It started with a telephone tycoon and a dream about the prefect modern fram

Photo Anthony Hill

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In 1895, telephone tycoon Lars Magnus Ericsson bought Alby Gård, a stone’s throw from Subtopia. At the age of 55, he had little interest left in his telephone business. He wound up his affairs and sold his shares. Like the farmer’s son he was, he then retired to a farm to begin tackling his real interest. His vision was to improve Swedish agriculture with new technology in harmony with nature.

The Subtopia restaurant a 100 years ago

The Subtopia restaurant a 100 years ago

Ultramodern barn

One of the most modern barns of the early twentieth century was completed in the year 1910. Today the same barn is the main building of Subtopia. Subtopia’s party venue is called “The Loft” due to the simple fact that it was once a hayloft and the Tower conference room was once the office where the old tycoon sat back looking out over his property. Milking cows were lined up in rows between the pillars of what is now Restaurant Subtopia. The barn windows were hung with sheer curtains in order to even out the daylight from one season to another. The idea was that this would improve the consistency of milking. The cows were fed on a luxury diet including sunflower and peanut cakes. Lars Magnus was an innovative fellow who liked tinkering and experimenting, and in that sense, the spirit of the place where he once worked has not changed at all.

Small industry and decay

Ericsson passed the farm down to his son. It was subsequently resold and remained a working farm until the mid-1950s. After that, the area was home to small industry. It was also rumoured to host underground clubs, but we are unable to confirm that rumour. Ultimately, the site fell into disrepair, and was so run down by the early 90s that Botkyrka municipality bought the building for one Swedish crown. Local officials realised the building’s value and decided to renovate it.

Culture moves in

A circus hall was built with support from the Swedish government and the municipality of Botkyrka, and Cirkus Cirkör moved to the area in the late 90s. The renovation of the old barn was complete by 2002, when Kulturhuset Rotemannen was inaugurated. The building was home to seven associations at the time. In 2005, Kulturhuset Rotemannen took on a new guise as the suburban paradise, Subtopia. At the same time, the municipal Corporation Upplev Botkyrka AB was formed, including both Subtopia and Lida Friluftsgård.

 Rapid expansion

In the years since its inauguration, Subtopia has expanded to encompass Hangaren Subtopia, a former construction materials warehouse occupying a lovely site by Albysjön, and Gula Villan Subtopia, originally built as a summer home for LM Ericsson’s son, as well as several other nearby properties. We are home to around 80 organisations, with around 200 people who come here to work and study every day. Crops may not grow here any longer, but our creative cluster is a place where creativity and culture can thrive!

Reference: “Historiska Alby – dramatik, romantik och teknik” by Martin Rosén.