1994, the Dutch artist with Swedish origins accepted the challenge to create a tridimensional story, one of the main attractions at Junibaken, by drawing some of the scenes in the book and following the construction of the entire scenography, on a 1000 square meter wide and 7 meter tall surface. In 1996, she was still working on this project and, for three weeks, every morning at 8 o`clock, Marit has rode her bike up to 46, Dalagatan Street in Stockholm, carrying a box of cookies. Here lived Astrid, 89 years of age, who wrote during that time her last text – pronounced during the magic journey.
The concept is very popular in Sweden and, though it may be a reminder of a smaller scale Disney`s world, it places a much greater emphasis on reading. Six persons are trying to bring this concept also to Bucharest, under the name Harap-Alb, focusing on the world imagined by Ion Creangă and illustrated among others by the artist Irina Dobrescu. From the romanian-swedish team part Arina Stoenescu, Arts Director and designer, Staffan Götestam – producer, founder of the Junibacken concept, Teodor Frolu – architect, Raluca Demetrescu – artist, Mario Kuibus – architect, Emmi Gereb & Florin Găinar – web developer and photographer. Along with ARCUB hey have identified a possible location, the Electrical Factory Filaret and mayor Sorin Oprescu agreed with this idea. The project is broad, and raising funds is a top priority currently. Therefore, the six need to focus on fundraising. European money is one of the most important sources and the team shall apply for several funds, but they will also consider obtaining loans and approaching private investors.
Likewise the Swedish project, the children’s book illustration is most important. That is the reason why the team has started collaboration with the National Romanian Library and the Illustrators Club, but also with the Swedish designer Tor Svae, well known for numerous set designers from libraries, museums and galleries, based on illustrated children’s literature.
There are many things still to be done until the Harap Alb project is up and running because, though it is based on stories, the process to create the space is not by far a children`s play.