Master´s Thesis 2021 Rurban Transformation

Maria Ekström & Siri Bjärhall

Narratives of Bohuslän manifested in a public sauna

In the westernmost part of Sweden, villages lie like a string of beads along the coast; Grebbestad being one of these coastal villages. The community derives from a tradition of fishery and is today characterized as a summer paradise for tourists and part-time residents. The increasing number of visitors and part-time residents is a resource that spares the community from common small-town problems. Tourism composes a significant source of income and primary incentive for the community’s development. Simultaneously, the absence of tourists in wintertime leaves a negative imprint when most stores and restaurants close down, resulting in empty and abandoned central spaces. Another aspect relates to the expectations and ideas of Grebbestad that makes it attractive. As an old seaside resort the place is formed by visitors’ expectations over a long time, leading to a preservation of, for visitors, attractive characteristics of the community. This, so-called, tourist gaze has come to create the dominating narrative today as it also defines the place’s future narrative.

This master thesis, investigates and challenges the dominating narrative of Grebbestad. As architects, being in possession of telling the story of a place, we, for this degree project, explore the narrative as an architectural tool and set in relation to site representation, i.e. the process of how a site can be constructed. The thesis is conducted through theoretical investigations and design elaborations that together unfold and materialize alternative narratives. The narrations constitute the basis for a design proposal in form of a sauna, a building that can be utilized throughout the year by a public and multifaceted group of users and hold features that can create a sense of belonging, responsibility and maybe even some kind of pride. The thesis takes a critical stance on which stories are visible and reflects upon what processes shaping them and, as well, on how architecture becomes a valuable tool for formulating and enhancing the different narratives of a place.

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