Där fantasin bor / Where the imagination lives
Do you remember your childhood playhouse or a hut in a tree? Or maybe you have built a cottage for your child or grandchild? This exhibition about playhouses and huts were originally made for Slöjd & Byggnadsvård at Nääs, Lerum. The exhibition deals with the playhouse as a place for play and memories since the late 1800s, but also a place where children can be involved in heritage and construction issues. The following is a summary in English of the exhibition texts.
The history of the play hut - how did it start?
During the early 19th century and the centuries before that, there was no clear difference between being a child and an adult. All children should learn to obey and "be useful." They should learn to do what adults do as soon as possible. The children's play was not allowed to take up as much space as it does for today's children.
The 19th century was an eventful time when society underwent a change on many levels. Perceptions of children and their role in the family began to change. The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's ideas about free play as an important source of knowledge started to spread. Play became more accepted when it became more and more acceptad as an important part of children's development.
In 1842, it was decided that all children in Sweden would be allowed to go to school. Both boys and girls, from all social classes, now had the chance to learn to count, read and write. This meant that the children for the first time were given space and time that was only for themselves and their learning. This probably contributed to a gradual change in the view of children's self-worth and rights.
The industrial revolution swept across Sweden with full force during the 19th century and society changed fundamentally. Lots of new companies and factories were established, for example toy factories and sawmills where boards for houses in different sizes were quickly sawn.
It is no coincidence that it is in this eventful turning point that the first playhouses see the light of day. The children's play had begun to be seen as positive and justified, now the step was not far to arrange special places intended only for play. The emergence of the playhouse can be seen as proof that parents in a new era both approved and encouraged the children's play, unlike previous generations of adults.
Different styles and looks
Like all other buildings, playhouses have been designed differentely through the years, and there are different traces in the development of the playhouse. How they were built and designed depended on where in the country you lived, but above all on which social class you belonged to.
It is clear that playhouses in the beginning were almost exclusively something that children in wealthy families had. A beautiful playhouse in the garden was a status symbol around the turn of the century 1900.
Square and hexagonal cottages were popular in the late 19th century, a form that was taken directly from the gazebos. Some playhouses were also called gazebos. After the turn of the century, the rectangular shape gradually became more common.
Architects were in some cases hired to design playhouses for children in wealthy families, during the decades around the turn of the century 1900. These cottages became lavish, rich in details and sometimes they had two floors.
A hundred years ago
Around the turn of the century in 1900, the popularity of the playhouses increased. Playhouses were now seen in new contexts, for example at various fairs. Pictures of the royal families' playhouses were spread in newspapers and in cinemas, which greatly increased their popularity.
At this time, the playhouse was often a neat miniature of the ordinary residential building, fully equipped with everything that was in the home. A real wood stove, real furniture and all sorts of small kitchen utensils. The most lavish playhouses even had kitchen fittings with sinks.
The playhouse was now used as a way for adults to raise children into adulthood. The children had to learn how to cook, clean and take care of children and laundry. Arranging parties was of course an important skill, as well!
Mid-20th century - prosperity and popularity
The perception of children's rights had changed around the middle of the 20th century. Childhood was no longer something you just had to get through, but something that had a value in itself. In 1959, the UN established that children should have the right to recreation and play.
At this time, lots of playhouses were built. Now it wasn’t just the wealthiest and the children in the countryside who had playhouses. The small houses had become popular in all kinds of environments.
It was a time featured by faith in the future and better economic conditions for most people. Lots of new residential buildings were built and many got the chance to move from a small flat to a new house. Of course there would be a small house in the garden for the kids!
The availability of suitable building materials increased markedly during this time. Now it fiber boards such as plywood and masonite were abundant and cheap – materials that were very suitable when building a small house for the kids.
It was also common for playhouses to be built from recycled material. It was a cheaper option, sometimes even free. Some used leftover wood from a building. Sometimes large boxes were redone to playhouses, for example boxes used for shipping cars or pianos.
Some parts of the exhibition deals with actual construction of playhouses and huts, and is more about playhouses today.
A playhouse can be a reasonably large building to build several together. A joint project where everyone can participate. Playhouses are also suitable as practive objects, for those who want to learn carpentry.
Timbered playhouses have been built at least since the end of the 19th century in the northern parts of Sweden. Sometimes it was the children themselves who, on their own initiative, timbered them. It was like a game, at the same time as it was training for future house construction.