The hidden rooms of LiU (1)
Exploring Kåkenhus Building
Water channels where once the river Motala ström rushed straight into the house; a tower with a view of the city. Air-raid shelters from the war that have become construction barracks and a boule pitch. Kåkenhus, the main building on Campus Norrköping, has a number of hidden tourist attractions.
Today, Kåkenhus is the centre of Campus Norrköping; students gather here at the many reading tables, at the new coffee bar, and in the library. Many students pass through these bright corridors daily, perhaps without a thought to the past life of the building.
What are now light, open and clean corridors were in fact once a not very clean factory where the smell of wet wool found its way into your nose, and your lungs filled with textile dust.
It was just here, in Kåkenhus, that the Bergsbro AB wool factory (which later merged with Brücks AB, Ströms AB and R Wahren AB to form YFA) was located.
YFA, which was the last wool factory in Norrköping, closed down in April 1970 and left 900 people unemployed.
It was only in 1998 that the building became a part of Campus Norrköping. Before the students occupied the building, Ericsson was also lodged here; they manufactured telephone switchboards up until 1995.
Even if the interior of the building has today been repaired a great deal to create a pleasant study environment, memories from its time as a textile factory still remain.
In the basement, there is a power station with the original turbines from 1908, which were responsible for all electrical output in the factory. All the factories along Motala ström, moreover, had their own power supplies; in Kåkenhus, the generator’s control panel remains in its original condition on its marble wall – a sight in itself!
Under the western part of Kåkenhus, the water used to run directly into the basement to be pressed together in increasingly narrower channels to work up pressure for the turbine. On the columns in the water channels, the hues show how high the water used to go – a good bit over two metres. Even today, you can see the discharge gate where the water ran back out into Motala ström.
Next to the library is the only staircase down to the basement, decorated with blue tile. At the bottom, a grey steel door. It was here that the factory workers would take shelter if the warning sirens began to wail during the Second World War – maybe something to think about when the sirens are given a test run these days on the first Monday of every quarter.
Immediately it feels as if you’ve left the new, fresh Kåkenhus you’re used to; the air is dry and filled with construction dust. And the ceiling is sometimes claustrophobically low, where the building’s new ventilation shafts meander out, well-insulated in shiny tain.
A number of corridors run down here. The former air raid shelters have gotten new uses over the years. During the last reconstruction they served as a kind of construction barracks, and today they are still dressing and break rooms for the construction workers involved in the project Campus LiU 2015. But there are also traces of the factory workers’ dressing room, with lines of laundry sinks. They’ve been retooled with agitators of a modern type.
A little further in, past the dressing rooms, behind a door, there is a boule pitch.
Johan Svensson, a campus guide during his time here as a student, tells us that the pitch was made by the workers as a gift to the students.
“But since it’s locked in here, it’s not just anyone who comes in here to the pitch,” he says.
Although a whiteboard on the wall reveals that some people played a match not so long ago.
Have you ever thought about the fact that Kåkenhus has a castle-like tower?
If you take the lift up as high as it goes and then go out to the staircase, you’ll find an old green metal spiral staircase. Above it is the tower, with several floors. A large concrete tank was kept here for the factory’s sprinkler system; the industry of the time was highly inflammable, so a lot of energy was spent on fire safety.
Today, however, the tank is gone, and at the round windows highest up you can squat down and look out over Norrköping.
“In my day, we used the tower as a group room, but today it’s closed for safety reasons,” explains Mr Svensson, who today works as a webmaster at Linköping University.
“There is only one way up, so the stairs were closed off with a new steel gate – although without the beautiful wrought-iron details on the rest of the banisters.”
Earlier this year, Kåkenhus was rededicated after many of its surfaces were repaired.
But even in a fresh new Kåkenhus there are still memories from previous lives, though somewhat hidden.
Text: Marlen Karlsson, student reporter
Photo: My Isoniemi, student photographer
6 May 2014
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Last updated: 2017-02-13