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Commoning The Heritage 

Photo: Johannes Samuelsson. 2023. 'Whispers' by Sofia Runarsdotter, installed in the Attic of the Manor House at Robertsfors. 2023.

Commoning The Heritage 

The projectCommoning The Heritage‘ (För allmänt bruk) in Robertsfors, part of ArkDespractice-oriented research initiative in 2023, centers on the question: “How can the inherited environment become a living part of the future?” This project highlights the importance of shared cultural environments, which carry both history and identity, in societal development and expansion. 

In Västerbotten, amidst extensive industrial development and the establishment of the Norrbotniabanan railway, there’s a growing need for public spaces, and existing buildings could gain new value. The cultural environment provides a historical anchor, serving as a legacy that the new elements relate to and eventually become a part of. 

‘Commoning The Heritage’ in Robertsfors aimed to explore how the cultural and historical heritage can contribute new values to community development. The focus was on a farm building of cultural value, built of slag brick, constructed in the 1860s, which was once part of the industrial complex and now owned by Robertsfors municipality. Currently located on the outskirts of the central town, its position gains new potential as a key community hub due to the new train station and planned area development in Robertsfors. 

To maximize the building’s potential, a call was issued by ArkDes, Riksantikvarieämbetet and Robertsfors municipality, to explore strategies, methods, and design proposals to eventually transform it into a vibrant public space that enhances the existing values of the place and community. 

The team ‘Robertsforsgruppen’ was tasked to investigate and test methods for the long-term preservation and strengthening of the cultural heritage, in collaboration with the local community. Their mission involved developing a plan for the building’s evolution and a method to manage it in a way that maintains its cultural and historical value while allowing its use to evolve over time. The building should serve the local stakeholders and the public for the foreseeable future. The team was also responsible for activating the building, thereby initiating the process for the envisioned development. 

‘Robertsforsgruppen’ has employed documentary practice, exhibitions, and inviting and outward-facing activities as methods to understand the buildings and the social relations of the place. They have photographed, interviewed, delved into grassroots movement archives, and read literature about Robertsfors. Additionally, they have visited several of the municipality’s visual artists, craftsmen, and artisans, co-organizing exhibitions with them. Through these exhibitions, Robertsforsgruppen, alongside residents and local actors, tested the capacity and possibilities of the spaces on a 1:1 scale. Simultaneously, they highlighted that every part of the buildings and the place is utilized down to the room level, emphasizing the central role of the usage area in relation to the rest of the community. 

The project is summarized in a final report developed by Robertsforsgruppen, encompassing strategies, methods and design proposals for the development of the building and its surroundings. It encapsulates dedicated work and demonstrates how knowledge, relationships, strategies and design processes can be utilized when managing and strengthening a cultural environment in a value-creating manner, in collaboration with the local community. 

You can follow the team’s behind-the-scenes work process on their Instagram, @Robertsforsgruppen. Follow the team here ↗.

Report: ‘Commoning The Heritage’ 2023

Photo: Johannes Samuelsson. 2023.

Click to read the team 'Robertsforsgruppen' summarizing the work in the project 'Commoning The Heritage'. The report is written in Swedish.

Photo: Johannes Samuelsson. 2023. 'Commoning The Heritage'.
Photo: Johannes Samuelsson. 2023. 'Commoning The Heritage'.
Photo: Johannes Samuelsson. 2023. 'Commoning The Heritage'.
Photo: Patrick Degerman. 2023. ‘Commoning The Heritage’.


Robertsforsgruppen: Maja Hallén, architect, Johannes Samuelsson, photographer and artist, Åsa Hallén, conservator, and Jenny Nordmark, scenographer, architect and artist.


Henric Benesch, deputy Dean at The Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts, Gothenburg University

Mia Geijer, phd, Antiquarian, Länsstyrelsen Örebro

Andreas Lang, founding Director, public works

Shideh Shaygan, architect, Shaygan Arkitektkontor

Robertsforsgruppen. From the left: Jenny Nordmark, photo: Josefina Nordmark. Johannes Samuelsson, photo: Johannes Samuelsson. Åsa Hallén, photo: Lars Sjöqvist. Maja Hallén, photo: Annelie Jönsson.