- We were so fed up with Umeå when we left, but now I feel like this is the place, this is where it’s happening!
I am standing at the south shore of the Umeå River right across downtown Umeå with Trouble 2 and Audrey. They arrived from Paris the day before, and I am giving them a finger pointing guided tour through the big building projects in their home town: the new building for cultural arts Väven right across the water, the city center mall in the Forsete block, and of course Konstnärligt Campus (The Arts Campus) some hundred meters downstream.
Trouble 2 has been living a nomad life pretty much since high school. Staying at different Umeå locations including my baker’s cottage combined with working saving up money for trips and stays abroad. Trouble 2 is and has always been a very organized young man, and you can be sure there is always a trip going on in his head long before I get to know about them. So, there was three months in Seattle at our friends Matt and Elizabeth, three months with his dad in Indiana, a spring in Asia and a fall in Berlin. To mention some. And so last October he, girlfriend Audrey and friend Jonatan moved to Paris for nine months and just got back this summer.
Jonatan and Trouble 2 met at the film program in high school and has been best friends ever since. They are both drummers who have moved their rhythmical talent to the electronica techno field, creating music with their duo Gidge. And that’s how they ended up in Paris. They were signed by a French label and have been living the inspiring starving artist life in Paris that artists should and have done through generations. They loved Paris of course but were ready to move back after a weather-wise miserable winter and spring, knowing that they will always be welcome back.
So, Trouble 2 and Audrey are picking me up at my chiropractors’ the day after their arrival. It’s so great to see them! It’s so wonderful to have them back! And it’s warm, the sun is out, the Swedish summer is at it’s best, as to say welcome home you guys!
And I am pointing over at Väven telling them about the façade which is coming up this summer. For a couple of years now we’ve seen the drawings, the pictures from the Norwegian architect firm Snöhetta. The lower parts of the building the more public areas; as the city library. And then there is the tall part in behind, the hotel U&Me, conceptualized by the storytelling Stylt Trampoli.
The Umeå landmark tree, the birch, inspires the exterior of the buildings. Seattle and the Northwest have the red cedar. Umeå and Västerbotten have the birch tree. The black and white graphics of the stem is transformed to giant glass pieces now slowly coming up one by one. They are extremely heavy and to get them in the exact right location is an impressive work of millimeter precision. And the price tag for the glass façade is 110 million Swedish crowns (today about 17 million dollars).
For me it is truly amazing watching this happening. We’ve seen the drawings and the exterior looking so cool it’s hard to imagine it actually becoming a reality. But it is for real! The glass coming up now looks exactly like promised!
For Trouble 2 and Audrey who have been away for a long time it’s even more amazing. They left Umeå being bored with it and came back astonished!
The being bored, the feeling of fed up of course is a lot about everything in a place being too familiar. Which is often the case with those places where we grew up. We want something to surprise us. We need to widen our perspectives, a change of views. We want to learn something new. A different bus system, street names we don’t recognize, food we haven’t had before. Smells that will always remind us about that special place, weather patterns that are unfamiliar, inexperienced flora and fauna, maybe even a language we don’t know. These are all healthy desires; let’s go for them!
So Trouble 2 did. And Paris is now a part of his system. But as wonderful as a big city is, as wearisome it can be. Loud, crowded, hard to grasp, and endless to get around.
- Umeå is so manageable. I’m just hopping onboard my bicycle and in a couple of minutes I am at the grocery store or a friend’s house. Such every day luxury! And if I want to start a club here, it’s just doing it! And looking at Väven, coming from Paris, I can’t believe I am saying it seems like this is where things are happening!
They’ve been back for a month now. Today three of their close Parisian friends arrived for a one week Umeå visit. They all showed up at my front yard this afternoon. And, as if I had ordered one, a deer strolled across the field above my house. Then, of course, a tour of Kojan, the tree house, and a slide down the cableway for the most courageous. And right now they are sitting by a sweat little lake in the woods eating hot dogs grilled over an open fire.
I must remember telling them about Väven. About a building for cultural arts most likely echoing through Europe during The European Capital of Culture 2014 because of it’s extravagant facade, yet firmly anchored in Umeå by the birch tree. And Trouble 2 is right about his old hometown. This is where it’s happening!