Artist: thomas nordström Tags: Permanent art

“Standing outside the walls near the entrance to Österåker Prison is probably an unaccustomed experience to many visitors.  Even a grown-up feels small, exposed and under surveillance.” Surrounded by a frozen forest landscape, Thomas Nordström stood outside the doors to Österåker Prison for the first time. The walls towered above him, red and impenetrable, as they still do. His description of the encounter with the institution conveys the emotions provoked by the place. One year later, just there at the doors, he built Glade.


Andrea Eneroth/SWECO

An adult standing in the Glade can experience seeing the figure of a child. This child is playing, or perhaps just sitting on the hill or dangling its legs on the bench in the glass house. Then the silhouette gets a face. The child is standing there in the glade, a clearing between forest and wall, waiting to visit its father. The parent is on the other side of the wall.

Glade grew from the artist’s discovery of the diverse activities at the institution. Inside, there was a kitchen, a kiosk, a gym, a school, a surgery, and several other everyday facilities. But no garden. Glade serves as a zone for visitors to wait before entering the prison. Glade is a hybrid that combines notions of forests and smallhold farms with imagination. The garden lends a human dimension to the otherwise monumental prison landscape. Here, we can swing through a growing field of green stalks, perhaps unexpectedly encountering an animal of uncertain species. In the greenhouse we can sit down and rest. The colours originate in an interpretation of the strongly tangible forest and the intensity of the Österåker prison. The design also evolved as a part of everyday prison life. The glass mosaic cylinders swaying high above the field, striving towards the top of the wall, were made by an inmate who is training to be a tile-setter.

Prison staff and visitors pass Glade at all hours. The area changes intensely over the day and night. In the afternoon, red and yellow fields of light spread across the park as the sun shines through the greenhouse. At dusk, the mysterious tentacles of the animals light up and form misty balls in the dark. The shadows of the stalks in the field climb the wall at night time and disappear at dawn.

The prison is its own community. There is no family here. To sit waiting to visit the prison is not something a child would choose to do. Glade is here to make the limbo between everyday life and the prison visit somewhat more bearable. In the artistic vision, the garden outside the walls is a playful yet emotionally charged enclosure that can open up the world of imagination along the way.

Kristina Möster Nilsson