In Pictures: Walk through the history of Malmö with new app

In Pictures: Walk through the history of Malmö with new app
The Folk å Rock music club in Malmö's Lilla Torget square. Photo: Be Here Then
Be Here Then is a new app designed to show what areas of Swedish cities looked like in the past. Richard Orange went for a walk back in time in Malmö.
I leave my front door, start the Be Here Then app, and press on a pin, after which my phone turns into a compass directing me to the right viewing spot. 
 
When I get to there, I'm asked to hold up and point my phone in the direction of Sorgenfriskolan, where my children study. Moments later up pops of a picture of the school, which hasn't actually changed that much. The giant lamps that power the astroturf football ground in front of the school are gone, but even then, there was a football pitch. 
 
It's when I turn around and walk up Spånehusvägen that I come across the first major change. I press on a pin named riven fasad, meaning 'demolished facade', and after a short walk the app asks me to direct my phone to the rather ugly entrance to an underground car park. 
 
Then up pops a turn-of-the-century building, with tall windows and ornate Jugend-style embellishments over the front door. The picture must have been taken in the 1960s or 1970s, as there's a VW Beetle in the foreground and the functionalist brick block that houses my local primary healthcare centre is already jarringly in place besides it. 
 
It feels a shame that it had to go.
 

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It was Sweden's 1970s demolitions that inspired Charlotte Rodenstedt, a Malmö-based graphic designer, animator, and entrepreneur, to launch Be Here Then. 
 
She lives in Lugnet, a block of 1980s apartment buildings in central Malmö, built on the site of one of the city's most notorious demolitions, which took down street after street of picturesque workers' houses and shops. 
 
“I was trying to figure out what it looked like, the block that we live in, and I found loads of pictures but I couldn't find out where they were taken, I just couldn't puzzle the geography, and I started searching, thinking 'there must be an app for this, placing old pictures on a map'.” 
 
When she found out there wasn't, she decided to build one, teaming up with Jamie Cockburn, an Edinburgh-based friend who works as an app developer. “It started as a hobby project, but then it became a real project!”
 
Below is a map of the route I walked in Malmö:

 

 

 
 
Rodenstedt got in contact with the local municipalities in nearby Lund and Helsingborg, convincing them to fund mapping of how areas in the their city centres had changed. 
 
Here's Lund's Slottsparken as seen on the app:
 
The app showing how Lund's Slottsparken looked like at the start of the century. Photo: Be Here Then
 
Here is Helsingborg's Stortorget main square back in 1929:
 
Helsingborg's Stortorget. Photo: Old postcard/Helsingborgs Stadsmuseum
 
Here it is today:
 
Helsingborg's Stortorget square today. Photo: Be Here Then
 
Then the Malmö public housing company MKB decided to fund them to map the Sorgenfri area of the city to coincide with the opening of a new playground themed on Sorgenfri, a 1979 social realist novel set among poor families living in the district. The project has been a huge success. 
 
“I've had really, really good feedback,” says Rodenstedt. “There's been lots of people just loving this. I did a walking tour with some locals from Sorgenfri, mainly old people, and that was really fun.” 
 
Rodenstedt has spoken to Stockholm City Museum about mapping parts of Stockholm, and is also holding talks about doing other parts of Malmö. 
 
I continue moving up Spånehusvägen and press on a pin that says Biljardhallen, or Billiard Hall. I cross the road, and when I'm in range, the app directs me to position my phone so it is looking at the local Afghan-run grocery store. 
 
An image pops up of a billiard hall in the same place. It looks a bit run-down, so I can understand why it shut down. But when look closely I can see that the building itself, when you take away the Handlar'n logo, is the same one-story, flat roof structure. 
 
A block further up, and I point my phone at a local pizza restaurant housed in a turn of the century building which has actually survived, and discover that there was once a nice old Malmö townhouse tucked in next door to it — the sort of place that sells for millions of kroner nowadays. 
 
The app showing the corner of Båstadsgatan and Spånehusvägen. Photo: Be Here Then
 
I turn around and am asked to point the phone at Båstadsgården and Barnrikehus – two functionalist apartment buildings put up in the 1930s in order to house poor families with three children or more. The blocks are minor architectural classics, built in the first big Social Democrat housing drive in the second half of the 1930s. 
 
It's interesting to see how they looked newly built, but, like Sorgenfriskolan, their appearance is not that much changed. 
 
I take a little wander up Båstadsgatan, where I used to live, and press on a pin called Experimenthusens affärer, 'The Experiment House's shops'. 
 
Malmö's Experimenthuset back in the 1930s. Photo: Malmö Stadsarkivet
 
Looking at the 1930s cars parked outside, brings home just how radical these buildings must have been at the time they were built. And they had a fishmongers! Now there's only a newsagents and an art gallery.
 
Rodenstedt says that this sort of realisation is why building the app has done little to change her mixed feelings about the demolitions Sweden carried out in the 1960s and 1970s. 
 
“It's obviously really sad that some of the buildings are gone. I find it really sad that the entire of Lugnet has gone, for example. It would have been nice if some of it was left. But I really strongly feel that you shouldn't keep a city being a museum. A city needs to change.” 
 
The next pin is fascinating. The playground where my children played in Arildsplan was once Luttrup Färg, a paint factory that used to own the whole block, and a little further up the app shows me a photo of a horse and cart making its way down the street. 
 
The real discovery, though, is 'Hollywood', which comes at the end of my walk. This was the nickname for a whole quarter of shabby wooden houses, which were built as temporary housing in the 1920s, but which stayed in use up until the end of the 1960s, becoming home to some of the city's most disadvantaged people.  
 
Hollywood in the 1960s.Photo: Malmö Stadsarkivet
 
Be Here Then allows you to see Hollywood from several different vantage points. 
 
Hollywood in the 1960s.Photo: Malmö Stadsarkivet
 
It gets me thinking. Even today, Nobelvägen, the main road that cuts across Sorgenfri, is a social dividing line.
 
Västra Sorgenfri, on the west side, is home to the university-educated middle class, with vegan cafés and organic food cooperatives, while the Östra Sorgenfri, on the east, houses a much broader mix of people. 
 
Could this be the lingering effect of Båstadsgården and Barnrikehus, and of the Hollywood slum to the east?  
 
The last pin shows the Hollywood houses being prepared for demolition, with a very 1960s-looking girl cycling in front of them. That, at least, is a demolition it's hard to regret.

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