Ulleråker – functionality norms and cultural heritage

At Ulleråker former mental institution there are currently plans to develop a new residential area with 7000 new apartments before 2030. This will result in a substantial transformation of the area and will also alter how the place and its former inhabitants are remembered. Ulleråker is not an isolated case but rather part of a national and international phenomenon. Developing methods for how to deal with the heritage of former mental institutions are of highest concern as public imaginary of mental institutions are often connected mad, violent and dangerous patients and horrific scenes. Mental institutions are a so called dissonant heritage – a heritage that is connected to feelings of horror or unease and to the dark side of human kind. Dissonant heritage is associated to that which societies often choose to forget as it brings fourth feelings of guilt.

These jarring feelings associated to mental institutions stands in stark contrast to the new harmonic residential area that different companies and stakeholders seeks to promote during urban development. There might be a conflict in how the place is remembered and how it is promoted during urban development. Moreover, there might be a conflict concerning what is remembered and how it is remembered. For instance, that several of thousands of people have been institutionalized and treated in ways that we today consider violating human rights can be a difficult heritage to be confronted with. It is a heritage that society often seeks to forget because it is too painful to remember.  In this project, however, we suggest that dissonant aspects of heritage can be a successful driver and an enabler of sustainable and inclusive growth of cities.

To realize this, an investigation of what and who are remembered during and after urban development must be investigated, as well as how is it remembered? A particular focus is placed on aspects such as gender and functionality. Ultimately, what do we mean with heritage of mental institutions and how might this be understood? In order to answer the questions we look at different kinds of cultural heritage, documents connected to the rebuilding process as well as the media.

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Contact: Cecilia Rodéhn Hedvig Mårdh